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Virginia Tech trying to get into the run of things

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Ground game of Hokies in shambles this season

Despite the best efforts of savvy host Bill Roth, the weekly two-hour radio show dedicated to Virginia Tech football can get slow at times, especially with the Hokies losing five of their last seven and running out of answers for what has gone wrong in this uncharacteristically sideways season.

On Monday night, the best question came from a fan who asked coach Frank Beamer about the identity of his offense. After long pauses as he groped for an answer, Beamer finally said, "Well, we're doing more things this year."

In a season of expanding its repertoire and accomplishing less, Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3) has abandoned its longtime formula for success. Against No. 8 Florida State (8-1, 5-1) on Thursday night at Lane Stadium, the Hokies take a last stab at finding themselves and making something out of 2012.

Up next
No. 8 Florida State at Virginia Tech
When » Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Lane Stadium,
Blacksburg, Va.
TV » ESPN

Since he arrived at Virginia Tech, Beamer's success has been predicated on line play -- running the ball and stopping the run. After Beamer's rookie year in Blacksburg (1987), the Hokies have rushed for more yards than their opponents in all 24 seasons. In 11 of those years, the Hokies have rushed for at least 1,000 more yards than their opponents. But this season, foes have rushed for 1,494 yards, while Virginia Tech has gained 1,478 yards on the ground.

As Beamer talked about Florida State during his Monday news conference, he sounded like a coach describing his own team in years past.

"They are running the ball extremely well, and the offensive line is extremely good," Beamer said. "I think they lead the nation in total defense. They have given up an average of 12 points a game and [227] yards. They will put a lot of pressure on you with a four-man rush. They are snug up with your receivers."

With quality backs David Wilson, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams, running success was a given over the last five years at Virginia Tech. But with no experienced runners and four new offensive linemen this year, the Hokies have struggled. In addition, the lone returning starter, center Andrew Miller, was lost three weeks ago to a season-ending injury.

"That offensive line, that's the one place you want continuity," Beamer said. "We haven't been able to keep that week in and week out."

After a 73-yard touchdown run in last week's loss to Miami, quarterback Logan Thomas is Virginia Tech's rushing leader with 422 yards. Freshmen J.C. Coleman (361 yards, 5.9 yards per carry) and Michael Holmes (282 yards, 4.1 yards per carry) have shown flashes, but building consistent success has been elusive. After rushing for 183 yards at Duke, Coleman carried 12 times for 19 yards against Clemson. After rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries against Cincinnati, Holmes has carried 23 times for just 71 yards.

"The running backs are young, and sometimes they look young," Beamer said. "But we're getting into games now where that shouldn't really be an issue."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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