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September 16, 2013
Final Grades: East Carolina
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For whatever reason, senior kicker Cody Journell didn't have it Saturday. Luckily for him, he has a superb defense playing behind him. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:
Sure, there were still missed throws and mistakes by senior quarterback Logan Thomas, but he did take a step forward. With a ground game that wasn't too effective, Thomas completed 27 of 43 passes for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For the first time in really, two games, Thomas ran the ball, though it didn't accomplish much. Again though, Thomas' decision-making could use some work, as he had one interception that was placed poorly and another throw into double coverage that should have been intercepted. At least we know the Hokies can have some success in the passing game.
For the first time this season, the Hokies' ground game hit a wall. Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds just couldn't get anything going, with just 42 yards on 21 carries. Virginia Tech splashed in Joel Caleb and Chris Mangus, though Mangus was more effective with a third-quarter reception. And that went for just seven yards. The Hokies will have days like this, but hopefully not too many.
It looks like Willie Byrn is here to stay within the Hokies' offense. Byrn proved his four catches against FCS-Western Carolina were no fluke, with seven catches for 63 yards. The surprise though is sophomore Demitri Knowles. After two games of misses, Knowles was the prominent target, with eight catches for 99 yards, including a nice grab on a 30-yard first quarter touchdown. Again, there's work to be done, but this group is getting better.
It has to be frustrating that the Hokies never could get the running game going, with just 53 yards on 34 carries. But the line did a good job of protecting Thomas for the most part. He was sacked twice and flushed out of the pocket a few times, but with 43 attempts, the protection was good. It was also a good job with junior Brent Benedict getting a last-minute start at right tackle over junior Laurence Gibson.
Wow, this group is impressive. The 'Ironman' award clearly goes to senior defensive end James Gayle, who dislocated his left shoulder late in the second quarter on a sack, popped some pain relievers and came back in the second half to get another sack and force the fumble that led to the clinching safety. Senior defensive end J.R. Collins was also a beast, with a pair of sacks, while senior defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins got in on a sack. Giving up only 46 yards rushing only put an exclamation mark on the day.
It looks like if senior Tariq Edwards isn't at his old form, he's damn close. Edwards has a sack and a half and an impressive interception, plus two and a half tackles for loss. And aside from a mental mistake of a tackle out of bounds on East Carolina's first series of the game, senior Jack Tyler was again impressive, with six tackles and a sack. The middle of the defense is just as stout.
Are we sure Brandon Facyson is a true freshman? because he certainly doesn't play like it. Facyson might have read ECU quarterback Shane Carden better than anyone else on the field. With two interceptions, the second off a tip and nearly a third, Facyson had blanket coverage all day. Safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner had the space behind them on lockdown, with 11 combined tackles. Against what was touted as a fast-paced, high-tempo offense, aside from the Pirates' opening drive touchdown, the Hokies passed with flying colors.
Last season, senior Cody Journell kicked six game-tying or game-winning field goals in the final minutes of a game. But for whatever reason, he was nowhere close to that on Saturday. With three missed field goals and an extra point missed, Journell has without question his worst game as a Hokie. A.J. Hughes had a solid day as a punter and the return teams were much better, but that doesn;t make up for Journell's mishaps.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler recognized he would have to throw the ball more and the Hokies did. But he can't be happy with a barely existent running game. Defensively, coordinator Bud Foster probably couldn't be any happier, aside from that opening drive. He even got a clinching safety to preserve the victory.
East Carolina has been known to play Virginia Tech tough, especially at home and the crowd certainly helped. A soldout, 50,096 was raucous all day. The start of the game, with hoisting the pirate flag and colors was pretty cool. As far as the VT contingency, they occupied an entire section on the lower and upper levels and did their best to get going when the Hokies had a big play.
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