BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s offensive production has been pretty dismal through the first four weeks of the season.
The numbers reflect that with Tech averaging a meager 23.5 points per game and 331.5 total yards. The Hokies are on pace to have the program’s worst offense since the 2008 season when they averaged 303.4 yards per game.
Tech’s passing attack has drawn much of the attention with a non-existent vertical passing game sending fans into a tizzy on social media.
Starting quarterback Braxton Burmeister hasn’t thrown for more than 225 yards in a single game and is only completing 60.7% of his pass attempts.
The coaching staff hoped the matchup against Richmond, an FCS opponent, would help Burmeister get back on track. With the exception of a brief Knox Kadum cameo, the results resembled those of the previous three games.
Burmeister was consistently inconsistent.
There were some glimmers of hope — Burmeister’s 42-yard pass deep down the middle to Tre Turner was a play he hadn’t made all season — but for every promising throw there was an equally confounding one.
The continuing mixed results have fans eagerly pointing out the comments Tech coach Justin Fuente made before the season at ACC Kickoff about Burmeister’s potential.
“I feel better about us throwing the ball right now since I’ve been here,” Fuente said, in July.
Fuente hasn’t forgotten about those comments and he’s as disappointed as anyone Tech’s offense has fallen well short of his preseason forecast. That doesn’t mean Fuente is ready to give up on Burmeister.
It’s just the opposite.
“I just really believe in him, and I believe that we can find a way for him to continue to improve and be more efficient and be a better player,” Fuente said.
Fuente believes this offense has a much higher ceiling than what it’s showed and is capable of helping the team compete for a title in the wide open Coastal Division.
The coaching staff spent nearly the entire day on Monday reviewing film of the first four games to try and diagnose what’s gone wrong. Fuente said that includes play calling, personnel and execution.
Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen summed the process up as the coaching staff, “taking a good, hard look in the mirror.”
“Starting with me,” Cornelsen said. “And just continuing to find ways to continue to help each guy get better, more consistent and finding the best ways to put our guys in good positions to have a chance to make plays.”
As for Burmeister, Cornelsen is on the same page as the head coach.
“What he does off the field in preparation, I don’t know that you can ask him to do any more,” Cornelsen said. “He’s a dedicated kid, takes care of himself on and off the field, spends extra time...he’s paying the price to go play well and it’s my job to find the little details to help get him there.”
According to the coaches, Burmeister’s struggles aren’t injury related and most of the throws he’s missed during games are ones he continues to routinely make in practice. Much of the heavy lifting will be done in the meeting room where Cornelsen sits down regularly with Burmeister to analyze every snap.
“It’s figuring out what the thought process is,” Cornelsen said. “When it’s maybe a decision that was made incorrectly, it’s me trying to figure out how I can teach that better. What are you seeing? What’s the look? Why are you thinking this is the right decision versus this? And it starts there.”
One suggestion Cornelsen has already made to Burmeister — and Fuente has as well — is to be careful about “overthinking things.”
“I felt like he did a better job of that last year when he played,” Cornelsen said. “That’s the conversations that we’ve had. Maybe he’s putting a little bit too much on himself or he’s thinking outside of what he needs to be concentrating on a little too much. And that can definitely happen.”