- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Five games into the season, Virginia Tech now knows the concerns it had coming into the 2006 football season were valid.

Fixing those problems has taken longer than coach Frank Beamer and his staff had hoped, and a few unexpected issues have surfaced.

The Hokies’ coaches knew before the season began that their offensive line, which has just one returning starter from 2005 — right tackle Duane Brown — and little experience beyond that, would have significant growing pains as it tried to protect quarterback Sean Glennon, himself a first-year starter. To make the challenge even greater, tailback Branden Ore was also a first-time starter when the Hokies opened the season against Division I-AA Northeastern.

In easy victories over Northeastern, North Carolina and Duke, the offensive issues were not that evident. However, when a rather strong defensive effort by Cincinnati produced three sacks and forced Tech to rally from a 13-12 deficit in the fourth quarter, the issues began to be revealed.

“We’re not where we need to be,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said before the Georgia Tech game. “That’s not any secret to anybody out there. But we’re gaining on it. I wish I was the Wizard of Oz, I wish I could say, OK, we’re ready. But I can’t put a timetable on when we’re going to be at the point we’re going to play well day in day out, week in week out.”

Georgia Tech, which handed the Hokies their first loss of the year by a score of 38-27, did one better, sacking Glennon four times, forcing two turnovers and never falling behind after getting out to a 21-0 lead. When Virginia Tech’s offense was forced to try to keep pace with the Jackets, it couldn’t. After cutting the lead to 21-7 late in the first quarter, the Hokies had two more trips into Georgia Tech’s red zone, but came away with only a pair of Brandon Pace field goals.

And when the Tech defense needed to come up with some more big plays to give its offense additional opportunities, it couldn’t. That raises more pressing concerns for the Hokies, who have been vocal about relying on their defense.

In their first four games, the Hokies defense allowed only two touchdowns — one rushing and one passing. In the first quarter against the Yellow Jackets, the Virginia Tech defense gave up three touchdowns — two of those in the air. It was the first time the Hokies defense allowed a touchdown in the first quarter in the last 16 regular season games.

Part of the problem could have been attributed to the suspension of defensive end Chris Ellis. However, Ellis had been playing hurt for several weeks as it was. With a road game at Boston College next Thursday, shoring up the defense is at the top of the team’s to-do list.

“I told the team this is one of those deals when you’re not quite as good as some people think you are when you win and you’re not quite as bad as some people think you are when you lose,” Beamer said after the loss. “And I don’t think we’re a bad football team, I think we’re a football team that needs to do a lot of things better.”

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