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December 30, 2012
Big Performers: Rutgers Win
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Virginia Tech concluded its 2012 season with a less-than-exciting 13-10 overtime victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The win moved the Hokies to 7-6 for the season and gives the Hokies a three game winning streak heading into the off-season. Today, we check out the top performers from an otherwise ugly game.
5. A.J. Hughes, Punter
Hughes was called on early and often and, for the most part, had a very good day punting the football. He booted it 11 times for an average of 42.2 yards per punt. Aside from one with a hang time of just over two seconds and another that bounced before the 50, Hughes' punts were effective and kept Virginia Tech from having to defend a short field.
4. Cody Journell, Kicker
Journell continued his clutch ways on Friday night, getting the Hokies on the board early in the fourth and nearly winning it at the end of regulation before booting the 22-yarder to give Tech the lead for good.
He's been money all year long whether it be against Georgia Tech in September, Virginia in the frigid cold in November, or Rutgers in the rain in December. Because of his performances this season, Journell will enter 2013 with high expectations.
3. Jack Tyler, Linebacker
Tyler led the team in tackles in 2012 and, although he didn't lead the squad this game, showcased that ability throughout the game Friday. Twice Tyler was able to penetrate the line of scrimmage and slam the Rutgers ball carrier down in the backfield.
Tyler's got terrific instincts and is among the best tacklers on the team. With Bruce Taylor moving on, this defense is his for the 2013 season.
2. Bruce Taylor, Linebacker
Late in the season, defensive coordinator Bud Foster made a shift to start sending Taylor often on blitzes. The results were tremendous. After the Duke game, Taylor had just two tackles for loss.
In the final six games of the year, Taylor recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and become a demon in the backfield for opposing offenses. Taylor's career in orange and maroon ended at the conclusion of the bowl game, but he will be remembers as one of the hardest working and best linebackers to come through Blacksburg.
1. Antone Exum, Cornerback
From week one to week 18, Antone Exum developed into the top defensive back on the team. He finished with an interception in each of the final three games of the season, although he should have had two and touchdown against Rutgers after dropping a clear pick six early in the second half. He's pretty much the definition of lockdown on plays that happen in front of him and is getting better by the game when running down the field with receivers.
Exum requested information from the NFL Draft advisory committee, but the chances he leaves for the NFL are slim. Exum should return in 2013 as the leader of the secondary and one of the leaders of the defense, although everything might be on the line as far as his pro prospects when the Hokies take on Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
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