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November 27, 2012
Final Grades: UVA Win
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A few streaks are still alive for Virginia Tech, after finding some luck in getting its ninth straight win over Virginia, 17-14, and getting back to a bowl game for the 20th straight season. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of the Hokies' win:
It's a good thing junior quarterback Logan Thomas is 6'6" and 260 pounds because he took a pounding rushing a carer-high 29 times for just 89 yards. Yes, the wind was swirling and the cold air didn't help, but Thomas didn't do much through the air. He completed just 18 of 38 throws for 129 yards and was also sacked three times. He also fumbled deep in his own territory in the third quarter that was returned by the Cavaliers for a touchdown. Granted, he was right on the money with his touchdown pass to Randall Dunn, but if the Hokies are to pull off a win in their bowl game, Thomas has to play better. Of course, depending on where they play, it might not be so cold either.
The combination of freshman J.C. Coleman and senior Martin Scales helped run down the clock leading to Cody Journell's game-winning field goal, but overall, those 174 yards were tough to come by. Coleman had a 19-yard run on the Hokies' lone impressive drive of the day, a 15-play, 85 yard drive that ended in a Thomas touchdown. Thomas had another big run, 21 yards in the fourth quarter, but that was about it. If anything was good, it's that there weren't too many negative runs. But that doesn't put points on the scoreboard. Scales will have to get more carries it seems in the bowl game to get the ground game moving more.
A few missed catches and no big plays at all from this group. Yes, there were only 129 yards to be had overall, but it's never good when your leading receiver has just 33 yards. And that was a tie between redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles and senior Marcus Davis. It's a bit disappointing that Davis seemed so fired up and inspired after his benching before Boston College and then didn't get much going against Virginia. Maybe he'll be more inspired when he plays in his final game for the Hokies in the bowl game. The one bright spot is that though tight end Randall Dunn doesn't catch many passes, he makes them count, with touchdowns back to back weeks.
Yes, Thomas was sacked three times, but it's tough when your quarterback takes off 29 times for rushes. Still, helping to get 174 yards is a plus. And it was tough to keep Virginia's Steve Greer out of the play with his amazing 19-tackle day. The line did a nice job of helping pave the way for Thomas on his touchdown run in the third quarter, but if anyone can use the extra practice time afforded by the bowl, the line is definitely one group in need.
In what was a defensive game, the D-line turned in a performance that saw the 'Hoos gain just 30 yards rushing. Sophomore Derrick Hopkins and junior defensive end J.R. Collins combined on a sack to start the fourth quarter that backed Virginia up eight yards and forced a punt. The pressure came all day, which was a big plus for a defense that allowed the Cavaliers just one offensive touchdown.
Talk about an inspired performance. In his final game in Lane Stadium, senior linebacker Bruce Taylor had a fitting farewell. He finished with just two tackles, but one came for loss and his sack on quarterback Michael Rocco midway through the fourth quarter forced a punt. He also had a nice pass deflection in the third quarter. Junior Jack Tyler continues his torrid tackling pace, with nine against Virginia that gives him 112 on the season.
Like Virginia Tech, Virginia struggled through the air and much of that has to go to the Hokies' secondary. Junior cornerback Antone Exum looked bad when he was blocked on the Cavaliers' 42-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but that was one of the few big plays on the day. Exum also made up for that play when he intercepted Rocco late in the fourth quarter to set up Journell's game-winning kick. Exum got away with defensive holding, but that's what has to happen sometimes. Sophomore safety Detrick Bonner also did a nice job reading the play and had a team-high 10 tackles.
Yes, junior kicker Cody Journell was the hero after his game-winning 29-yard field goal to win the game, but he was also lucky to get another chance after pushing a go-ahead 42-yard attempt minutes earlier wide left. Granted, it was impressive, in the blustery, cold weather for Journell to kick the game-winner. He also had to keep his concentration with two timeouts called before the kick. But your kicker has to come through when he has the opportunity. Freshman punter A.J. Hughes did well with his nine punts, with a long of 50 and a 39.1-yard average. Virginia Tech had just one return though, on a kickoff, that went 10 yards.
It's still a bit puzzling why Scales doesn't get more carries. He's not putting up blazing numbers, but he's been pretty dependable. In this game too, the coaching woes went to Virginia's Mike London who failed on a questionable fake field goal and let the clock run down leading up to Journell's field goal. There weren't really any head-scratching moves by Virginia Tech and that's always a good thing.
Another official sellout at 65,632, but there were a number of empty seats along the top of the east stands and south end zone. Not too many, though, as those who were on hand were loud and made themselves known. Certainly miserable conditions to sit through with wind chill that had to be in the teens, temperature-wise, but those who stayed saw another game-winner. Very receptive crowd that cheered the seniors in pre-game ceremonies and definitely didn't make it easy on rival Virginia. The biggest part in the grade though is that despite the conditions, the crowd was alive and well.