BLACKSBURG — No flight home without an ID.
That’s the rule for regular travelers, and it should be the guiding principle for Virginia Tech during its trip to Miami.
Of all the concerns the Hokies have, none is more glaring than coach Justin Fuente’s admission after the Duke loss that the offense does not have an identity. Offense is his strength as a coach. Given Tech’s personnel, offense should be the strength of this team.
The offense has been lost.
The Hokies rank 99th in the country in scoring. They’re 101st in rushing yards per play. And most disappointingly, they’re tied for 73rd in passing yards per play — an inexcusable fact for a team that has a fifth-year quarterback as well as capable talents such as Tre Turner, Hezekiah Grimsley and (at least in the Duke game) Damon Hazelton leading the receiving corps.
Much of the discussion thus far has been about the struggles of the rushing attack, which has been a persistent problem for Tech under Fuente. But Miami’s profile suggests that the Hokies would have a difficult time running the ball on Saturday even if they had a fierce ground game.
The Hurricanes boast the sixth-ranked rushing defense in the country. Counting on Tech to dent that would be a fool’s errand.
No, the Hokies are going to have to be able to throw it around if they’re going to compete as a two-touchdown underdog. The young offensive line is going to have to give the quarterback time, the receivers are going to have to get open, and the QB — whoever he is — is going to have to put the ball in the right place.
“When the play is called, execute the play,” Tech receivers coach Jafar Williams said. “Do your job, and that goes for everybody. My job is to get the plays to the receivers. Their job is not to worry about what play is called and go execute it. Football is not a complicated game. We’ve got to execute our jobs, and everybody has to do that better.”
Simplicity has been a rallying cry for Tech. When seeking its identity, the Hokies want to return to the fundamentals expressed in their most prominent team slogan: hard, smart, tough.
They’ve been 0 for 3 on those too often so far this season, and they know it.
“To me, personally, I would want us to be mean and rugged,” Tech left guard Lecitus Smith said, when asked what he would like Tech’s offensive identity to be. “If we’re running a play and one of us offensive linemen need to get to the second level, instead of getting to the second level and fitting a hat up on that linebacker, fit hat, latch on, run him outside the play. Put him on his back.
“I feel like that’s also what Fuente means. He wants to find an identity, but we want to be known like what we say: hard, smart, tough. We need to get that hard and that tough going — even that smart part going as well. We want to be that team that people are like, OK, they’re a smart football team. … We want to be tough and rugged and mean when it’s necessary. That’s how I want to be.”
Can Tech just turn something like that on? It seems like a long shot. But seeing Miami on the opposite sideline shouldn’t hurt.
For decades, the Hokies have been conditioned to despise the Hurricanes. The old battles for Big East supremacy have given way to some less meaningful games in recent years, but Miami-Tech remains a big deal to both sides.
At 0-2 in the ACC, Tech can’t be thinking about any Coastal ramifications. They need simply to find some competence and confidence.
If nothing else, they need to secure an ID for the flight home.