Notebook: Hokies Thinking Offensive
Last Saturday against Alabama, Virginia Tech had the opportunity to entrench itself among the national contenders. That opportunity slipped away with a 34-24 loss. This Saturday, the Hokies have the opportunity to find its offensive footing.
As No. 14 Virginia Tech (0-1) prepares to face Marshall (1-0) on Saturday at Lane Stadium, some players have said they are hoping to work into an offensive rhythm that was largely absent against the Crimson Tide.
“This week we want to show everybody we are capable of doing it,” said wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, who referenced Miami’s high-flying 38-34 upset of Florida State on Monday. “Just watching that game, seeing how many big plays they was having, how everybody was on the same page, how they was throwing the ball deep, how they was breaking tackles, we know that we are capable of doing things like that.”
Against Alabama, Virginia Tech sorely missed a steady and experienced offensive presence like running back Darren Evans. When the Hokies lost Evans in August to a season-ending knee injury, they lost their leading rusher from 2008 and their offensive identity. In the season opener against the Crimson Tide’s stingy defense, the absence of Evans was particularly distinct.
“I think we need improvement as our whole football team,” Coach Frank Beamer said. “It’s not just our offense.”
Virginia Tech struggled to move the ball, particularly in the passing game. It amassed only 91 yards through the air.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 9 of 20 passes, with the majority of his passing yards coming on a 43-yard toss to running back Ryan Williams on a wheel route. The Hokies only ran two plays that were primarily designed to go deep, although many of the plays featured deep options.
The Hokies ran the ball well against Alabama, especially as the game went on. Williams was a bright spot offensively, running for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Last year, Taylor was also a viable running option for the Hokies. Although he was used occasionally on options or quarterback-decide plays, he did not seem to run as much as he has in past years when facing pressure. He finished with 10 rushes for negative-26 yards, thanks mainly to being sacked five times.
“I don’t know why during Alabama he didn’t run as much as he did,” Roberts said. “But the times he did run he was still productive. Maybe it is because we do have to get our passing game started.”
Asked about Taylor’s decisions to run or pass, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said: “We’re not going to sit here and second-guess whether he should run or throw. We’re very comfortable with how well he throws it and how well he can throw it. Most of his incompletions are when he took a high-risk, hopefully high-return throw and he didn’t hook up on any of those.”
Stinespring said he saw encouraging signs in the offense, although he said thinking about the team’s inability to sustain drives against Alabama “haunts you a little bit.” But the Hokies can take their first step toward establishing their offensive Saturday against the Thundering Herd.
“We can play better and we will play better,” Stinespring said of his offense, adding: “Did we feel like we had some positive results out there? Absolutely. Did we feel like we had things that we can build upon? Absolutely.”
Reflecting on Miami-Florida State
Miami’s 38-34 upset of then-No. 18 Florida State on Monday gave the Atlantic Coast Conference a needed jolt.
The two rivals injected a bit of vitality in a league that appeared lifeless after the opening weekend produced two losses to division I-AA schools and an 0-4 record against Pacific-10, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference opponents. And with the win, No. 20 Miami seemed to put the rest of the ACC on notice that it was a bona fide contender.
On Tuesday, some members of Virginia Tech’s team were asked about the game. Coach Frank Beamer said he watched it and came away impressed with the play of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and Florida State’s Christian Ponder, who combined to throw for 680 yards.
“I think both those teams, it all depends on how their quarterbacks play,” Beamer said. “And I thought both quarterbacks played exceptionally well.”
He added, “I think both of them are really good football teams.”
Virgil Nurses Knee Injury
Boundary cornerback Stephan Virgil said he tweaked his left knee against Alabama and was unsure if he would be able to play Saturday against Marshall. “Only time will tell,” Virgil said.
Virgil said he suffered the injury while making a tackle late in the game against the Crimson Tide. He has been receiving treatment to the knee every morning since the game and on Tuesday wore a blue, non-contact jersey during practice.
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