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Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 33-10 Loss to West Virginia

Kaleb Smith 2 VT ODU HT

Virginia Tech's offense struggled a lot especially on the ground as the Hokies fell to West Virginia 33-10. Here's 3 of my offensive takeaways from Tech's loss to WVU.

1. Offensive Line Woes

Virginia Tech's offensive line woes not only continued against West Virginia, but also found a whole level of struggle as Tech's rushing attack was not-existent while their pass blocking that had been good overall this season was a little off.

The run blocking was the biggest issue as for the second-straight week, Tech failed to convert on a 4th and 1. Regardless of what you think about the play call of a QB power out of shotgun there (I wasn't a fan of it), the way WVU's defense attacked that play off the snap and the lack of guys in the trenches should have meant Wells had a really good chance of getting it. Instead, the 3-4 WVU defense pushed Tech's run blocking straight back basically across the line.

These offensive line issues especially in run blocking have been exposed to be the main issue for Tech's rushing attack especially given the return of Keshawn King proving not be a cure-all to at least getting them into being simply okay. Anyone who says the depth of struggle isn't a surprise is lying as this is a unit that returned two starters on the right side, has a former All-Big 10 Honorable Mention center, and a left tackle with years of experience starting multiple games.

There's plenty of potential reasons why this unit is underperforming from this group not being as good as we thought, regression of this unit, lack of depth and a wearing down of players, and the offensive line just not comfortable in the new scheme. In all honesty, it's probably a combination of things but part of it is also a simple breakdown of techniques which Brent Pry mentioned when discussing how he felt his team was "pressing" causing a breakdown of fundamentals and techniques.

At the end of the day, Tech's offensive line has loads of issues with some parts that are unfixable and some that are going to require getting back to fundamentals and maybe making some scheme adjustments to hybridize what they did previously and what they want to do long term to help this offensive line find its rhythm for this season.

2. Rushing Attack Adjustments

Virginia Tech's rushing attack has had lots of issues so far this season outside of Keshawn King's strong opening week performance against ODU and his 65-yard touchdown run against Boston College.

Tech's rushing attack hit the bottom against West Virginia though as over the course of 11 carries by running backs, VT had only 1 run that went for more than 2 yards. Their most effective running play was the QB draw for Grant Wells with that going for more than 2 yards multiple times.

Overall, that led Tech to throwing the football at a 2:1 rate compared to running the football, the type of imbalance that you only really see in air raid offenses with some Tech fans still complaining about Tech running the ball too much given the running game's struggles.

There was a smart adjustment that Tyler Bowen did make in the second half using dump-off passes to get Keshawn King and Chance Black in space. It paid off with King having a pair of catches for 9 and 20 yards with Black also having a 20-yard reception.

That may also lay out the template for what Tech needs to do to try to get their rushing attack going, run more plays that get their runners quickly in space especially given how Tech's wide receivers have actually done a pretty good job blocking when called upon. When you stretc

The dump-off pass is a nice wrinkle but can't be the only part of it. Rather, getting guys in space will require more horizontal stretching run plays that get defensive linemen working sideways and can help offensive linemen get an edge when they're struggling. That includes plays like speed options, quick pitch plays out of shotgun, and...

The jet sweep.

Yes, the much maligned jet sweep that hasn't been run once even if Tech has faked it a few times this season. There was plenty of critique of it and some of it was fair especially with how Tech poorly used it to the short side of the field mostly last year, but the jet sweep can bring some variability and force defenders to play laterally while also being more likely to create one-on-one matchups instead of trying to escape dogpiles up the middle.

The dump-off pass adjustment showed a template for how Tech's running game needs to shift to try something that may help cover up some of their up-the-middle weaknesses while giving a speed back like Keshawn King the space he needs to break off the big runs that he's more than capable of doing.


3. Kaleb Smith Continues to Have a Breakout Season

One of the clear positives from Thursday night was Kaleb Smith who appeared to be as healthy as he's been since getting injured against Old Dominion.

That showed as he put together another strong performance showing why he's Virginia Tech's clear #1 wide receiver by a good margin leading Tech with 5 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

It wasn't just that Smith was getting separation, but he was also doing it in a variety of ways from his beautiful touchdown catch on a down-the-field pass early with Grant Wells putting it right where it needed to his underneath crossing catch where he got the separation he needed and then put in the work to pick up a 3rd and long, to his heads up play snagging a deflected pass that went off the hands of Da'Wain Lofton for a good gain.

There was plenty of excitement about Kaleb Smith this offseason and this was another game where he delivered even if the result overall wasn't pretty. Tech's offense has clearly been better when he's in the game while this was the first time he's actually played a full game's worth of snaps with injuries limiting his time during the first three games. Despite basically only playing 2.5 games, he's had 13 catches for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns with his game average projected to be around 5 catches for 75 yards.

If he can maintain that type of production and stay healthy which is unfortunately a question for Smith given the early issues he's had this year, then he is on pace to have the most receptions and receiving yards for a Tech receiver since Cam Phillips in 2017.

The Kaleb Smith breakout season has arrived with a Tech offense that desperately needs him to produce at a high level given the lack of high level playmakers surrounding him on the VT offense.

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