Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 21-20 Loss at Notre Dame

Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 21-20 Loss at Notre Dame
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Nov 03, 2019

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

Virginia Tech put up a valiant effort but came up just short in a heartbreaking 21-20 loss at ranked Notre Dame. The Hokies' offensive performance had its positives, but left a lot to desired overall. With that said, here are 3 offensive takeaways from this weekend.

1. Hendon Hooker is Virginia Tech's Best QB.

Yes, the playcalling by offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen wasn't great and yes, the weather wasn't great either but this game showed why Hendon Hooker is the best passer and best QB for the Hokies.

First, Patterson doesn't have the timing with VT's receivers that Hooker has shown in his starts. It took almost the whole game for Patterson to figure out his timing with Tre Turner while his down-the-field passing was inconsistent in terms of his accuracy. Now part of that is likely due to how Hooker has had more reps with VT's top receivers, but that gap won't be able to be closed in full over the next month.

Second, Hooker is the more accurate passer down the field. While the wind could be lamed for some of the bad throws along with some drops, Patterson had some incompletions that were just poor. Patterson definitely has the arm strength to develop into an extremely good passer, but his accuracy still has a long ways to go before then.

Third, the Patterson offense is still relatively limited. Yes, it seemed like Cornelsen opened up some parts of the playbook, but what's clear is that Virginia Tech trusts Hooker to run a much more complicated offense which shouldn't be too surprising given how Hooker, a former four-star recruit in his own right, has been in Blacksburg a year longer. Whether it's right or wrong that Cornelsen only trusts Patterson with a limited playbook is a question for another time but that situation isn't changing and therefore, it's clear VT's offense is more diverse with Hooker at the helm.

The future is bright for the Hokies at QB with Hooker and Patterson, but Hooker should be the guy in any game that he's healthy.

2. Virginia Tech's Offensive Line Continues to Improve

Virginia Tech's offensive line may be dominated by freshmen and sophomores, but this unit has steadily improved every week and were a big reason why the Hokies' offense was able to show lots of potential Saturday even if the playcalling and execution away from the offensive line wasn't always the best.

Overall, Quincy Patterson consistently had more than enough time on passing plays throughout the game only being sacked once on a play where taking a sack was the responsible move to force a Notre Dame timeout late in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame also only have 3 total QB hurries when Patterson had only 28 pass attempts, showing even more how Patterson had plenty of time to throw.

Combine that with the fact that Notre Dame still has talented pass rushers like Julian Okwara, and Virginia Tech's offensive line had one of their best pass blocking performances in recent memory.

In the running game, the Hokies did have a few negative rushing plays, but some of their poor rushes were due to odd run blocking schemes that appeared to create a pile in the middle rather than actually clear holes for Patterson and company. Yes, the offensive line probably deserves some blame there, but the Hokies' run blocking also looked promising and improved from what we've seen with VT's running game improving as the game went along.

After having lots of issues early in the season, Virginia Tech's young offensive line has become one of the best in the ACC. More important, the Hokies have an offensive line that could become one of the best in program history over the next couple years, especially with Brock Hoffman being eligible next season.

3. Where Were The Tight Ends?

Part of the reason why Virginia Tech has taken steps forward on the offensive side of the ball has been due to the significantly increased use of their tight ends. Against Notre Dame, the only time that the Hokies' tight ends really were involved in the game came via Dalton Keene's 2 carries for 2 yards, the only recorded stats for Keene and Mitchell.

Just like Notre Dame has a massive matchup advantage with their star TE Cole Kmet, the Hokies have a major tight end advantage with Keene and Mitchell who both can do different things well.

Given how much VT tried to stretch the field in the passing game, using Keene more on checkdowns and underneath passes, especially in less than ideal wind conditions, makes a whole lot of sense. Meanwhile, Mitchell has proven to be a very versatile slot receiver who can give defensive backs plenty of issues.

Additionally, with Hazelton and Turner stretching the field and the screen game appearing to be abandoned this week, it would have been wise to use Keene and Mitchell a lot to help a young QB like Patterson making his first career start in a tough place to play like South Bend.

Now Justin Fuente has previously said that the reason for the lack of tight end usage was due to the game situation of having to play from behind early in the season. Like Miami and UNC, VT played from ahead for a significant portion of the game yet still didn't seem to involve the tight ends in the game.

Regardless of the quarterback, the Hokies need to get back to using their tight ends in significant offensive roles to get this offense back to the high-scoring performances that they had during their three-game win streak. Anything other than that would be going against the clear correlation between heavy TE usage and high-scoring outputs.