The Hokies were hoping to exorcise some of the demons that lingered at FedEx Field in the wake of the Boise State loss, but instead, things just got worse for them up in D.C. this weekend.
It was a familiar sight to most Virginia Tech fans; Tech is now 9-16 at neutral sites over the last 15 years, so while this loss may have been more painful than most, it wasn’t exactly a shock.
In fact, most of the game was depressingly predictable. Early offensive ineptitude? That’s been a staple of this season.
A tendency for our DBs to look overmatched in coverage? Oh yeah, Antone Exum took care of that almost by himself, in the grand tradition of the last decade of Bud Foster defenses.
And of course, what loss would be complete without a heartbreaking lack of focus in the final moments? It definitely conjured images of the loss to the Broncos from two seasons ago and had a kind of sick inevitability to it as it became clearer that the defense couldn’t hold up to Cincy’s no-huddle offense, even with so little time left on the clock.
It’s definitely a crossroads moment for this team, and even the program as a whole. I had really thought that the Pittsburgh loss would jolt the offense out of complacency, and that the Bowling Green game would mark the start of a renewed focus on the run, but none of that was present up at FedEx. Similarly, Exum’s improved play against the Falcons presented reason to be optimistic, and instead he responded with his worst game of the season. The players and coaches all talked a big game about wanting to change things after the Pitt loss, and then didn’t show one bit of improvement.
This loss has also caused a lot of people to call for major changes at the top of the program, and the word “complacency” has popped up quite a bit these days. It’s hard to deny that Beamer and the rest of the staff has leaned on the 10-win streak as a reason to avoid change, but it’s clear that there has to be some sort of shake up. People have called for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring’s head for what seems like forever now, but I think the more important changes would be seen in changes to position coaches, such as Curt Newsome on the offensive line, that have been particularly stagnant in recent years.
I’ve talked at length about this program’s seeming unwillingness to take the next step to become a great team, and I fear that this game is a symptom of this problem. I, like every Tech fan, love Frank Beamer to death, but it’s games like these that make me wonder if he’s the guy to lead us to national title or even the elite level of college football in general. He might be too entrenched in the status quo to make the kind of substantive changes the program requires, and it might not be until after he retires that the Hokies can really become a legitimate college football powerhouse.
Because the Coastal Division, and ACC as a whole, is so down this year, this team will remain competitive and could even make it to the conference championship game despite its many flaws. But in many ways, it would really be better if the team would just bottom out and prove to the larger community that changes desperately need to be made.
Otherwise, these types of losses will just keep happening, and this team will continue to rest on its laurels when it should be aiming so much higher.