Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 28-7 Loss to Pittsburgh

Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 28-7 Loss to Pittsburgh
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Oct 20, 2021

Virginia Tech's offensive performance was dismal against Pittsburgh to say the least especially in the first half when they had 5 3 and outs and only 1 of their 9 drives reach Pitt territory on their way to a 28-7 defeat where the Hokies averaged a measly 3.7 yards per play.

So with that said, here are three of my offensive takeaways from the Hokies' dismal offensive performance in their loss to Pittsburgh.

1. An Offense That Lacks Any Identity

The best programs usually have a clear, discernable identity or if they don't have a full-fledged one, there usually is a clear direction on what they are trying to.

Virginia Tech's offense has raised two questions of late. First, does this offense has any identity? Second, what is the intended identity of this offense? The answer to the first is clearly not and the second also has no clear answers at this point.

When Justin Fuente was hired, he was supposed to bring an offensive revolution which we saw for the first season, but have struggled to see since. There have been moments where Tech has found identities on offense, but that has been due mostly to having a superstar talent at one or two spots like Khalil Herbert and Christian Darrisaw in 2020 who helped give the Hokies an elite run-first rushing identity.

Tech has appeared to want have a high-end passing game yet if that was truly the case, then Tech would have gone with Hendon Hooker a lot more during the 2020 season given the on-field performance that we saw from him and Braxton Burmeister. Instead, they went with Burmeister who is definitely a fighter but is more athlete than QB unlike Hooker who was a polished passer and talented runner as well.

On Saturday, the lack of identity was on full display as it was hard to tell (beyond the obvious of scoring points) about what Tech was exactly trying to do with that appearing to vary from possession to possession. There were some good playcalls mixed in but there seemed to be no method to what became madness watching it.

While we've discussed plenty of the major symptoms of Tech's offensive issues, this is the true issue, an offense that has no true identity that wants to do it all but yet really doesn't do much of anything in cohesively well way because their is no identity.

And for this to be the issue in year 6 under Justin Fuente in a program that as a whole has struggled to find an identity is evidence of the change that seems necessary and very likely to come at the end of the regular season.

2. The Real WR Separation Issue

There's been a lot of talk surrounding the supposed major issue about wide receivers struggling to get separation for the Hokies. While there may be a small partial truth to that, the fact is that wide receiver is one of the most talented groups on this team with Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson playing quite well while Kaleb Smith has shown growth and Da'Wain Lofton has shown lots of promise.

However, there are a couple deeper issue that may be leading to this talking point coming up more and more.

The first issue is the fact that Tech is limited in their passing game with Braxton Burmeister who has inconsistent accuracy in general, but has even more challenges throwing the football now that he has an injured shoulder.

The other issue is the fact that Tech doesn't give their receivers the best chance to get separation because of a lack of diversity in the route trees that they get to run. Throughout the Pitt game, you could see that manifest with plenty of go and curl routes being used by the Hokies.

When you're only running a limited number of routes in your plays, then that makes life a lot simpler for defensive backs who can be more predictive in their coverage rather than reactive.

3. Promising Freshmen Continue to Emerge

Virginia Tech's offense may have lots of issues at the moment but there is starting to be more and more young talent with bright futures that are emerging and getting their chances to show they have what it takes either now or in the near future.

Any conversation has to start with the two freshmen who have seen their roles expand significantly since the bye week: WR Da'Wain Lofton and RT Parker Clements. We already discussed some of how these two have claimed expanded roles since the bye week which you can read more on here.

Clements has been the biggest breakout guy who has gone from the top backup OT (who Tech wishes was healthy at WVU when Silas Dzansi got hurt) to pulling a Luke Tenuta and jumping Dzansi midseason for the starting right tackle job.

Meanwhile, we haven't seen a lot of Lofton, but what we've seen lately shows why he's seeing a surge in playing time from a great block against Notre Dame to the big play potential turning a short slant into a 29-yard play shedding a Pitt tackler in progress. Tech would be wise to continue to get Lofton more reps pairing with fellow speedy WRs Tayvion Robinson and Tre Turner to find a speed edge that Tech could take advantage of on quick passes, screens, and jet sweeps that create one-on-one matchups given Braxton Burmeister's limitations as a passer.

Kaden Moore also deserves to be included those his role in 2021 is now in competition with Silas Dzansi who seems to have been shifted to right guard to compete with Moore with the sudden breakout of Clements since the bye week. Whether Moore holds on to the starting role or not, he's proven that he'll be a multi-year starter during his time in Blacksburg with the potential to develop into an NFL offensive lineman.

Malachi Thomas also deserves notice after he played some against Notre Dame and continued that against Pittsburgh albeit most of Thomas' reps came in garbage time against the Panthers. Even with that, Thomas was productive in those reps finishing the game with a team-high 33 rushing yards and he continues to emerge as the future alongside Keshawn King after the graduations of Raheem Blackshear and Jalen Holston.