VT Beat: Hokies Struggling on Both Sides of the Ball

Virginia Tech fans have grown accustomed to inconsistent — often bad — offensive performances. In the wake of the 35-17 loss to Pittsburgh, in which Virginia Tech scored just one offensive TD, had just 59 yards rushing, and held the ball just 21:33, criticism of the offense has again ramped up among the Hokie faithful.

But it’s the performance of Virginia Tech’s defense, which gave up 537 yards to Pittsburgh — the most since LSU went for 598 in the second game of 2007 — which is more surprising and shocking.

Last season, Virginia Tech finished 10th in the nation in total defense, and they returned eight starters in 2012. But through three games, against Georgia Tech, FCS Austin Peay, and a Pittsburgh team that had been struggling, the Hokies are ranked 44th in the nation in total defense.

Virginia Tech has had some ferocious defenses since 1995, when Bud Foster became defensive coordinator. During that time, they’ve had some good offenses and some stinkers — in 2006-2008, the Hokies ranked #99, #100, and #103 in total offense.

But when they’ve been bad on offense, they’ve typically been very good on defense, and when they have had a “down” year on defense, their offense has typically been up.

  • 2001: Offense #64, Defense #2
  • 2002: Offense #64, Defense #32
  • 2003: Offense #38, Defense #51
  • 2004: Offense #65, Defense #4
  • 2005: Offense #57, Defense #1
  • 2006: Offense #99, Defense #1
  • 2007: Offense #100, Defense #4
  • 2008: Offense #103, Defense #7
  • 2009: Offense #50, Defense #12
  • 2010: Offense #41, Defense #52
  • 2011: Offense #35, Defense #10

In 2006-2008, as the Hokie offense was tanking, defenses that averaged a rank of #4 in the nation picked them up, and the Hokies won two ACC championships (2007 and 2008).

In 2010, a VT offense led by Tyrod Taylor rose to #41 in the country, very productive for Virginia Tech, and that covered for the #52-ranked defense, the worst this century.

But in 2012, the Hokies are off to a bad start on both sides of the ball, raising alarm bells:

  • 2012 (3 games): Offense #89, Defense #44

That’s an offense that’s flirting with 2006-2008 territory, but the defense is nowhere near the caliber of the 2006-2008 units.

Of particular concern is the running game, on both sides of the ball. The Hokies are 96th in rushing offense, and 100th in rushing defense. Defensively, the Hokies opened with triple-option Georgia Tech, but the Jackets only ran for 192 yards. FCS Austin Peay ran for 159 yards, and Pittsburgh steamrolled Tech for 254 yards. The Hokies are giving up 4.0 yards per carry.

On offense, Virginia Tech’s leading tailback, Michael Holmes, has just 100 yards on 31 carries, 3.2 ypc. The Hokies average just 3.45 yards per carry as a team.  As a team, they have been outrushed 605-342, and of those 342 yards, 78 of them have come from wide receivers on end-arounds and reverses.

Take the wide receivers out of the equation, and Virginia Tech has rushed for 264 yards on 93 carries, a hair-raising 2.84 yards per carry.

If Virginia Tech is to approach ten wins again and compete for the Coastal Division championship, the disparity in the running game is the place to start. The defense has to stop the run, and the offense has to get the ground game going. Otherwise, disaster (by Virginia Tech terms) lies ahead.


Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager of TechSideline.com, covering Virginia Tech athletics since 1996, when the Interwebs was still just a baby sucking on a paci. Will believes college football is the greatest sport known to Man, even better than women’s beach volleyball and lingerie football. Will occasionally tweets at @WillStewartTSL, but he mostly keeps his tweeter shut and his eyes and ears open.

Follow Inside the ACC on Twitter at @InsideTheACC. Get your ACC links at ITA’s NewsLink Twitter feed at @ITA_NewsLink. Talk about ACC sports on the ITA Forums.

Leave a Reply