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Hokies Face More Questions Offensively

By Dave Holcomb
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After Virginia Tech's disappointing Pinstripe Bowl loss, Dave Holcomb looks ahead for the Hokies' offense.

Virginia Tech football is entering a new era. That fresh start began early with the school firing previous head coach Justin Fuente with two games still remaining on the 2021 schedule.

It would not have been surprising if Virginia Tech finished the season poorly under interim head coach JC Price, but with bowl eligibility at stake, the Hokies knocked off arch rival Virginia in the final week of the season to reach 6-6.

Maybe things were looking up for Virginia Tech? As Lee Corso says – “Not so fast, my friend.”

The Hokies suffered an embarrassing, 54-10, loss to the Maryland Terrapins in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday afternoon, reminding us all that new head coach Brent Pry faces a significant rebuild, especially offensively, in Blacksburg.

Maryland outclassed Virginia Tech across the board Wednesday, scoring on offense, defense and special teams. The Terrapins outgained the Hokies, 481-259, and averaged 7.4 yards per rush versus Virginia Tech’s 2.5 yards per carry.

Defending the pass didn’t go any better for Virginia Tech’s defense either. The Hokies yielded 11.0 yards per pass and allowed Taulia Tagovailoa to go 20 of 24 for 265 yards with two touchdowns.

Virginia Tech wasn’t going to keep up with that type of firepower with the inexperienced options the program had behind center available for the Pinstripe Bowl. Junior Connor Blumrick started and did some good things, but it was pretty clear he didn’t have enough of a grasp of the passing offense for Virginia Tech to record explosive plays down field.

Blumrick finished 9 of 15 for 110 yards through the air. He also had 11 rushing yards and scored Virginia Tech’s only touchdown.

The Hokies inserted freshman signal caller Tahj Bullock in the fourth quarter in an effort to give him some experience. Bullock completed 2 of 4 passes for 27 yards.

Braxton Burmeister, who started all 12 games at quarterback for the Hokies in 2021, entered the transfer portal this month, so Virginia Tech’s neverending search for the answer behind center will continue. In all likelihood, Blumrick or Bullock will be Virginia Tech’s starter behind center next season.

Judging by what they did against Maryland, who was second-to-last in passing yards allowed in the Big 10 this year, things don’t look too promising for the quarterbacks at Virginia Tech.

3-star prospect Devin Farrell could be in the mix to start behind center for the Hokies as well. Farrell is ranked the 47th-best quarterback recruit in the 2022 class according to 247Sports.

Pry can preach defense all he wants, as he did during what turned into an awkward interview with ESPN in the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl. But that doesn’t change the fact Virginia Tech must solve its quarterback issue.

It’s been four years since a Hokies quarterback even threw for 2,000 yards in a season. The last time Virginia Tech had a 3,000-yard passer was when the school won the ACC Coastal in 2016.

Virginia Tech earned bowl eligibility because of a 2-1 finish down the stretch behind its ground game. The Hokies averaged 281.3 rushing yards per game in their last three regular season contests.

But the ground game was nonexistent against Maryland. Virginia Tech rushed for 122 yards, averaging 2.5 yards per carry.

Without a presence in the passing game, the Terrapins loaded the box and held the Hokies to one of their lowest per rush averages in a game this season.

The good news is top running back and playmaker Raheem Blackshear will return next season. Counting the Pinstripe Bowl, Blackshear had 1,009 yards from scrimmage, including 760 rushing yards, this season.

But Virginia Tech will have to replace top wideouts Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Together, they combined for 1,234 receiving yards, which was 57 percent of Virginia Tech’s passing yards in 2021.

Redshirt sophomore Kaleb Smith, who wasn’t completely healthy in the bowl game, will be the team’s returning top receiver. Smith didn’t have a catch in the Pinstripe Bowl and finished the season with 260 receiving yards.

The arrival of Pry should give the Virginia Tech fanbase hope that the Hokies will return to their “lunch pail” defensive mentality. But until the program can solve its problem behind center, it likely won’t be a serious contender in the ACC.