Virginia Tech Non-Responsive In 28-7 Loss To Pittsburgh

Virginia Tech-Pitt 2021 scoring summary

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) threw for two touchdowns and ran for one more against Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

Against the top scoring offense in the nation, it didn’t matter that Virginia Tech’s defense found ways to get stops. The Hokies couldn’t move the ball, let alone score points, in a 28-7 loss to Pittsburgh.

“It’s my responsibility and it’s my job to get us to play as good as we can play, whatever that level is,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “And at times this season, we’ve hit that level, and really at no time today did we hit it. And that’s not play-calling, that’s not defensive scheme, that’s not special teams, that’s not players. That’s the head coach. That’s the head football coach’s responsibility. I let ‘em down, and I’m disappointed and mad at myself.”

Virginia Tech’s offense gained 74 yards on 34 plays (2.2 yards per play) in the first half and punted on six of its nine drives. The end of the half and two turnovers (interception, turnover on downs) halted the other three series.

Meanwhile, Pitt (5-1, 2-0 ACC) was methodical. The Panthers racked up 254 yards of total offense on 46 plays in the first 30 minutes and led 21-0 at intermission. That put the game away at halftime.

A 15-play, 94-yard drive gave Pitt its first score, and two quick strikes (1:31 and 1:36) by Kenny Pickett & Co. made life difficult in Blacksburg.

It was the Hokies’ inability to answer, though, that led to their downfall. Tech only gained more than ten yards on two of its first half drives. One went for 50 yards but resulted in a turnover on downs, while the other ended in a punt.

Justin Hamilton’s defensive unit wasn’t anywhere close to perfect, but it did a darn good job given the circumstances. Essentially playing with its back against the wall with minimal help, the defense forced eight punts, including five three-and-outs, and kept it as respectable as it could.

It was nowhere close to being enough, though.

Virginia Tech’s defense didn’t have any help on Saturday. (Ivan Morozov)

“I thought at times we played really well,” Fuente said about Tech’s defense. “We gave great effort, and I’m proud of those guys, and I’m proud of all of our guys. But that’s an unfair question, quite honestly, who played well enough and who didn’t play well enough. I didn’t coach well enough. That’s the statement.”

Braxton Burmeister looked healthy but only completed 11 of his 32 attempts (34%). The Hokies averaged 3.2 yards per rush but had just two double-digit carries. One was a 17-yard scramble by Burmeister, and the other was a 12-yard rush by true freshman Malachi Thomas in the last minute of the game.

And it wasn’t until Burmeister hit Tayvion Robinson in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter that Tech grabbed back a tiniest sliver of momentum.

Even then, when it had a chance to make it a two-score game, Virginia Tech stalled.

On the third drive of the second half, Burmeister scampered for 17 before hitting Tre Turner for a 12-yard gain. The Hokies threw two incompletions and turned it over on downs, though.

“I don’t know if it was one thing,” Fuente said about the offense. “I think the wind on a couple occasions was a little bit of an issue. Ball placement was an issue. We’re going to have to fight through tight coverage a couple times. One time – I can’t remember them all, we catch the ball but don’t secure it all the way to the ground on what would be a big play. It wasn’t one thing, it wasn’t one position. It was a combination of those things.”

The defense deserves a lot praise. Last season, that unit was poor. Hamilton didn’t have an opportunity to implement a system because of COVID, so Tech was below average defensively.

That group has really turned it around this season. It showed out against Sam Howell and North Carolina and was good after a bad first quarter against West Virginia. Even without mike linebacker and captain Dax Hollifield for the first half against Pitt, due to a targeting call in the second half of last week’s loss to Notre Dame, it was good. It didn’t have any help when it needed it, though.

There were a few times where Tech could’ve been better defensively, like when Jermaine Waller, who left the game in the first half and was in a boot, was outmuscled by Pitt’s Jared Wayne down the sideline for a 28-yard catch. However, overall, it was the offensive half of the Virginia Tech team who didn’t do its part.

The Hokies couldn’t connect throwing the ball, and they didn’t gain any traction on the ground. Fuente and Tech players mentioned earlier this week how crucial establishing the running game was going to be, not just against Pitt but for the rest of the season.

Virginia Tech finished with 90 rushing yards. Thomas was the lead rusher with 33 yards. Take out the two double-digit rushes and that total drops to 61 yards on 26 carries. That’s an average of 2.3 yards per carry.

