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November 11, 2013

Final Grades: Win At Miami

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In what was a stunner to most, Virginia Tech took advantage of some lucky bounces, Miami turnovers and a big offensive night Saturday to upset the Hurricanes. Having seen the game in person, replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:

Following two weeks of big number with turnovers, senior quarterback Logan Thomas had arguably his biggest game in two seasons with 25 of 31 completions for 366 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And most importantly, no turnovers. Thomas did an excellent job of finding his receivers and mixing up his passes over the middle, on slants and screens and to the outside. It helped that his receivers caught nearly everything thrown to them despite wind and rain and he got good blocking from his offensive line, but at times, Thomas was unstoppable. The only real negative for the night is him being sacked twice. But it was definitely an accomplishment for Thomas to produce so much while staying relatively un-beat up, with just 10 carries for 42 yards.


Finally, the running game has returned and it was a three-headed monster between Thomas, redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman. Together, they ran for 183 yards, with Coleman surprisingly getting the bulk of the load with 22 carries. Edmunds though, was clutch around the goal line. He made a nifty move to cut inside on the first of four touchdowns, the most by a Hokie since Ryan Williams' four in 2009. Edmunds was a far more elusive and instinctive runner than he'd been for the previous seven games. You hope he's really starting to get a better understanding of everything.


Wow, talk about a 180 from the season-opener when there were so many drops. Even in wet and windy conditions, these guys caught just about everything in their vicinity. The biggest thing from here though is it looks for now like the game Joshua Stanford had at Boston College wasn't a fluke. He followed that up with seven catches for 107 yards Saturday and had one of the plays of the year on his first career touchdown. Plus, despite being heavily wrapped up, Willie Byrn fought through pain for another big night, six catches for 105 yards. Oh, and these guys also had a right place, right time moment on Byrn's fumble, recovered for a touchdown by Demitri Knowles


Sure, Thomas was sacked twice, but for the first time in seven games, the running game thrived, thanks in large part to the offensive line creating holes and holding their spots. Players after the game, including Thomas, alluded to a stepped-up effort from these guys and it showed. These guys might not have made a complete 180-degree turnaround, but they were close. It helped having Thomas run less, but still, he came out of this game way more unscathed than he had been of late.


In the lead-up to the game, Miami knew it would be without its big offensive weapon, running back Duke Johnson with a broken ankle. The talk though, was that his backup, Dallas Crawford, was just as good. The Hokies put a stop to that, allowing him just 37 yards rushing, 28 yards overall after plays for negative gain. Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris was still able to get off some big play passes, leading to 324 yards, by far the most allowed this season, though Virginia Tech did get a pair of sacks from Luther Maddy and one from James Gayle.


Senior Jack Tyler had just four tackles, while senior Tariq Edwards had just two, well down from their averages. Both were excellent against the run, but also got beat on a few passing plays. Their help in containing the middle of the field against the run was the biggest contributions. Edwards had a big fumble recovery on special teams.


If there was one area that lacked a bit it was against the pass. Morris completed just 16 passes, but that included some big gainers. Freshman Brandon Facyson mis-timed a jump on a pass in the third quarter that went for an 84-yard touchdown. This group was a little banged up though, as Kyle Fuller tried to give it a go with a groin injury and was limited and Antone Exum left the game in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury (opposite of one he tore ACL). This group is fighting through injuries and struggled with Miami's speed as well.


Who knew that punter A.J. Hughes could be such a good defender? Hughes saved a sure touchdown on a Miami punt return in the first quarter when he forced a fumble that the Hokies recovered. Derek DiNardo forced a fumble as well on a kickoff, recovered by Virginia Tech and leading to touchdowns. Hughes missed on a few punts in the wind and rain, but still got a few good bounces and rolls, including on one that went for 55 yards.


While the Hokies had gained plenty through the air the previous few weeks, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler finally got some production on the ground. Loeffler though, did a great job mixing in screens, outs and slants that created huge holes downfield after the catch. Many were well-placed where the defense wasn't. Defensively, Bud Foster can't be happy with allowing 324 yards through the air, but he certainly shut down the running game with some timely blitzes and guys holding their positions up front.


The tailgating atmosphere around the stadium was impressive before the game. But that was before the rain began pouring and the wind was swirling. A majority of fans stuck around through horrible conditions, but after Edmunds' final touchdown early in the fourth quarter, they quickly filed out. Announced attendance was 49,267 and at times, they got loud. Only at the beginning though, before Virginia Tech got rolling.



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