The Virginia Tech Running Game is Broken
So do you want the good news or the bad news?
Let’s start with the good news.
Virginia Tech improved to 1-1 on the season with a 31-17 victory over cross-state foe Old Dominion on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium. Tech was able to avoid the upset bug, one that bit them a year ago in Norfolk in the most surprising of fashions.
Onward and upward go the Hokies, 1-1 on the season heading into their Week Three tilt against the Furman Paladins of the FCS. Tech’s a huge favorite to grasp a winning record for the first time in 2019, and a blowout win should once again be the goal.
Here’s the bad news though. The Hokies can’t blow out anyone right now, even if the roster overmatches that of their opponent at almost every position.
There has been inconsistency abound offensively for more than two years now, with a clear culprit to blame:
The Running Game.
It’s broken, folks, and it’s time to panic.
Virginia Tech’s running game hasn’t eclipsed the nation’s top 30 since the 2011 football season, and it’s been mediocre-to-bad ever since. After ranking 28th nationally in rushing eight years ago, here are the results for the Hokies on the ground as a team:
2012: 79th – 145.9 yards per game
2013: 109th – 119.8 yards per game
2014: 86th – 147.9 yards per game
2015: 81st – 159.2 yards per game
2016: 55th – 183.1 yards per game
2017: 54th – 173.4 yards per game
2018: 57th – 174.3 yards per game
THIS YEAR: 107th – 114.5 yards per game
The strength of the roster is in the passing game. We knew that on paper coming into the season.
The problem is that Virginia Tech is becoming so inept at rushing the football, that the passing game is bound to suffer once the Hokies get into the meat of their schedule against tougher competition. Through two games in 2019, including one against a below-average rushing defense from Conference USA, Tech is averaging an atrocious 2.8 yards per carry as a team.
Senior quarterback Ryan Willis was much better through the air on Saturday, and short of a 4th quarter fumble after taking a hit to the head, he took care of the football.
He provides plenty of great moments through the air, but his penchant for taking chances can at times, put the Hokies in a tough spot offensively. Due to this, he’s an imperfect quarterback. That’s not a knock on Willis, most quarterbacks can’t be as flawless as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
But with the current running game, from both a scheme and play-calling perspective, the Hokies offense is requiring perfection out of their imperfect quarterback.
Willis isn’t immune to mistakes, and while his performance in the Boston College game was out of character from a volume of turnovers standpoint, he’s certainly prone to making mistakes here-and-there with his gun-slinging persona from the pocket.
If the running game continues down its putrid path, any mistakes that Ryan Willis makes at quarterback will only be further amplified.
Oh and that defense, the one that has looked, for the most part, much improved since last season? It’ll continue to get tired, continue to wear down in the second half of games, and continue to produce uneven performances that will leave the fans wanting more.
There is no more margin for error in the running game, and something needs to change.
If it doesn’t, the Hokies’ fall from relevance in the ACC will continue, with victories fleeting, streaks ending, and a bowl appearance in doubt.
The coaching staff needs to figure it out, and figure it out fast.
The season depends on it.