Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has yet to get Virginia Tech's running game fully on track.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech’s Trey Edmunds carries against North Carolina in the Hokies’ win in Blacksburg Saturday. Virginia Tech has rushed for 55 or fewer yards in three of its six games in 2013, averaging 124.5 yards per game on the ground, and ranks 99th nationally.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Given a field position gift late in the North Carolina game after a muffed punt, Virginia Tech decided it was going to run the ball no matter what.
The Hokies put in a sixth offensive lineman, shifting left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin to the right side as a tight end, and ran Trey Edmunds behind that group six consecutive times with the same play.
It ended with a touchdown but more importantly, might have made a statement.
“We need to do that a little bit,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “We ended the game the right way from that mindset.”
The Hokies haven’t done it nearly enough this season, falling well short of re-establishing the ground game that deserted them last year. Despite a 5-1 record and No. 24ranking in the AP poll, the running game, from a numbers perspective, has taken a step back.
Virginia Tech has rushed for 55 yards or fewer in three of its six games, averaging 124.5 yards per game on the ground (99th nationally). This is only the second time in head coach Frank Beamer’s 27 years with the program that figure has been south of 125. The Hokies ran for 113.4 yards per game in 2006.
With a revolving door of backs in 2012, Tech still ran for 145.8 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.
It’s not simply because the passing game has taken root, either, limiting the number of carries by the backs. Virginia Tech is averaging 3.47 yards per carry. Only twice during the Hokies’ 20-year bowl streak have they had a worse rushing average (3.2 in in 2006 and 3.3 in ’07).
“It is disappointing,” running back J.C. Coleman said. “And that was the whole identity [Loeffler] wanted to establish when he first got here.”
Singling out a reason for the struggles is hard. It’s a variety of factors, from blocking to improper reads by running backs to defenses loading up against the run.
The o-line has had its moments, matching up physically with Alabama in the opener, but it has been inconsistent since.
Some of that has to do with injuries. Right guard Andrew Miller (ankle) and center David Wang (shoulder) have been nicked up. This wasn’t an experienced group either. Only one player was back who started more than seven games last season.
“If you look at the results, it’s a results-driven business,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. “And we have not run the ball well enough.
“There are a number of different factors, but I’m always going to be focused on the things that my guys do or don’t do, so I think it always begins and ends with us up front.”
The backs aren’t exempt from a portion of the blame, however. Running backs coach Shane Beamer singled out a play from the North Carolina game early in the second half, when the line blocked well but Edmunds missed a hole on the left side. Instead of a decent run, he was stuffed for no gain.
“If he had seen the backside, he’d still be running,” Beamer said. “And that’s just things that come with experience.”
There are other factors. Fullback Sam Rogers left the UNC game early with an ankle injury, forcing the Hokies to run out of sets they didn’t want to.
Opponents have also loaded up on the run, something Tech hopes will loosen up now that the passing game has had success. It’s something the Hokies haven’t seen yet, however.
Loeffler is a coordinator who likes to run. His one year at Temple in 2011, the Owls ran for over 256 yards a game. Even during Auburn’s disastrous 2012 season, Loeffler’s group ran for 148.4 yards per game, more than Tech is averaging this year.
He isn’t averse to adjusting, however.
“You always want to walk out of a game and say you were 200 yards rushing and 250 yards passing and that’s a perfect world,” he said. “And we’ve got to get that part of the game going. Yeah, it drives you nuts, to say the least.
“But the thing of it is, right now we’ve got to find ways to win, and if we rush for 500 yards and win, great. If we have to throw it for 500 yards, great. We’re in the mindset that we’ve got to find a way for our team to win.”