The Hokies gained 326 yards on offense against Georgia Tech, but considering how shaky the unit appeared at times, it’s surprising it was even able to get up to 26.
After ending last season on a strong offensive note in the Sugar Bowl, Logan Thomas and the rest of the inexperienced offense appeared uncoordinated and just plain lost at times on Monday night. The group was able to come up big when it counted, but the unit’s performance is still cause for concern.
“It was a little bit of everything,” Thomas said. “I was getting off balance. I would step away from the target or I would step to the target and stay high and not drop my waist to throw an accurate ball.”
Despite putting together drives of 75 and 51 yards to score the final 10 points of the second half, the offense was sluggish for most of the first three quarters of the game, and Thomas was quick to address his own shortcomings.
“Looking at (the film), I don’t think I played as bad as I thought I did at the time, but I still played pretty bad,” he said. “It’s something I can build off of though and learn from my mistakes.”
While the quarterback undoubtedly deserves a good portion of the blame, the offensive line’s play was perhaps the worst part of the unit’s performance. The line only allowed two sacks on the day, but Thomas was often hurried and the run game was inconsistent.
“We’ll just have to turn it up a notch and make sure the running backs feel comfortable behind us and that we’re opening up big enough holes so they can make their reads faster,” said right tackle Vinston Painter.
Although Brent Benedict was slated to start at right guard for much of the preseason, coaches announced last week Michael Via would share time with him at the position. Instead, Via started played for the whole game, and the line clearly struggled to adapt to the change.
“The communication and everything was already there,” Painter said. “It was just actually getting it going in a full speed game situation.”
In spite of its difficulties, the line still managed to handle Georgia Tech’s unusual three-four defense relatively well, and team members feel as if they’ve improved since the spring.
“We have definitely made some great strides since the spring, playing together as a unit, picking up blitzes faster, recognizing things that defenses are doing faster as far as fronts and blitz giveaways and whatnot,” Painter said.
Part of the line’s problems was undoubtedly adjusting to the new wrinkles coaches added to the offseason this preseason. While the team frequently demonstrated the potential of the pistol offense to be successful, when it tried to run a more up-tempo offense, the unit really had issues.
“I think it adds a little something extra, but at the same time it makes it tough on you as well,” Thomas said.
Coaches agree the change of speed can present challenges, but are confident in the style’s ability to help the team.
“When you’re speeding up, when you’re playing that way, your mind is kind of that way too,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “You want to change the tempo and make people react to you, and get calls according to how they line up, so I think there’s some advantages for it. “
Thomas still didn’t seem particularly comfortable when forced to read the defense, especially without the benefit of a huddle, but he still was able to come through when it mattered most. He completed all of his passes on the team’s final two drives, giving the team hope this game was only a minor hiccup for the new offense.