As a whole, the offense had all kinds of issues, as Fuente alluded to. The most obvious errors were the dropped passes from the receivers and missed throws from Burmeister. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and that’s why Tech’s offense has looked like it has so far this season. It hasn’t been good enough or consistent enough across the board, from the players to the coaches.

And here’s a stat: Virginia Tech’s 224 yards of total offense is the least amount of yards a Fuente-coached team has put up in his six years. The previous low was at Notre Dame in 2019, a game where the Hokies totaled 237 yards behind Quincy Patterson, who started in place of the injured Hendon Hooker.

If you take out the final drive at the end of the game when Tech gained 31 yards, the total falls to 193.

Where do the Hokies turn now? (Ivan Morozov)

Where does Virginia Tech turn? Where are the answers?

The Hokies (3-3, 1-1 ACC) are .500. Five of six games have been played at home. The three losses have come against West Virginia, Notre Dame and Pitt. 

The more convenient part of the schedule – playing at home – is almost over. Virginia Tech hosts Syracuse (3-4, 0-3 ACC) at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 23. After that, four of its last five games are on the road, and none will be easy.

This is a make-or-break game for Virginia Tech’s season. Fuente & Co. can go one of two ways from here. The season isn’t over, but depending on the response, it could be.

In 2019, Tech got crushed by Duke, 45-10. After that, Tech, sitting at 2-2, regrouped and won six of its last eight games in the regular season. That’s one way the Hokies can go if they stick together.

In 2018, the Hokies lost at Old Dominion by two scores. After barely scraping out a win a few weeks later at North Carolina, which required a last-second touchdown, VT lost four straight and needed to schedule Marshall – and win – to keep the bowl streak alive. That’s similar to last year’s season, which saw Tech go 2-5 over the last seven games.

Fuente said he believes his group can weather the storm. Almost every coach would say that, I’m sure. But can the group seriously rebound?

Yes, Tech is only 1-1 in the ACC with six conference games remaining, but when the Hokies have to play on the road for four of the final five weeks of the season, how will the team respond? West Virginia was a first glimpse of Tech playing on the road. VT came out flat and paid for it.

At Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami and Virginia? The ACC Coastal Division is down, but this Virginia Tech offense isn’t in shape to walk into any of those places and confidently put up more than two scores. 

Against Notre Dame, the loss felt like the same old story: Virginia Tech did a lot, but not enough. At home against Pitt, in a game where the defense held Kenny Pickett & Co. to their fewest amount of points this season, the Hokies’ offense was nowhere to be found. (Pickett finished 22-of-37 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, for what it’s worth.)

Fuente took the blame in front of the media, and it’s great that he is taking responsibility. But there are many, many questions to be asked from this point forward, and a variety of people that will be asking them. 

Full box score:

58 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It’s hard for anybody to put a finger on what is going on offensively (even CFu), but both the running game and the passing game is shockingly bad. They look like it’s the first day of spring practice out there. The first thing that needs to be sorted out is the running game. The lack of KH and maybe coach Kill may mean it can’t be brought up to an acceptable level. Then when you add BB throwing at 34% !?! He and the receiving corp need to put something together. It’s not just Coach Corn.

  2. I think we’re doing the Best with what We got. After losing to WVU and Notre Dame-this had to crush this Team. Do I blame Fuente-Hell yeah. Pitt was a sad Effort. Bad Recruiting since He got there-never brought Us the Offense-it’s just the wrong Hire, it hasn’t worked. Other than that 1st Year with Jarrod Evans(Fu’s QB),and Beamer’s Players-it’s been all Downhill. Nothing but 3 Stars-and every Great State of Virginia Player going anywhere but Tech-talk to Ohio State, Notre Dame and and Penn State-and the Transfer Portal. James Mitchell has been a huge loss-and our RB’s are nuthin. Turner and Robinson are stellar, Gallo and the rest can’t catch half of what they get. Undersized WR’s having to make Terrific plays are not a Deep Threat. When it’s all said and done, Babcock and his giving Fu a Raise early on, etc.-will cost us Big. No One could figure that one out neither. Whitless. Firing Fuentes gonna set Us back a bit-Hope I live to see it come to Fruition.

    1. Fu’s first season featured 4 wins by 6 points or less. I thought we had found the guy who could make the right decisions when the game was on the line. Apparently Whit did too, because the contract extension also came.

