There’s really no getting around the primary takeaway from Friday night’s 45–10 beatdown at the hands of Duke: Virginia Tech isn’t a very good football team this year.
Most people didn’t expect too much from the Hokies, with young and thin offensive and defensive lines, but Tech was expected to take a step forward defensively from last season and improve some offensively.
Instead, Tech is 0–2 in the league, something that had never happened in its Atlantic Coast Conference tenure (or its years in the Big East). Its 26-year bowl streak looks very much in doubt and the perception that the program is trending the wrong direction under fourth-year coach Justin Fuente is prevalent.
Fuente won 10 games and an ACC Coastal Division title in 2016, his first season taking over for the legendary Frank Beamer, but has seen his win totals dip each year since. Last year, for the first time since 1992, Tech finished with a losing record.
And while Fuente’s job is likely safe this year–his buyout is cost prohibitive —Tech fans are struggling to find a path to six wins. Winnable home games with Rhode Island and North Carolina are up ahead, as is a possible road victory at Georgia Tech. But even grabbing all of those wins would leave the Hokies (2–2, 0–2 ACC) at five.
Here are four other takeaways from Friday’s lopsided loss.
1) That improved defense? It isn’t: A year after struggling with big plays, it’s still a problem for the Hokies. Duke scored three touchdowns of 25 yards or longer.
The Hokies are allowing 28.5 points per game for longtime coordinator Bud Foster, who is retiring after this season. Time is running out for the legendary coach to turn things around.
2) The offense changed up … it didn’t help: Friday, Tech used three quarterbacks, and ran the ball with two wide receivers and a tight end in addition to the traditional quarterback and running back runs. The result? One touchdown. The young offensive line–including freshmen at center and guard, sophomores at both tackle spots–continues to struggle.
Giving Hendon Hooker a few series to try and spark the offense and give future opponents something to think about was a smart move by the coaching staff, even though it didn’t pay immediate dividends.
3) Turnovers hurt again: The Hokies have committed an ACC-high 11 turnovers in four games.
4) There’s still no pass rush: Virginia Tech didn’t have a single sack. The Blue Devils have allowed only one sack in four games, and quarterback Quentin Harris gets rid of the ball quickly. Still, the return of end TyJuan Garbutt was supposed to jump start the pass rush.
Garbutt, a Riverbend High School graduate, played well, finishing with seven tackles, including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage. But, in all, Tech only hurried Harris five times, with three of those pressures coming from blitzes.