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'A tough pill to swallow': Virginia Tech offense scrambling to regain confidence

'A tough pill to swallow': Virginia Tech offense scrambling to regain confidence

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Pittsburgh Virginia Tech Football

Virginia Tech wide receiver Da’Wain Lofton (left) drops a pass while pressured by Pittsburgh’s Erick Hallett on Saturday.

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech left more than points on the field in Morgantown earlier this season.

Coach Justin Fuente said one of the clear themes that has emerged amidst the team’s offensive struggles in recent weeks is the group’s lack of confidence.

That was one of Fuente’s main takeaways from Saturday’s 28-7 loss to Pitt. The offense only managed 224 total yards (the fewest yards of Fuente’s tenure) and 13 first downs (second fewest of his tenure) with six three-and-outs and a turnover.

“We’ve got to find a way to get our guys playing with some confidence, the way we played early in the year, which wasn’t prolific, but it was certainly confident,” Fuente said, on Monday. “And we’ve got to find a way. We’ve slowly watched over the last several weeks that a little shift there in the confidence level, our defense is increasing and our offense decrease. So we’ve kind of got to find a way to get that back to where it was.”

Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister agreed with Fuente’s assessment and traced the origins of the problem to a failed possession at the goal line in the final minutes against West Virginia. The Hokies came up short on four attempts to score what would have been a game-winning touchdown from inside the 5-yard line.

It was the third time in the game that they came up empty-handed inside the red zone.

“I feel like coming out of fall camp and into the North Carolina game, we were really confident,” Burmeister said. “I think since that West Virginia game at the end, I think that’s when I kind of felt we had to — I thought we were going to come back after that and build it back up pretty quick — it really hasn’t happened like that.”

Burmeister’s numbers since the West Virginia game highlight those struggles. He’s thrown for 530 yards on 48% passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He only has 90 yards on the ground during that stretch on 3.2 yards per carry.

The performance against Pitt was a low point of the season for Burmeister and the offense, and he admitted on Tuesday it made for a painful film review session on Sunday.

“I was very upset,” Burmeister said. “It was a tough pill to swallow.”

Burmeister’s 34.4 completion percentage was the lowest of his career (while attempting at least 10 passes). According to Pro Football Focus, he was 1 of 8 on attempts of 20-yards or more. The lone completion came to Tre Turner for a 47-yard gain in the third quarter. He only had two other completions of throws of 10-yards or more.

While that same issue has plagued Tech’s passing offense all season, Burmeister is committed to getting things right.

“I think it’s going back to work at practice and grinding through it,” Burmeister said.

According to Fuente, the coaching staff is doing everything it can to get more out of Burmeister and the main focus right now is on simplifying things so he can execute at a higher level. The level they saw him perform at throughout the offseason, which inspired confidence throughout the whole team.

“I still feel we are really close and are going to turn the page soon,” Burmeister said. “We are trying to make it happen this week.”

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