Virginia Tech beat Richmond 21-10 this past Saturday, but the result didn't really feel like a win especially on a day where the offensive issues came right to the forefront as Tech's offense only put up 14 points via their two opening half drives. With that said, here are my offensive takeaways from the Hokies' win over Richmond.
1. Offensive Inconsistency Remains Problematic
It's year 6 of the Justin Fuente era, and Virginia Tech's offense struggled against a team barely ranked in the FCS top 25. That's not good especially given the promises of an offensive revival that happened in the first year but has been on the decline ever since.
Playcalling has been a big head scratcher at times, but wasn't the issue much this game as Brad Cornelsen opened things up in this game. However, the lack of development of Braxton Burmeister by the staff popped up as his inaccuracy was once again an issue with the passing game attack continuing to be limited.
Yes, everybody has certain ceilings and whatnot but it's definitely concerning witnessing the marginal jump that Burmeister has shown especially when you look around and see the growth of QBs elsewhere especially Tech's rival UVA seeing Brennan Armstrong go from a run-first QB to one of the ACC's most prolific passers.
Additionally, you saw an offense that couldn't string plays consistently together to actually sustain long drives outside of the opening drives of the half that tend to be well-scripted and prepped in the lead up to the game. That's a major concern for an offense that has only broken 30 points once this season and has had 21 or fewer points in 3 of games, something that can put you behind the eight ball without a great defense in modern college football.
You also had the absolutely bizarre move to bring in Knox Kadum inside Tech's own 10 yard line with the worst case scenario playing out. That move by Justin Fuente continues to be the most bizarre coaching decision that I've witnessed during the six years of the Fuente era and one of the most bizarre moves that I can remember seeing watching the sport.
Throughout his postgame press conference, Fuente and others made it clear that they recognize the offensive inconsistency that is holding Tech back and that this bye will be important for them to fixing that.
If Fuente can't get his offensive consistency issues figured out, it likely will cost Tech their chance at winning a wide open ACC and will likely be the ultimate downfall of Justin Fuente in Blacksburg.
2. Retooled Offensive Line Is Improvement But Not the Best
Virginia Tech tried a different experiment against Richmond on the offensive line moving Lecitus Smith to left tackle, Luke Tenuta to right tackle, Brock Hoffman to left guard, and inserting Johnny Jordan at center. This to compensate for the injured Silas Dzansi at right tackle after Tech struggled to replace him with Hoffman and Tyrell Smith.
The experiment worked out better than the offensive line we saw in Morgantown without Dzansi as Smith proved to be a competent left tackle and Tenuta continues to be a plus at either tackle spot. However, Tech's offensive line still wasn't exactly great which made one thing quite clear in my eyes.
Virginia Tech's offensive line will be at their best when they have a healthy Silas Dzansi at right tackle allowing Luke Tenuta to go back to left tackle, Smith back to left guard, and Hoffman back to center.
Richmond may have a good defensive line for the FCS level, but the fact that they were able to get a decent amount of pressure and get a couple of sacks on someone as mobile as Burmeister is a little worrying. Combine that with Tech only averaging 3.2 yards per carry against an FCS opponent and while there were some good things about this OL, it's clear that this isn't Tech's best unit.
It was worth the experiment given the struggles in Morgantown but if Justin Fuente is thinking about going with this group going forward, I would advise to simply get Silas Dzansi healthy over the bye week and get back to that strong starting 5 that looked quite good against UNC to star the season.
3. Wide Receivers Lead the Way
The best part of this offense is clearly the talent at wide receiver which saw Kaleb Smith featured last week, but Tech's two biggest stars shine brightest this week in Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson.
There have been some questions thrown their way about their play being part of the reason for the offensive struggle and while this game doesn't silence any of the offensive concerns, it's clear that the questions about Turner and Robinson struggling per say to get open and make big plays wasn't because of their play.
Both guys stood out in making big plays as Turner had 6 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown being prioritized early in the game and making good on that wise move. He also had a pair of spectacular catches including an incredible toe tap on his touchdown and a great play on a 50-50 ball for a 40+ yard reception.
Meanwhile, Robinson's biggest moment came on special teams with a 60-yard punt return touchdown, but he also stood out plenty on offense with 6 catches for 76 yards working in the slot, outside, and wherever Tech needed him.
In this game, Brad Cornelsen opened some things up in the passing game and while Tech didn't execute at the level that they should have, both Turner and Robinson were executing at a very high level. In this, we saw the massive ceiling that these two have a duo especially with Kaleb Smith emerging as a solid third option that can demand some attention as well.
Of course, there are plenty of rightful concerns about the offensive limitations for Tech given the skillset of Braxton Burmeister as a passer or because of poor situational and overconservative playcalling, but those limitations aren't because of the talent at WR.