Virginia Tech Hopes To Get Running Game Going

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Keshawn King, Virginia Tech
Keshawn King and the Hokies hope to continue their running success. (Jon Fleming)

Much was made of Virginia Tech’s rushing attack through the first two weeks of the season.

The Hokies only averaged 114.5 yards and 2.82 yards per carry in the matchups against Boston College and Old Dominion. Was it a blocking issue, a running back issue, a playcalling issue, or some combination of them all?

Whatever the answer might be, Virginia Tech got back on track against Furman with 43 attempts for 227 yards, good for 5.28 yards per carry. It’s a statistic that one would expect to improve when facing the Paladins. The Hokies will now have to prove that it wasn’t just an anomaly versus an FCS team, but that they can maintain the level of production, beginning on September 27 against Duke.

“We’re still not satisfied yet, but we’re happy,” left tackle Christian Darrisaw said. “We had like 220 yards I think, but we know we can do better. We want to still prove that to everybody.”

There were a number of reasons leading to the Hokies’ burst on the ground, beginning first and foremost with Keshawn King’s breakout game. Fans will remember King’s 15-yard and 54-yard rushes to open the second half, but there was also a number of times where King bounced off tackles at the line of scrimmage to pick up five or six yards.

“He’s a confident kid,” offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said. “He’s had a lot of success in high school, and what comes along with that is confidence in his abilities. To me that’s the thing that stands out.

“Expect him to continue to get better and better in all phases of playing that position. We know his talent carrying the ball, but there’s certainly more to the position than just that. That’s what he continues to do a good job of every day in practice, getting better with those little things.”

The true freshman finished with 12 attempts for 119 yards, and in the process, was the first running back to excite Lane Stadium denizens in the past few years.

The use of jet sweeps to attack Furman’s defense horizontally provided a boon to the ground game. It was really the first time this year that Cornelsen relied on those calls.

“There’s schematic advantages to using receivers with jet motion,” Cornelsen said. “Your tailback becomes a blocker, it happens quickly, sometimes they can’t adjust to it.” 

Last Saturday, Tre Turner carried the ball five times for 68 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown on a jet sweep late in the fourth quarter. Tayvion Robinson also busted off a 21-yard gain when his number was called.

Those plays aren’t limited to just wide receivers either. James Mitchell drifted back to his high school days and punched it in from three yards out on a sweep from his tight end spot for the Hokies’ touchdown drive to start the second half.

“It just keeps teams off-balanced when we can get guys involved in the running game along with our running backs running good,” Mitchell said.

This season, Turner, Robinson, and Mitchell have a combined nine carries for 102 yards (11.3 avg.). Turner has even been effective dating back to last year as a freshman. 

Over 15 games in his career, the sophomore has been adroit with the ball in his hands on the ground, amassing 14 rushes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Turner’s averaging over a first down per carry (11.6 avg.) when the ball is handed off to him.

“I think of the end zone every time I’m running,” Turner said.

The newest addition of special assistant Jerry Kill appears like it will only help improve the running game. Cornelsen recalls when Kill was his football coach at a camp in the eighth grade. It was there where Kill taught Cornelsen how to run the triple option. While that won’t be added to Cornelsen’s playbook anytime soon, he is excited for Kill’s assistance in the running game over the rest of the season.

“Offense has been what he’s done the most throughout the years,” Cornelsen said. “In particular, his ability in the run game to establish the run. That’ll be the first place that we go to him for ideas and evaluation and ways that he can help us.”

The best look at Kill’s accomplishments with the rushing attack can be seen during his time at Minnesota. Here’s a quick note from Chris’s article yesterday. 

“In Kill’s four full seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, the Golden Gophers averaged 180.6 yards per game on the ground, with an average national ranking of No. 48.”

For a team that was typically towards the bottom half of college football in terms of total offense because of a lack of playmakers in the passing game, Kill’s ability to pick up yards on the ground stood the test of time.

“He understands how it works,” Cornelsen said. “It still all has to fit within the system and the players you got. You can’t just go install a new offense in the middle of a week or whatever. There’ll be plenty of ideas, whether it’s scheme ideas or technique ideas or little things here or there that he’ll be able to help us with that we’re excited to have him here for.”

While wholesale changes won’t be made, Kill’s observations and evaluations could allow the Hokies to continue the development into a multidimensional offense.


