Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies' excuses getting old for underachieving offense

Today's topic, of course, is Virginia Tech's offense. Isn't it always?

Don't worry. We'll get there. But first, we need to talk about Russell Wilson.

See, here's the crazy thing about Wilson: The N.C. State quarterback went more than eight months without practicing football.

Think about that for a second. No spring practice, no 7-on-7 drills in the summer, no weight lifting with the team. For 250 straight days, he was gone. Says so right here in N.C. State's game notes.

As you probably know, he was busy playing baseball, first for his college team and later in the Rockies farm system. But as far as the Wolfpack football squad was concerned, he might as well have been on Pluto.

Despite this, he's thrown 11 touchdown passes this season -- against just one interception -- and leads the ACC in total yards. He has his team 4-0 and ranked heading into today's game with the Hokies.


Maybe it's because he's talented.

And maybe because his coaches have been putting him in position to make plays.

Which brings us to Tech's offense. Most of us believe that the players on that side of the ball are talented. The players themselves certainly believe it; they've been saying it since the spring. The coaches say they have the most offensive ability, collectively, that Tech's had in a long time.

So why isn't this talent dominating?

The coaches have to answer for that one. And the answer needs to come today.

Talk of being "one block away" or "failing to execute" dominated this week's press conference when questions about the offense arose. But those explanations ring hollow when there are weapons available to compensate. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring has a plethora of ways he can attack. Consider:

Jarrett Boykin is averaging 22.1 yards every time he catches the ball. Fellow receiver Danny Coale averages 21.4.

David Wilson picks up 5.7 yards a carry. Darren Evans gets 4.7. Tyrod Taylor is, statistically, the most efficient quarterback in the conference.

Those are nice individual numbers. Yet as a unit, this offense ranks 70th in the nation in yards per game and 57th in scoring.

The popular topic this week was missed opportunities in the red zone. It's a legitimate concern given that Tech failed to capitalize fully on great field position in last Saturday's 19-0 win over Boston College.

But the issue runs deeper than that. The red zone woes are symptomatic of a greater problem: an inability for this offense to come through when it matters most. Coach Frank Beamer keeps saying that the Hokies were six yards away from beating Boise State, and he's right. A first down -- in their own territory -- on third-and-6 likely would have given them a win.

They could not get it.

Occasional missed assignments by an individual player should not be blowing up entire plays. If there's a weakness on the right side, go left. If they're daring you to pass, be sure that they pay.

Whatever it is, just do it -- and make it work.

The excuses are what roil the blood of so many Tech supporters. These people have been promised filet mignon and handed lukewarm liver. So far, all that offensive potential seems like it's always going to waste. At the very least, it's not being maximized.

That's a coaching problem.

And the only way to remedy it is to shred a Wolfpack defense that should be vulnerable.

Football can be as complex as you want to make it. But at its core, it's a game where physical gifts tend to rule. Bigger, faster and stronger typically equals better. Talent wins. And if for some reason it doesn't, the coach needs to do a better job.

If the Hokies need a reminder that this game isn't all about meeting rooms, chalk boards and reps on the practice field, all they need to do is look across the field to the opposing sideline.

One block away? Try 250 days away. And still able to perform, when given a chance.

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