It has been assumed by the UVA fan base that coach Mike London has been on the hot seat since the spring after a 2-10 season in 2013 ended with more than a few thinking that his time would be cut short this time last year.
The anemic Tech offense is the reason, and that’s why offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is on his way out, either after Friday’s game or, if the Hokies win and earn a bowl invite, as soon as the bowl season wraps up.
Virginia Tech is averaging 362.0 yards and 23.3 points per game in 2014, a big fall-off from the Hokies’ most recent double-digit-win season, 2011, when that 11-3 squad averaged 413.0 yards and 27.9 points per game.
Loeffler was brought in to reverse a decline in offensive production at the end of the good years that was most pronounced in the performance of the once-vaunted Tech running game. That 2011 team that won 11 games had run for 186.9 yards per game, but the 2012 team could muster just 145.8 yards per game, and that drop hurt the productivity of the unit as a whole, with the Tech offense able to generate just 376.8 total yards and 25.0 points per game, resulting in a 7-6 record that just barely extended the two-decade-long streak of winning seasons and bowl appearances for the Virginia Tech football program.
That year came down to a game in Blacksburg similar to the one that we’ll see Friday night, at least for the Tech side of the equation. The Hokies entered with a 5-6 record in need of a win over their rivals to become bowl-eligible, as will be the case in 2014.
Loeffler’s offense chucks and ducks way, way too much relative to previous Frank Beamer teams, putting the ball in the air an average of 35.3 times a game in 2014, up from 28.9 passes per game in 2011, when the Hokies ran the ball on 59 percent of their snaps. The bad running game from 2012 has only gotten worse since, with the 2014 Hokies running for just 137.7 yards per game and gaining 3.6 yards per attempt, and rushing attempts making up 52 percent of offensive snaps in 2014.
(For comparison, in 2000, Michael Vick’s second and last season as the starting quarterback in Blacksburg, the Hokies threw the ball 19.7 times a game, and ran the ball on 72 percent of their offensive snaps, en route to an 11-1 regular season record.)
Tech teams under Beamer were built on a formula of great defense, great special teams and an offense that could run the ball, pass productively when called upon and otherwise get out of the way of the great defense and great special teams.
Loeffler’s tenure has not reversed the trend toward less productivity from the offense under Beamer, who isn’t going anywhere, if that even needs to be said, meaning it’s next man up time on the offensive sidelines in Lane Stadium.
– Column by Chris Graham