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September 28, 2013

Final Grades: Georgia Tech

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A blazing start slowed down quickly for Virginia Tech, but combined with another stout defensive effort, it was enough to stave off Georgia Tech and give the Hokies their first ACC win of the season. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:

Senior quarterback Logan Thomas couldn't have had a better start. After getting the ball on a short field, Thomas found senior wide receiver D.J. Coles on a crossing pattern and in the second quarter, Thomas ran in for a five-yard touchdown run. To start the game, Thomas completed his first nine passes. His start ended shortly thereafter, but it was just enough offense. Thomas showed what he can do when he's zeroed in. Now, the trick is getting him to do that for more than just the first quarter. The effort was all the more impressive as he played with an abdominal strain that especially put him in discomfort in the second half.


Though their health was in question entering the game, redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds and sophomore J.C. Coleman were both in action. Neither really did much, though. Coleman's memorable play was when he was bowled over in pass protection against a blitz and Thomas was sacked. Edmunds had six carries for six yards. It was a bit of an odd stat that Thomas, the leading rusher with 58 yards, had more rushing yards than Virginia Tech as a team, which had 55 yards. A few extra days before facing North Carolina will help the group heal even better, since they've gotta get more production.


The biggest play the group had looked pretty easy. On Coles' touchdown, he could have walked in, the field was that open. And redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford threw an excellent downfield block to allow Coles to be so open. The biggest concern is junior Willie Byrn, who suffered a sprained MCL. He says he just needs rest and will be fine for UNC, but that's still a big question mark. The biggest positive though is continued production out of sophomore Demitri Knowles. The player with plenty of dropped passes in the first few weeks, Knowles had five catches for 67 yards.


The running game never really got going past Thomas and that has to fall on the offensive line. Plus, Thomas was sacked twice for a whopping 18 yards lost, a huge contributor in the Hokies gaining just 55 total yards on the ground. Like Thomas and the wide receivers, the offensive line was humming in the first quarter to get Virginia Tech out to a 14-0 lead. But finding out a way to sustain that success for more than just a quarter is the trick here.


Another solid night that limited a big-time rushing attack to 129 yards. It's tough to think that Virginia Tech had just one sack, by redshirt freshman Nigel Williams. But the triple option is a bit deceiving like that. Still, the Hokies racked up the tackles for loss, with Williams and seniors J.R. Collins and James Gayle getting one apiece. The pressure up front was there all night. And though Georgia Tech broke through for a goal line touchdown in the third quarter, this group again towed the line.


We knew going into the game that against the option, the linebackers, seniors Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards would get their chances. Tyler racked up six tackles, one for loss. The longest run the Yellow Jackets had on the night was 15 yards, not great, but the long run was eliminated. Still nursing a hip pointer, Josh Trimble didn't get in the game, though senior Kyle Fuller plays primarily the WHIP/safety spot against Georgia Tech anyway. Fuller had a huge game, with a forced fumble that led to Virginia Tech's first touchdown and two tackles for loss. He gets counted with this group this time.


Freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson continues to amaze. He made an acrobatic interception in the first quarter against the right sideline that now has him tied for the national lead with four interceptions on the season. In front of his hometown friends and family, Facyson also recovered the fumble forced by Fuller, forced another that was recovered by the Yellow Jackets and had two pass breakups. Safety Detrick Bonner was picked on and made some questionable decisions, but he was picked up overall by the defensive backs, including freshman Kendall Fuller's interception in the final minutes to seal the win.


Senior kicker Cody Journell might be back, but his kicking woes are as well. Journell made the Hokies' first field goal in seven tries when he connected on a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, but then he pushed a 25 yard attempt on Virginia Tech's next drive wide left. Sophomore punter A.J. Hughes' average dipped a bit, to 42.7 yards on six punts and the Hokies had only two, non-impressive returns. No big returns were conversely, allowed, but the thing that stands out again though, is Journell.


Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler had to be ecstatic with the offense's hot start, particularly Thomas. But after that start, it was tough to get much going. Hopefully, he can build on what good the Hokies had early. Defensively, Georgia Tech gained some yards. But allowing a team 129 yards rushing that entered the game fourth in the country with 354.3 yards per game, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has to be happy with that.


For having only 50,214 in attendance, Bobby Dodd Stadium gets pretty loud. That might be the loudest P.A. system I've ever heard though, too. And among those in attendance, Virginia Tech occupied a good chunk of the southeast corner of the stadium, that did its part to get loud. It was enough to start a chant war with Georgia Tech fans late in the game with their "Let's Go!" "Hokies!" chant.



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