Spring game exposes Virginia Tech offense

Virginia Tech receiver blames himself for a pick-six.

BLACKSBURG — The new offensive coordinator has installed only the basics. Moreover, with spring game video readily available, only a fool would reveal much on such an inconsequential stage.

But those concessions don't explain just how putrid the offense was Saturday as Virginia Tech concluded spring drills with the Orange-White game.

"We don't have much of the offense in but that's no excuse for it," tight end Ryan Malleck said. "We should have been driving the ball down their throats."

Malleck and the first-team offense and defense (Orange) were, in essence, pitted against backups (White). The matchup appeared so lopsided that coaches spotted the White squad 13 points.

Didn't need 'em. The Whites returned two Logan Thomas interceptions for touchdowns and allowed only one touchdown, that a 30-yard pass from reserve Mark Leal to Malleck.

Final score for the true degenerate gamblers: 27-9.

Not even coach Frank Beamer, usually a glass-half-full guy, was in the mood to cut the offense some slack. Sure, coordinator Scot Loeffler has showed only a fraction of the playbook, Beamer allowed, but Saturday's defense was equally vanilla, rushing four and keeping coverages simple.

The offense has "got to function better," Beamer said.

Sound familiar? That's why Beamer overhauled the offensive coaching staff after a 7-6 finish in 2012, Tech's worst in 20 years.

Plagued by red-zone gaffes last season, the Hokies encountered the same Saturday after a Thomas-to-Joshua Stanford slant gained 57 yards.

Facing first-and-goal at the 4, Tech ran tailback Trey Edmunds on three consecutive snaps. Cornerback Brandon Facyson stuffed him for no gain before Edmunds managed 3 yards on the same stretch play to the left.

But on third-and-goal from the 1, the offensive line failed, and linebacker Devin Vandyke swallowed Edmunds for a 5-yard loss,

In a real game, Tech kicks a field goal. But Saturday, Loeffler had Thomas pass. Der'Woun Greene jumped the inside route to Demitri Knowles and returned it 98 yards for a score.

For the day, the first-teamers rushed for 23 yards on 22 carries. Thomas threw three picks, and the Orange offense converted 1-of-12 third downs. For what it's worth, the White offense was predictably helpless against the front-line defense, rushing for no yards on 19 attempts and converting 2-of-11 third downs.

"The ball felt great coming out of my hand all day," Thomas said. "You all are going to say, and people are going to say that I had a bad game today. But I can't complain. I threw the ball where I wanted to. I hit my spots. I was accurate."

That seems generous at best and delusional at worst, but Stanford, an interview gem, had Thomas' back — in a big way.

"I know for a fact two of those interceptions had nothing to do with Logan Thomas," Stanford said. "They were receiver errors as far as depth (of routes) goes. …

"The second pick was my fault. I was supposed to come underneath the cornerback, but I went around him because he was kind of sitting at my depth, but Logan had already let the ball go."

Donovan Riley returned the interception 53 yards for a touchdown. Might Riley's familiarity with the offense and continued practice reps have contributed to the pick?

"Yes," Stanford said. "But you know what? If it's Week 8 or Week 9 and we're having success with the same plays, and the other team watches film, I may get the same look because the defender knows it's coming. … That's one of my failings, and I need to be able to get underneath on those routes."

Stanford even shouldered the blame for Greene's touchdown return, lamenting Greene tackling him from behind at the 4 a few plays earlier.

"My legs gave out on me on the slant," Stanford said. "I got tired. If I score there, Logan never throws the … pick-six."

That's a redshirt freshman talking, folks, and if his teammates are equally accountable, the offense will be markedly better this season.

Good enough to beat two-time defending national champion Alabama in the opener? Uh, no. But certainly improved enough to help Tech win the ACC's Coastal Division.

"Not really the best day offensively," Stanford said, "but at least it's put out there, and we all know what we have to work on over the summer."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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