Duke vs Virginia Tech

Duke quarterback celebrates after scoring a touchdown run against the Hokies at Lane Stadium, Sept. 27, 2019.

Frank Beamer and a band of former players came out onto Worsham Field at halftime of the Duke game on Friday night. A beautiful tribute to the legendary 1999 Virginia Tech football team was played on the jumbotron to resounding applause. It was one of the highlights of the night for the Hokies.

Actually, it was their only highlight.

A far cry from that team, and the horrifying experience Virginia Tech fans have had to endure this season, all culminated in a 45–10 thrashing by the Blue Devils on national television. Every bit of hope Hokie fans had for the season was ripped away from them by halftime. No longer can anyone deny the fact that drastic changes must be made if this program is to return to respectability.

Virginia Tech does not lack talent. The Hokies rank fifth in the ACC in overall talent according to 247Sports. The past few years Virginia Tech has ranked eighth, fourth, fifth and third respectively in ACC recruiting.

Therefore, the problem comes down to who is coaching that talent. The Duke game was pure evidence of that.

On offense, the system is just too predictable at this point. Ryan Willis is obviously a limited passer, which means the coaches must scheme towards him. But, on Friday night they were unwilling to. Willis struggles to throw anything but curls and slants and has issues being patient in the pocket, which is a whole other story in itself. Instead of coaching a creative game plan utilizing his mobility and short accuracy, the staff called another game full of screens, crossing routes and runs out of the shotgun. This ultimately allowed the Blue Devils to play with Willis and completely confuse him, rendering the offense ineffective.

Moreover, the staff benched Willis multiple times for Hendon Hooker, which would not be too unpopular of a decision amongst fans, except for the fact that the coaches would not allow the backup quarterback to throw downfield whatsoever. Also, Willis was brought back in after each of Hooker’s drives, keeping them both out of rhythm. Although it may seem so, this wasn’t the worst of the offensive staff’s ineptitude.

The most mind-boggling and frustrating thing about the Hokie offense was the staff’s refusal to dial up runs from under center. Multiple times on Friday night Virginia Tech was put into short yardage situations and the offense lined up in shotgun sets, disallowing the running backs to get any momentum on their carries. Consequently, the Hokies finished with an extremely poor 31% third down conversion rate.

Surprisingly, the offense wasn’t even the worst unit on the field throughout the game. That honor belongs to the Virginia Tech defense. To give up 45 points to a Duke team that only scored 41 points against the likes of Middle Tennessee State is not only disappointing, but unacceptable.

The unit actually started out pretty solid. Through Duke’s first few drives, Bud Foster dialed up a Cover 4 defense with the corners and safeties dropping back and Chamarri Conner playing as a spy or blitzing out of the slot. It looked as if the Hokies could stay in this game through the first quarter.

Then, everything changed. The defense switched its coverage scheme and was mauled by Quentin Harris. The Duke quarterback did whatever he wanted, with ample time to throw and plenty of space to run.

Harris ended with 263 total yards and three touchdowns in a game where the Blue Devils led most of the way. The combination of atrocity all over the field for Virginia Tech was nearly unbearable; it seemed as if half the fans left by halftime.

On both sides of the ball, the Hokie staff’s play calling, adjustments and schemes were putrid.

This cannot continue. As of right now, the Hokies have no chance to even be a mediocre ACC team. Changes need to be made, as fans and students are voicing their unhappiness. Frank Beamer’s legacy is not being honored, and the tradition he created is currently being treated very poorly.

Beamer took over a program that in 90 years had only been ranked in the Top 25 of college football three times. In his 28 years of coaching, the Hokies were ranked in 22 seasons. Beamer made Virginia Tech football a program to be proud of.

Lane Stadium is no longer the place ESPN once labeled as “the scariest place to play” in college football. It’s a place where ACC schools can come to play an easy game. Virginia Tech’s once proud program has washed into what seems like nothingness in a matter of mere months.

If this season continues down the same road, the Hokies will lose to UVA in late November and will not make a bowl game. This once proud program will officially fall into irrelevancy.

That 1999 team deserves better than that. The best fans in the country deserve better than that.

Will changes be made? Hokie fans can only hope.

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