October 20, 2013

Mid-Season VT Superlatives

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With the Hokies on their first bye week of the season, we can call this essentially the midway point of the season. Sure, technically last week was but the bye week allows us a chance to look back and evaluate just what has happened on the way to 6-1 (3-0) for the Hokies. With that, let's pick some superlatives from the first half of the season.

Offensive MVP: QB Logan Thomas

Aside from a 110-yard performance against Marshall and a 77-yard touchdown run against Alabama, the Hokies have had zero production from their tailbacks all year. Currently, the Hokies rank No. 104 in the country in rushing offense. Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds is No. 85 in the country in rushing yards with 393. Therefore, the offense has fallen squarely onto the shoulders of Thomas.

So far this season, Thomas has completed 55.2% of his passes for 1,451 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions. He has 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Over the past three games, Thomas has completed 66.6% of his passes for 753 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions.

The defense has certainly carried the Hokies this year, but the offense still has to score some points. When that happens, it is nearly always because of Thomas.

Defensive MVP: CB Brandon Facyson

Facyson impressed all spring as an early enrollee and didn't look back during August camp. However, no one expected this from the true freshman from Georgia. Facyson is tied for second in the country in interceptions with four and has been virtually lockdown all season.

His interception in the first quarter against Georgia Tech was one of the more impressive interceptions you will ever see. Facyson is making defensive backs coach Torrian Gray look like a genius evaluator and teacher, as he has turned a three-star into an all-conference player as a true freshman.

Most Improved - Offense: WR Willie Byrn

The first few weeks this season were downright brutal for Virginia Tech wide receivers. Drops were the primary concern, but people were concerned they didn't have enough speed or ability to go get a deep ball.

Slowly but surely, the Hokies have changed that and the sure handed Byrn is one of the reasons. A former walk-on, Byrn is second on the team with 25 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown. His 83-yard reception in the second quarter against North Carolina completely swung field position and tilted the game significantly in VT's favor.

Most Improved - Defense: DE J.R. Collins

Last year, Collins was going through the motions. He was so ineffective at defensive end that Corey Marshall, Dadi Nicolas, and Tyrel Wilson all began to take some snaps from him. There was even talk he would move full-time to defensive tackle. However, Collins has come out this season as a new player.

Collins is fourth on the team with 33 stops and leads the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (4). His rampage against Marshall was graded the highest of any defensive player ever under defensive coordinator Bud Foster. With James Gayle and Nicolas also excelling at defensive end, the Hokies are stacked with pass rushers.

Best Game: 27-17 W over North Carolina

Sophomore wide receiver Demitri Knowles' 45-yard touchdown reception with just over four minutes left in the first quarter started the scoring in a game the Hokies controlled from start to finish. The Virginia Tech defense stifled the Heels - who were playing without quarterback Bryn Renner - to the tune of 17 points, although the last seven of those game in garbage time with just over a minute left.

Thomas nearly broke the 300-yard barrier (293) and threw three terrific touchdowns on the afternoon. The Heels have a tricky offense to contain and the injury to Renner made it easier to defend, but this one was never in doubt after Knowles hauled in the long touchdown.

Worst Game: 29-21 W over Marshall

This game had James Madison 2010 written all over it. It was a rainy, dreary day at Lane Stadium and the noon kickoff had everyone sleeping. The Hokies were pushed around basically the whole game, but especially in the first half. They went to the lock room down 21-14 after three second quarter drives that ended in interception, interception, and missed field goal. The Hokies tied the game late in the fourth quarter after a long Edmunds run and a lucky tip that should have been intercepted, but instead fell into Byrn's hands for the tying touchdown.

In overtime, kicker Ethan Keyserling - kicking in place of the suspended Cody Journell - missed two field goals. Fortunately for the Hokies, Marshall kicker Justin Haig had his first attempt blocked and, on the second possession, Collins knocked the ball from Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and the Hokies survived. But really, this game should have never been this close.

Best Play: 45-yard touchdown pass to Knowles versus North Carolina

There are a number of other possibilities here, namely Facyson's pick against Georgia Tech or Edmunds' run against Alabama. However, this play set the tone for a big ACC win at home and gave the Hokies the boost in the first quarter they needed.

Knowles ran a perfect post pattern in which he got behind the safeties and Thomas threw an absolutely beautiful deep ball that landed in Knowles' arms just as he was crossing the goal line. Knowles fell to the ground to complete the catch, but this was as easy as it could be in terms of throwing a successful deep ball.

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