September 9, 2013

Final Grades: W Carolina

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It was a game Virginia Tech was supposed to win, marked as a 41-point favorite by the Vegas Sports Books over an FCS team that finished 1-11 last season. It wasn't the dominating performance the Hokies arguably should have had, but thanks to a late score, they took home a 45-3 win Saturday. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:

Senior quarterback Logan Thomas looked better from his week one performance against Alabama, but he's still not up to par. Thomas completed 17 of 31 passes for 200 yards and his first touchdown of the season, to wide receiver D.J. Coles, but he was still off on some of his throws. On both interceptions, he put the ball in tough position for his receivers, underthrowing the first. He did go through his read progressions better, as he said he hoped to, but he still isn't always getting the ball where it needs to. The Hokies are obviously saving his legs as well, as he had zero carries.


The Hokies were plenty shorthanded against Alabama and got much if it back in the form of J.C. Coleman and Joel Caleb, coming off injury and suspension. As a group, the running backs piled up 237 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds is still the clear leader, as evidenced by his 15 carries and two touchdowns, but he should be happy to know he has some assistance now. Coleman might not be up to full health, but he's not far away.


After spending all week on the JUGS machine, it looks like the extra work has paid off, at least with a few receivers. Junior Willie Byrn's emergence with four catches for 58 yards was a pleasant surprise. Though he had just one catch, Coles should have more confidence as well after catching his first touchdown pass in nearly two years. Freshman Kalvin Cline also showed the Hokies might have a viable tight end option. The downside though is Demitri Knowles still looks lost at times and as a group, there's still plenty of work to do. But the progress is there.


The same steadiness that the group showed against Alabama was back against Western Carolina. Thomas and backup Mark Leal weren't sacked and the Hokies rushed for 237 yards. The only concern is a slight one: senior right guard Andrew Miller sprained his ankle and spent the second half on the sideline in a walking boot. Coach Frank Beamer said today he should be fine.


The group didn't have quite the ferocity it showed against the Crimson Tide, but it was still pretty damn good. Senior J.R. Collins had the lone sack on the day, but it has to at least be a little concerning that the Catamounts were able to rush for 111 yards. Of course, they did run the ball 40 times, but the intensity has to be there every game. It was good seeing James Gayle get more involved though, with four tackles and two hurries, a week after not getting a tackle.


If it's not already worn out it will be, the phrase, 'Jack Tyler is a tackling machine.' Tyler was again all over the field, again leading the way with 11 tackles and a hurry. Senior Tariq Edwards looks like he's regaining form every week and even Chase Williams was impressive, with seven tackles. The middle of the defense looks to be a solid one so far.


Of course, it was a bottom level FCS team, but this might have been the best game the Hokies' secondary has had in a while. On Western Carolina's second play of the game, freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson made an interception. The best was yet to come, as junior safety Detrick Bonner made a pair of interceptions, returning the first one 37 yards for Virginia Tech's first score of the game. It was the first defensive touchdown scored in 28 games, a surprising stat. But the group looks to be as solid as ever, allowing only 51 yards passing and just four completions.


The group overall made strides, but still allowed 103 yards on a pair of kickoffs. Meanwhile, the Hokies couldn't do much with their six punt returns, with 21 yards on six punts. Returner Kyshoen Jarrett also made the lone mistake of the day, muffing his final return, leading to Western Carolina's field goal in the third quarter. A.J. Hughes again looked sharp, with a 43-yard average on a pair of punts. Hunter Windmuller got in on the action though, too and looked good with his lone punt, going 49 yards.


Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has to be pleased he was able to spread the ball around and get so many running backs involved. But Loeffler didn't have anything to do with Thomas' two interceptions. Defensively, coordinator Bud Foster has to be happy with the overall effort. The one disappointment had to be when the Catamounts were pinned at their own one and were able to pick up a couple of first downs. Nothing really critical here of any coaching decisions, though both can't be completely satisfied, even in such a blowout.


The crowd, as always at Lane Stadium, was loud and boisterous, but the big story here was the end of the Hokies' sellout streak of 93 straight home games, dating to 1998. The official attendance announced was 61,335, more than 4,000 less than the listed capacity of 65,632. Blame it on whatever you want, but unfortunate the streak ends. Still, as assistant Shane Beamer pointed out on Twitter, it was still more than the 58,502 on hand at Virginia for their blowout loss to Oregon.


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