November 4, 2013

Final Grades: Loss At BC

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The Virginia Tech offense put up some big numbers, but turnovers were too much to overcome at Boston College in a 34-27 loss. Having seen the game in person, replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's loss:

Passing yards-wise, senior quarterback Logan Thomas had by far, his most prolific throwing day of the season. Thomas completed 24 of 41 passes for 391 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He even surpassed former Hokie Tyrod Thomas for most yards of total offense in Virginia Tech history. It's hard to look at the positives though with four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) that really overshadow the positives. In his defense, on the first fumble, Thomas got little protection from his offensive line before getting popped and on his first interception, the ball went off the fingertips of Demitri Knowles, who tipped it to Boston College. But even Thomas acknowledged the last interception (a pick-six) and fumble (which sealed the game) could have been better decisions.


Will Virginia Tech ever figure out how to get its running game going? It's now been five games since a running back gained over 100 yards and yesterday, they weren't even close. The Hokies had just 55 yards and 38 of it came from Thomas. While Thomas and the receivers might not admit it, that puts a ton of pressure on them to perform. And the bad news is that there really aren't too many signs that the running backs will get going. Duke and Boston College were both just so-so defenses going into the games that the Hokies could have rebounded against.


Not sure where it came from, but redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford had by far the biggest receiving day of his young career. Stanford had 171 yards on six catches, including a 69-yard grab in which he was tackled at the one yard-line. The big downfall here is that Knowles didn't help his quarterback out, by tipping a pass that was intercepted. And the status of junior Willie Byrn is up in the air after he left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury. But with Stanford's big day, there's at least a few more options with the receivers that wasn't there before.


Yes, left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin is still just a freshman and he'll make mistakes. But back to back holding calls, followed by a whiff that led to Thomas' first fumble shows he has plenty of learning to do. I still feel very confident that McLaughlin will really blossom and be an NFL star, but that's a year or two away. The rest of the line also still can't get the run game going, but at least they've been formidable in pass protection.


For two weeks in a row, the Hokies have failed to get much penetration on their opponent. This time, they got zero sacks as the defensive line struggled to really get going. Also not a good sign that Boston College was able to run all over Virginia Tech, with 196 total yards. Hopefully, this is just a funk as the group had been lights out before this.


As has been his M-O, senior Jack Tyler picked up plenty of tackles, with 11. Senior Tariq Edwards added five tackles, including one for loss and Josh Trimble saw more action at WHIP, though he didn't record a tackle. Nothing really great with this group, but nothing terrible either. The big thing, is that the group could have done better against the run, as did the whole defense.


The Hokies' secondary missed an uncharacteristically high number of tackles. And senior Antone Exum got burned on a few plays by the Eagles. It didn't help that senior cornerback Kyle Fuller sat out with an apparent groin injury and Brandon Facyson didn't see a ton of time, likely effects from a previous concussion, but this was probably one of the lesser games for the group. The good news was holding Boston College to just 93 yards passing.


Wow, senior kicker Cody Journell put an end to a lot of the worries about his ability with one swift kick. His 56-yard field goal to end the first half tied for the longest make in the NCAA this season and was the third longest in Virginia Tech history. Finally, the return game also showed some life, with a 48-yard return by Knowles. Michael Branthover again handled kickoffs and had three touchbacks in six attempts.


The passing game definitely opened up for offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who also saw a big receiving target emerge in Stanford. The loss of Byrn stings, as his status is uncertain, but Loeffler has to be still concerned with the costly mistakes of his quarterback. And while the Hokies' defense lessened what yards Boston College picked up through the air, defensive coordinator Bud Foster can't be happy with a few blown coverages and missed tackles.


Just before kickoff, it didn't look like Boston College would have 10,000 in the stands. The Red Sox victory parade was going on at the same time and thousands turned out throughout Boston for that. But while many more showed up at Alumni Stadium throughout the first half to give an official count of 30,129, it was far from a raucous atmosphere.


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