A little over two years ago, former sports editor Garrett Ripa wrote the following after the Hokies lost to James Madison.
“(2010) certainly isn’t the year where Tech football makes any kind of positive noise on the national stage or chases a national title.”
The column, titled “Embarrassment in Lane: Hokies hit rock bottom” brought out some fiery reader comments. A boisterous few called for Frank Beamer’s job, for changes at the offensive coordinator spot and cried the season was effectively over.
At the time, all three were valid claims.
Saturday’s 27-24 loss to Cincinnati cuts the same way that 2010 JMU loss did. This time however, the questions being raised are slightly different.
Sure, there were some positives in the loss, but overall, the team fans expected to see in 2012 has yet to show up. For that reason alone, many will look back on this season as a major disappointment.
Here are three questions for the Hokies heading into the ACC schedule:
1. What’s up with the slow starts on offense?
The Hokies finished with 402 total yards on Saturday, with most of those coming in the second half. This begs the question: Where was the production in the first half?
In the postgame, Beamer deflected those questions as best he could. He pointed to the play of Michael Holmes in the second half and the 17 points the Hokies put on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
However, would the Hokies have had to score all those points in the fourth quarter had they just been average on offense in the first half?
Beamer acknowledged the slow start on offense during his teleconference Monday morning, yet declined to offer details.
“Well, we discussed that as a staff and we’re going to keep it within our staff and try to do better this week,” Beamer said.
2. Is Exum overmatched at cornerback?
Rarely is a player flagged four times, twice for pass interference and twice for facemask, and praised by his head coach following the game.
That’s exactly what Beamer did during the postgame Saturday on the topic of Antone Exum.
“I think Exum did a good job most of the night,” Beamer said. “We had him isolated out there, and he hung in there pretty good.”
Fans know the talent is there with Exum, the only question is if he is in the right position to maximize that talent.
Last season, Exum received second team All-ACC honors at safety. His hard-hitting style and aggressive nature fit Torrian Gray’s secondary perfectly at safety, but it was decided in the offseason to move him to corner, allowing Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett to fill the safety position.
The 392 passing yards by Cincinnati don’t fall squarely on Exum’s shoulders. Kyle Fuller was beat on the game-winning touchdown and freshman Donaldven Manning was beat twice on Munchie Legaux’s first touchdown.
“He’s just got to use good technique,” Beamer said. “And I think the more he plays it, the better he’ll get.”
If he’s going to stick at cornerback for the rest of the season, he’ll have to.
3. Where is the fire?
The Hokies have come out flat in their five games, but the lack of fire goes beyond that.
After a big sack, a long reception or a key stop, where is the celebration and joy past Hokies teams had?
Kris Harley showed it after his interception Saturday. J.C. Coleman showed it after his touchdown a couple weeks ago. James Gayle shows it after a big sack.
Outside of that, there isn’t a whole lot of emotion.
Some of that has to do with how the Hokies are playing and the fact there just isn’t a lot of cheer about. But what got to the Hokies the national spotlight over the last decade, that lunch pail attitude, has been absent so far this season.