      Sadly, since then, what we have mostly seen is total inability to make the right decisions to win games. And, inability to make a yard when needed (often on more than 1 play).

      If the defense could have stiffened up and forced a FG rather than giving up touchdowns then this could have been closer but it would not have been a win. Why Cornelson was kept after last year is a mystery to us all.

  3. Funny how the O has gone down so fast. If I remember, Fu was so proud of the O, that he said he was going to take the ball against UNC if we won the opening coin toss. UNC won and we get the ball first and score. Doesn’t look like the O has been the same since BB got hurt on targeting/non targeting call in that game.

    1. I knew as soon as I saw that Jerry Kill was leaving and Corn was back in control that our offense was toast.

  4. Average players with only a few pretty good players plus mediocre coaches equals what we are seeing on the field. We’ve seen what Fu can do when he has several weeks to prepare for another team. But that doesn’t get us through a season.

      1. He talks like he wants to shield his players from criticism to he is taking the blame.>>>>

        That’s his best attribute – honesty. Not gonna fire 85 players anyway.

  5. Win or lose we need to support your coaches and players until the end of the season when evaluation will occur. Until then, it only hurts our team to run down the coaches and players.

  6. The VT football program, at this point, is very close to circling the drain. Right now it’s just riding along the top edge. At this point, the remaining schedule and results will be very telling for the future of VT football. Once you begin losing the hearts and minds of the faithful, it is only a matter of time IMO before contributions will begin to wain as well. That would not be a good sign. I don’t know the solution, but I’m of the firm belief that Justin Fuente as HC, after six seasons of being in charge, has actually been responsible for an even further decline from where it was when he took over. Time will tell, but the waiting is certainly not pleasant.

  7. My impression of that game was that it was men against boys. Other teams just look bigger, stronger, and faster. Their receivers get open and catch the ball. Some of those things you can hopefully recruit, but can’t coach. With questionable personnel, the only thing left is to scheme around it. Play design becomes critical. Other teams appear to have multiple viable QBs, while we have maybe one. Who will QB next year? Do we bring in another via the portal? Sad times, but I’m not going the route of some bandwagoner posters, who are withdrawing their support. Win or lose … I’m sticking with my school.

    1. We just do not make plays. We get out muscled for sure…our development and conditioning program does not appear to be up to snuff especially for a team that has to develop players to complete.

  8. Fu is done, cooked like the Thanksgiving turkey. The only question is when will the turkey Fu be taken out of the oven?

  9. I got inside Lane over 90 minutes early. Pitt was already out there conditioning, stretching, etc. They even did full block and contact drills during their warm up. VT came out much later, stayed a while, and went in. Pitt stayed another 10 minutes after VT exited. In short, Pitt was ready to play on the opening snap, and we never got in sync the whole game.

  10. Unreal —- “I think the wind on a couple occasions was a little bit of an issue. Ball placement was an issue. We’re going to have to fight through tight coverage a couple times. One time – I can’t remember them all, we catch the ball but don’t secure it all the way to the ground on what would be a big play. It wasn’t one thing, it wasn’t one position. It was a combination of those things.” Fuente

  11. Sadly it’s time to move on. It will set the program back another few years because the recruiting class we are all excited about Will not honor their commitments. However there is a time when a leader no longer has anyone following and we are there.

  12. One reason for BB’s completion rate was the shocking number of drops by receivers.

    I guess it is good that we ended the bowl streak last year. Fu must have known it would be over this year anyway. Duke is the only game we have a chance at winning from here on out.

  13. I will use UVA as an example, George Welsh may have been UVA’s greatest coach, but he was not good enough! Consistent 8-3 coach taking over a horrible program! Since the firing they have never recovered! Before we show someone the door you need to know the answer or we will become the revolving door like UVA!

    1. Are you not watching the the progression UVA is strongly making each year? They are just about throttling teams. UVA will beat us soundly this year like Pitt & BC. Even GT and Wake are better than Tech. All these teams were defensive never offensive minded. Now they are either both or have ascended to the offensive level to compete with Clemson or the SEC. We are the frog…….sitting unresponsive in a pot on a low flame not recognizing we are getting cooked.

