The magic of Lane Stadium looked to be happening again, until Florida State ended any Hokies hope of an upset with touchdown drive with under a minute remaining for a 28-22 win on Thursday. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of the Hokies' loss:
QUARTERBACKS Junior Logan Thomas got in a rhythm at times, with 298 yards passing and a touchdown, hooking up with senior Corey Fuller seven times. Thomas also didn't take the pounding running the ball repeatedly as he had in previous games, which might have allowed him to have more success in the air. He still ran the ball 10 times, the majority straight up the gut, including a hard-fought touchdown. He had another on the ground that was called back for a holding penalty. The mistakes were less, but still weren't gone, as evidenced by a first quarter interception on the Hokies' side of the field and a last-second interception on their last gasp effort of the game. Still, marked improvement from Miami.
RUNNING BACKS Thomas was less the main ground threat than in previous games, but for the first time maybe all season, one back was given a premier role. Freshman J.C. Coleman got opportunities, with 16 carries and while he had a couple of decent runs, never got a ton going, finishing with 41 yards. Junior Tony Gregory was also sprinkled in here and there, but he never got going against Florida State's defensive front. Not a lot of progress made here, though seeing one back emerge a little more is something.
RECEIVERS Fuller showed once again that he's the most dependable Hokies this season. He had seven catches for 124 yards, but was open on a number of other plays. This has really been a bittersweet swan song for him, but it makes a few think, 'What if he hadn't spent two seasons running track at Kansas?' Senior Marcus Davis also had a couple of big grabs and was targeted on others, but couldn't hang on to a couple of big catches down the field and against the sideline. Aside from Fuller though, not a ton to brag about at the position.
OFFENSIVE LINE Florida State got to Thomas a pair of times, but the offensive line did a decent job of protecting him. The line also wasn't tested as much with Thomas not running up the middle as much, but never got many running lanes for the running backs. No fumbled snaps though, part of why the offensive line wasn't at the forefront, which is also a good thing. It's tough to do with hesitant, shifty guys like Coleman, but the line has to get some more room for the backs to move.
DEFENSIVE LINE The pressure and push was back and it kept FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel at bay for the majority of the night. The Hokies got to Manuel for five sacks, dispersed among four linemen. The group also did an excellent job of shutting down the Seminoles on the ground, where FSU had -15 yards. Sophomore defensive tackle Dadi Nicolas continues to impress, with a sack and a tackle for loss. A marked improvement was also seen on the line overall though, from Miami a week earlier.
LINEBACKERS The big story here was senior Alonzo Tweedy, who got the surprise start at WHIP for redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke and played well. Tweedy had six tackles and one and a half for loss. Junior Jack Tyler also continued his season-long tackle run, with eight and made a huge tackle of Manuel, just inside the goal line in the fourth quarter for a safety. Senior Bruce Taylor had just three tackles, but did have a sack and a tackle for loss. The only flubs were made in pass coverage, certainly not Taylor's strongsuit, but Tyler and Tweedy got turned around a couple of times.
DEFENSIVE BACKS It's a mixed review here. Individual-wise, junior cornerback Kyle Fuller had one of his best individual performances this season, with eight tackles, while sophomore Detrick Bonner had seven. But there were too many breakdowns against the pass, which led to some big plays from the Seminoles. Junior cornerback Antone Exum continues to struggle, getting a couple of pass interference penalties called on him. Yes, sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett looked like he was picked on the winning touchdown for FSU, but it doesn't excuse the overall lapses at the end of each half.
SPECIAL TEAMS There were no missed extra points this time, but junior Cody Journell did miss a big second quarter field goal from 43 yards that could have kept momentum on the Hokies' side early in the game. In return coverage, Virginia Tech did better, but still allowed a 42-yard kickoff return after its opening field goal from Journell. Freshman punter A.J. Hughes did better, including getting a great roll on a 54-yard punt, but he also shanked a couple off his foot that sailed out of bounds.
COACHES The consistency Hokies fans have been yearning for with the running backs finally came as Coleman got the majority of carries. But the bigger question marks came on the Seminoles' half-ending touchdown drives. Of course, that and how Virginia Tech gave the ball back to Florida State with 2:19 left in the game. Coach Frank Beamer said he didn't want to interrupt the offensive rhythm, but there could have been a little better clock management to run the time down even more.
CROWD Even with the struggles the Hokies have had this season and temperatures in the 30s, Lane Stadium was rocking. The crowd roared to life as Virginia Tech took the lead late, but was just as easily deflated after the deciding FSU touchdown. Still, it's good to see the fans haven't abandoned the Hokies during a trying season when they need support.