  • Bud Foster noted that he met Jerry Kill through a coaching clinic several years back and he’s always admired him from a distance. “He’s done it the right way, and you can see that with his film and his preparation, and you saw that on the field with his players,” Foster said. “He is known as a bigtime ball coach. He is not a glitz and glamour guy, but just a good ole football coach. I think he’s going to be a great addition to our staff.”
  • Defensive end Eli Adams had his biggest game in the maroon and orange this past Saturday. The redshirt sophomore tallied seven tackles and a quarterback hurry. “Eli has always been a guy who has a high motor,” Foster said. “He played extremely hard the other day, and he’s got to continue to fine-tune some things like a lot of young guys… He is just another guy that with the more experience he gains and more practice he has, the better he is going to continue to be.”
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10 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I read the comments of djmccreary with some familiarity. I helped coach high school football in Virginia for 25 years through a very long period of losing. We went 20 years without defeating our arch rival, had a 39 game losing streak, and had one 5-5 season. I have also been part of the five best years in school history. There may be few comparisons between high school and the ACC, but winning and losing is the same. Patience is the key. We were spoiled by the 1990’s and 2000’s. We are so close to returning to those days. When you can look at 4 or 5 plays in a game that make the difference between a W or an L, that’s close. Look at our young players. It just takes experience. I agree with the hiring of Justin Fuente. Give him his shot. Whit knows when to hire and when to fire. It’s way to early for the second option.

  2. We have been spoiled.
    Being in the VT class of ’66 and having gone to HS with Frank Beamer at Hillsville, I have been a Hokie fan for as long as I can remember. I recall the seasons when we would lose to Tulane, Tampa and the big game of the year was against rival VMI in the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk. I moved to Atlanta in ’86 and had to call home to find out the VT score on Saturday afternoons when the 6pm TV sports program wouldn’t even give the VT score. “Gobbler” football was not even on the regional radar. I was elated when Frank was named head coach at the beginning of the ‘87 season. I suffered thru 2-9, 3-8, 6-4-1, 6-5, 5-6 and 2-8-1 seasons from ’87 thru ’92. After the ’92 season things looked bleak for Frank, and fans were insisting he be fired. But Frank was given another chance by the athletic director David Braine. About this time CFB spent several weeks with Chargers coach and friend Bobby Ross who gave him a blueprint of how to get a program on the winning track. Frank checked off the “to-do” list from Ross which included making some coaching changes, and then the ’93 season happened. I watched the bowl game against Indiana from my small apartment in Japan. Starting in ’93, Frank began an incredible run that put the “Hokies” on the national map as a power program that for many years was the darling of ESPN and captured the attention of the entire country. What happened since ‘93 with the success and elevation of the program is remarkable; eight seasons of 10 wins, 26 bowls in a row, appearing in the National Championship game, first round picks, HOF coach… What a run! This success has put fan expectation at a level that is hard to continue. If you have only been a Hokie fan since ’93…you have been spoiled. I was again elated when coach Fuente was hired. Football publications had listed him as the hottest hire prospect in NCAA football. I thought he was the perfect fit; again another athletic director made the right decision. I continue to follow the recruiting, the daily online status reports, and watch every game with anticipation of a result like the 60-0 win over Syracuse or a 43-14 smack down of Miami of the ’99 season. But we’re not there…yet. But with the youth and talent we have now, I believe our near future is bright. Can you imagine our fate over the past 26 years if CFB HAD had been fired after the ’92 season? Our situation now kind of reminds me of the fan reaction and the negative comments with CFB in ’92. Let’s trust Whit… and give CJF and the Hokie players the support and commitment of REAL dedicated fans…faithful over the long haul during tough times as well as good times. If you had been a fan in the ‘60s, 70s, and 80s, putting all in perspective, things would still look pretty good for VT football…

    1. Great perspective! I totally agree. I was class of 67/68 at tech, so that puts us about the same age. I am originally from Radford and followed the rise of VT football with that Hillsville kid just as you did.

      I am aghast at how many people are cruelly questioning CJF’s early struggles. Remember:”Win or lose, we’ll greet you with a glad returning, you’re the pride of VPI”. I’ll bet these spoiled neo-bandwagon fans don’t even know where line that is from.

  3. Was it a blocking issue, a running back issue, a playcalling issue, or some combination of them all?

    Always a combination, but as noted RB is biggest factor as shown by King, and our attempt to get Feaster. Other factors will help, but we are very limited at RB. Another good reason to run jet sweeps and put the ball in more talented players

    1. Get run game going? We have two 4 star dual threat quarterbacks sitting on the bench and a quarterback that can’t run the option.
      Want to get fans to quit booing and get excited—??? There is no present or future with RW.

  4. To Grammar Police: You are referencing the topic of “mixed modifiers.” If “only” is modifying the subject of the sentence, then the placement of “only” in the sentence is correct.

  5. Grammar Police here: “The Hokies only averaged 114.5 yards and 2.82 yards per carry …”
    Should be, “The Hokies averaged only 114.5 yards and 2.82 yards per carry …”
    Otherwise … A+.
    And thanks.

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