    2. #truth, VPIChip! UVa, Tennessee, that list is loooooooong. These same guys who’ve wanted to fire FU every week for .. well .. 5 years now .. will just same the same thing about the next guy. And the next. These numbskulls are hammers and every problem is a nail. ‘Uh…just hit it harder’. That’s ALL they can come up with.
      I say, play the youngins. Put ’em in there. Maybe there’s a spark to be found by someone, anyone. Fu IS old school on the whole, ‘these are juniors and seniors who deserve playing time.’ Nope. As for Tre Turner, his mom, his cousin’s sister’s nephew’s postal carrier — I couldn’t care less who is saying what — but Turner is skinny, hasn’t hit the weights, and can’t break free from CB’s who out-muscle him. That’s on HIM.

  14. Nothing original to say, but need catharsis – Fuente’s teams are toothless and timid. I will not donate a dollar more until there is a new head football coach.

  15. I would like to know if Fu wanted to hire a new OC last year and was denied. If so, VT appears to have shortchanged the football program and coach. Someone else should be speaking up and taking responsibility for much of this if it is what happened.

    If true, it is not the first time that VT has been lax about dollars for football. Last time it was worked out and tremendous success resulted. When in a hole, it can take a long time to dig out, especially if the dirt is being thrown on top of those trying to get out.

    1. I’m out of the loop, so is this your conjecture or are there some reports that suggest that Fu wanted more $ to upgrade from Corny but was denied by Whit?

  16. Honestly, Fuentes ‘attempt’ to take blame says it all about him. He stated that the players were not ‘ready’ to play and at other times that they were not ‘tough,’ and that was his fault as HC. How about a poor scheme, poor play calling and inept coaching that cannot adapt. Its always about poor execution and player effort to him. Total BS. And plus, what does that do to the players when he tells them they were not tough. Get lost.

  17. Hokie football program is pathetic. Defense is playing good. Overall there is no future with the current staff. Time to do something. Tech won’t win 5 games this year. Ask us for money to buy out this horrible coaching staff. We’ll come to the rescue

  18. How about you take more responsibility and fire Corny. He’s inept and completely predictable. Better yet, how about Whit take responsibility and fire FU. It’s fairly obvious he isn’t the right man for the job. I’ve never seen fans leave like that in droves. The fans and players quit on him. Time to move on. Shoot, it was time last year, but I get not doing it during Covid. Well, now it’s time.

      1. You obviously didn’t watch the defense in the 4th quarter. Not blaming the defense for the loss by any means, but they quit.

  19. The entire offense is just simply bad. No true running back, Burmeister lacks significant arm strength and isn’t accurate, play calling is a serious issue, and it just appears like the players haven’t bought into Fuentes decision making… Tre Turner’s mom after game post tonight really says it all….

    1. Did Tre Turner’s mom mention that he hasn’t gained a pound or progressed since he has been here? I think he is one that needs to stop pointing the finger and look in the mirror. IMO the worst coaching CJF has made is continuing to roll out guys that simply shouldn’t play. He needs to use some of these younger wrs and rbs, because the ones we have don’t get it done…they haven’t gotten open throughout the season, they drop balls…his biggest flaw as a coach is staying w awful personnel. If the guys behind them are that bad, then it is recruiting abd coaching/development that are an issue. At what point do you simply try other players??

  20. The game was lost in the first half due to terrible play calling by the Tech OC! On a windy, blustery day why throw the long ball and leave it up for grabs? The short passing game in these conditions would have been a much better strategy ( Pickett and the Pitt OC coach at least knew that and they performed accordingly).

  21. Burmeister did NOT “look healthy.” In fact, he isn’t healthy. It’s well known. They don’t want him to run outside of the pocket. He can’t throw a pass at full strength. He’s a gutsy kid who loves his team, for sure, but he is the antithesis of healthy right now (from a starting QB perspective).

  22. I don’t think Sands really cares, and Whit will do what he wants. I have no idea what VT is doing but they have neutered the football program.

    1. I don’t think that is the case. We are the same .500 that he inherited. Until you fix the problems, you can continue to put bandaids on little things while tbe larger wound bleeds out. No doubt at this point he is on life support abd the last half of this season will dictate what happens. Anything less than 5-1 we have to take a long hard look

    2. Sands and co. are more interested in a woke homecoming, removing traditional king and queen with ‘Royalty’… what?

    3. I agree. Sands extended Whit to 2029. Shouldn’t he have waited until the FB HC situation played out first?

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