A bye week can be rejuvenating or disruptive for a football team — and the Hokies seemed all out of sorts against Duke after their week off.
While the defense remained excellent, the offense sputtered after playing well in the team’s last three games.
Tech’s offense only put 10 points on the board, but the Hokies outgained the Blue Devils by 189 yards and held onto the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
The offense certainly had no trouble moving the ball at times, but drives regularly stalled at increasingly inopportune moments to hinder the Hokies.
Tech ultimately had five different drives that put the team in Duke territory but didn’t produce any points.
Whether it was failed fourth-down conversions or missed field goals, the Hokies just seemed to struggle when it mattered the most.
“It’s just small miscues in the run game, pass game,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “They’ll halt a drive at any time, especially (in the opponent’s territory), it’s even more minute, so you’ve just got to make the plays when they present themselves.”
Frank Beamer responded to the offense’s sluggishness by becoming increasingly aggressive on fourth downs.
Tech kept the offense on the field on the final down six times, converting four of them. Those are the highest totals in both categories since the team’s 30-17 loss to West Virginia in 1997.
It might seem surprising for Beamer — traditionally a conservative in-game coach — to make so many gambles on fourth down, but the offense’s ineptitude forced his hand. The unit converted on just four of its 18 third downs.
“I think we’ll look back and see where we could’ve made a lot more plays,” Beamer said. “But, when you say that, Duke played well, they kind of undercut us on a couple balls, their defensive backs hung in there and played well. I don’t take anything away from them.”
Part of this aggressiveness also likely stemmed from kicker Cody Journell’s issues.
He connected on four of his five attempts against Pittsburgh, but he only hit 40 percent of his kicks in the entire month of September.
The redshirt senior was similarly shaky against Duke, making a 42-yard try but missing his attempts from both 45 and 40 yards out.
“I’m concerned any time a guy as steady as Cody misses two, but we’ll look at it,” Beamer said.
The team has expressed confidence in Journell, but there’s no doubt that every member of the squad is acutely aware of the value of the six points he failed to produce.
“I never lose faith in him, and I don’t expect the guys to lose faith in me after the turnovers I had today,” Thomas said. “We’re a pretty close knit group and we’ve got each other’s backs.”