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The defense dominated and the offense looked a lot like it did at the end of last year.
MATT GENTRY| The Roanoke Times
Linebacker Deon Clark (left) celebrates with offensive guard Marcus Mapp after Saturday's spring game.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
BLACKSBURG — When Saturday’s Virginia Tech spring game ended, the reserves having whipped the starters even without the built-in handicap, the public-address announcer at Lane Stadium made one final statement to the crowd:
“We’ll see you in Atlanta in 132 days.”
Can we petition for a few more?
To be fair, there’s always work to be done after a spring game. Always. And there’s only so much you can glean from an intrasquad scrimmage, with depth charts still in flux and key players held out with even the slightest injuries.
All that established, this wasn’t what the thousands of Hokies fans who showed up here Saturday wanted to see: the defense dominating and the offense looking a lot like it did at the end of last year.
“Just keep watching,” running back Trey Edmunds said, trying to reassure fans who might have been disappointed in an offense that gained just 23 rushing yards on 41 attempts. “We have a lot to put in. We haven’t put in a lot. What we ran today was very minimal.
“So it’s kind of hard to judge our whole entire offense for the whole fall just off of today … Just keep watching.”
We will. And ultimately, we’ll be looking for a manifestation of the things the new offensive coaching staff has been stressing all spring: Toughness. Attitude. A physical edge up front, particularly on short-yardage downs.
It wasn’t there Saturday. That doesn’t mean it won’t be there come fall; just that it wasn’t there Saturday, and folks didn’t have to wait long to see that.
The most deflating moment of the spring game wasn’t any of the three interceptions thrown by Logan Thomas. Instead, it was the end of the Orange team’s first offensive drive.
A nice slant connection from Thomas to Josh Stanford set up the Orange team first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. This was the moment to see the new “O” in action. This was what all those middle drills in practice were designed to fix. Those starters would line up and run it into the end zone, bulldozer-style, over those back-ups.
Edmunds tried left tackle. Nothing.
Edmunds tried left tackle again. Stopped at the 1.
Edmunds tried the middle. Loss of 5.
Even before Thomas threw a pick-six on the next play, new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler couldn’t have been pleased.
“He was definitely disappointed,” tight end Ryan Malleck said. “We don’t have much of the offense in, but that’s no excuse for it. We should have been driving the ball down their throat.”
Malleck’s right. That’s the goal, and it ought to be — succeed even when everyone knows what’s coming, no tricks required.
The Hokies did a good job this spring identifying and attacking their biggest offensive weakness — an inability to win the physical battles when it matters most — but they’re still very much a work in progress.
“He wants to run the ball,” Edmunds said of Loeffler. “He explained it clear. We’ve just got to get better at that.”
Coach Frank Beamer was refreshingly candid in his assessment of Saturday’s offense: It wasn’t close to good enough. He expected more runs to “pop.” He anticipated more of a physical mismatch between his first teamers and second teamers, which is why he spotted the latter a 13-point edge before the game began.
But as much as the pad-popping drills have aimed to hone physical toughness, there’s another aspect Beamer wants to see improved.
“I think sometimes the mental toughness, you’ve got to get that in there too,” Beamer said. “I think that affects you at the end of a ballgame, how you play at the end of the fourth quarter.”
Give the Hokies this: They know who they want to be this season, and they know how they’ll try to get there.
They have 132 days — check that, 131 now — to do it.
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