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December 2, 2013
Final Grades: Win At UVA
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The Commonwealth Cup will remain in Blacksburg for another year, the tenth in a row after a 16-6 Virginia Tech win Saturday at Virginia. Having seen the game in person, replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:
In the first half, especially the first drive of the game, senior Logan Thomas and the Hokies had some success. Thomas also appeared to cap the first drive with a touchdown on a halfback pass from Sam Rogers, except his knee was ruled down. Thomas had a nice rhythm with wide receiver Demitri Knowles as well, especially on that first drive. But like the rest of the offense, Thomas floundered in the second half. His overall numbers are good, with 229 yards passing, but Thomas had an interception in the third quarter that killed a drive. Of course, in his defense, his offensive line didn't give him a lot of help.
For the first time in a few games, redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds was finally having success on the ground. Edmunds had 93 yards rushing and caught the game's lone touchdown, a 26-yarder in which he made some nifty moves. Alas, Edmunds is out for the season and likely the spring after suffering a broken tibia in the second half. The onus now falls on sophomore J.C. Coleman for the Hokies' bowl game. Coleman had 57 yards but is still a bit of a drop-off from Edmunds' potential.
Knowles started out the game in a big way, with a 29-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage. He finished with 101 yards, which was nice to see, since he hadn't been much of a factor in a number of games this season. Junior Willie Byrn also had a few good catches to get involved. There were a few drops overall, but the group did a nice job of making the catches that were there.
I was told last week that the offensive line is a motley crue of a group and that's probably a good description. Virginia got to Thomas five times for sacks and the Hokies' offensive line was hit and miss in pass protection. If there's one thing that's a positive it was some improvement in the run game. Edmunds had 93 yards in what was an improvement for him. Virginia Tech had 126 rushing yards overall, but could have had more if there was a bit more protection.
Virginia had 109 yards rushing, but 48 of it came on one run by Kevin Parks in the fourth quarter. Throw that out and it was a big effort by the defensive front. Senior James Gayle even scuffled with big Morgan Moses early in the game, which was the first of a few on the day between the teams. The Hoos couldn't get much going offensively and that was due in large part to the defensive line.
While the secondary was strong, the MVPs of the defense might be the linebackers. Specifically, senior Tariq Edwards had a great game. Edwards had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and tied for a team-high eight tackles. He was constantly in the face of the Virginia offense all day. Josh Trimble, who had been playing sparingly as the Hokies had used more nickel, got a big sack as well from the WHIP position.
While the linebackers as a whole were the best unit, the individual game MVP was definitely Kendall Fuller. After Parks' big run, Fuller put an immediate end to Virginia's momentum in the fourth quarter with an interception on the next play. Fuller also had four breakups and was in on a sack with Gayle. Detrick Bonner had a few nice plays, but Fuller almost single-handedly won the game defensively with his stellar play.
After struggling in his debut against Maryland, Eric Kristensen came through in his second game. Kristensen connected on all three of his field goals, calmly knocking them down from 22, 30 and 38 yards. Punter A.J. Hughes also had a solid day, with two inside the 20 and an average of 44 yards over his five punts. The only real negative is still not having much of a return game.
Mixing in some trick plays was a great way to get the offense going. The Hokies couldn't punch in three solid drives over the first and second quarters, which ended in field goals, but Thomas' catch should probably have been a touchdown. The big thing is the ineptness of the offense in the second half when Virginia Tech basically sat on the lead. Defensively, outside of the one run by Parks, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has to be pleased with what he got, especially with a beat up secondary.
It was a bit disappointing to see Scott Stadium half full just 20 minutes from kickoff. But the crowd filled in and 52,069 created a good rivalry atmosphere. My first observation though was it had to be the only place where the band is amplified. Still, the rivalry is alive and well based on the crowd.
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