The Hokies waited until their third game of the season to fall apart and suffer a devastating early loss, but that doesn’t mean that their 35-17 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers was any less catastrophic.
This was supposed to be Virginia Tech’s year to break through as a national title contender, and although the first two games of the season poked a few holes in that belief, the Pitt loss smashed Tech’s championship dreams to pieces.
Before the season, this game definitely seemed like a trap game for the Hokies. The Panthers have always played Tech well at home, yet as the game neared, and Pitt wracked up embarrassing losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, the game seemed like an easy win.
Instead, the team came out flat and looked generally unprepared all day.
Logan Thomas looked like a different quarterback, and it’s inevitable that he’ll take most of the blame for the team’s poor performance.
His three interceptions all killed promising drives, and two of the throws weren’t anywhere near his intended receivers, making them particularly frustrating. He never seemed comfortable in the pocket, flashing more happy feet, and often threw off his back foot when he felt pressure in his face.
He totaled 32 yards rushing, which sadly led the team, but that was largely because he seemed unwilling to look downfield for extended periods of time. The line surely bears a lot of responsibility for his lack of comfort in the pocket, but he has to be able to function if he doesn’t have a perfect cushion all the time, and it just doesn’t seem like he can.
The running game didn’t do him any favors either. The team tried to give the ball to J.C. Coleman early, but he lost as many yards as he gained. Michael Holmes wasn’t much better, as he had a costly fumble, and still didn’t look like a lead back.
Of all the runners, Martin Scales seemed the most capable, showing a good burst and the ability to quickly hit a hole. However, the coaches only gave him four opportunities, which seemed confusing, and really abandoned the run as Pitt’s lead swelled.
For all of the offense’s faults, the defense was truly atrocious on Saturday. Everyone talked about this being one of Bud Foster’s best units ever, but after allowing 537 yards to a previously inept offense, that seems to be out the window.
The secondary had its fair share of issues to contribute to that total. Kyshoen Jarrett is the only new starter that seems comfortable in his role, and once Kyle Fuller went out, the unit fell to pieces. Antone Exum took a big step back, while Detrick Bonner looked positively lost, and his replacement, Michael Cole, looked even worse.
But their play wasn’t the true issue. Foster’s defense is predicated on gap control and maintenance, and the Hokies haven’t exhibited that yet this year. They had to adjust to playing Georgia Tech and abandoned many of Bud’s core principles, and while they looked phenomenal against the Yellow Jackets, it just doesn’t look like they’ve gotten comfortable in his base defense again.
Jack Tyler’s limitations were on clear display against Pitt, and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow just shouldn’t be starting at whip. Ronny Van Dyke had a monster block of two Panthers on Jarrett’s return, and it’s a mystery why he isn’t on the field to inject some athleticism into a group that’s a little slow right now. They’re starting to miss Tariq Edwards more than anyone anticipated, as his speed really was a boon in the pass game.
It helps that Bowling Green is Tech’s next opponent, but this loss changes the scope of their whole season. The Hokies needed to “save” their loss for the tough ACC games of the year, like the visits to North Carolina and Clemson and the Thursday night date with Florida State. Now, while they still have a good shot to win the Coastal division due to the early win over GT, their BCS dreams are pretty faint.
It seemed unlikely that they could get past the Tigers or the Seminoles for the ACC title before the season, but now it seems downright impossible. The 2010 season proves that this team has the capacity to turn things around, but as of this moment, it seems as if Tech’s season went out the window in Pittsburgh.