An anemic performance from the offense in Saturday's spring game suggests Virginia Tech could be in for another trying campaign in 2014. And with the ascent of Clemson and defending national champion Florida State, head coach Frank Beamer has a difficult path to return the Hokies to their ACC perch.
Virginia Tech's offense managed just 10 combined points in the spring practice season-concluding scrimmage—all 10 of which came in the first quarter.
Offensive inconsistency has been a routinely vexing issue for the Hokies in the last two seasons. Not coincidentally, Virginia Tech's 7-6 and 8-5 finishes in 2012 and 2013 are the program's worst since joining the ACC in 2004.
Beamer is among the game's most consistent winners and a statesman for the sport. His cachet is more than enough to endure a temporary rough patch, but major improvements are needed on the offensive end to keep this current temporary rough patch from turning into a permanent one.
Beamer hired Scot Loeffler to kick-start the offense last offseason, but Virginia Tech finished ranked No. 100 in points per game at 22.5. Meanwhile, Florida State rode Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston to a 51.6-point per game average, and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris crafted a 40.2-point per game plan for the Tigers.
Florida State and Clemson will again compete for the ACC championship in 2014, thanks in part to explosive offenses. If Virginia Tech is going to again factor into the conference hunt, it may be in spite of its offense, as Saturday looked like a continuation of the issues that plagued the Hokies' 2013.
The Hokies defense performed as is expected of coordinator Bud Foster's unit, which certainly contributed to the offense's inability to score. One drive culminated with an impressive stand in the red zone after quarterback Mark Leal broke off an impressive rush.
Leal was an impressive 8-of-10 in the first half, per the Washington Post. One of Leal's completions was to wide receiver Willie Byrn, who laid out to make a diving catch along the sideline.
Mark Leal 8 of 10 for 75 yds in 1st half. Brenden Motley 2 of 6 for 14 yds and a late INT to Kendall Fuller. #Hokies— Hokies Journal (@HokiesJournal) April 26, 2014
However, the Hokies simply could not turn the flashes of brilliance into points.
Leal was markedly better than fellow quarterback Brenden Motley in the first half, who was 2-of-6 with an interception. Both were battling minor injuries, as reported by Nathan Warters of the Free Lance-Star via Twitter.
Frank Beamer said he decided to make QBs hands off today because Mark Leal (knee) and Brenden Motley (ankle) were both dealing with injuries— Nathan Warters (@NathanWarters) April 26, 2014
A healthy quarterback will certainly help the Hokies' offensive efforts come fall, and the player who wins the starting job will be integral to reshaping their offensive identity.
Virginia Tech was not a program built on explosive offense when it won four ACC championships between 2004 and 2010. However, those units were effective enough to complement the team's stout defense.
Offensive struggles can quickly become the defense's burden, a difficult lesson Virginia Tech learned in the December 2013 Sun Bowl. The Hokies held tough against UCLA throughout the first half, but the offense's inability to sustain drives opened the flood gates for the Bruins in the fourth quarter.
UCLA inundated Virginia Tech with 28 fourth-quarter points, ending a second straight disappointing campaign in an uncharacteristically lopsided margin for a Beamer-coached team, 42-12.
The 2014 Hokies face an early measuring stick, traveling to Ohio State in Week 2. That contest will reveal quite a bit as to whether Beamer has Virginia Tech ready to return to prominence, or if 2014 will be another disappointing year.
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.