All the talk leading up to yesterday’s game against Bowling Green was whether or not the Hokies would be able to rebound after an early season loss like they’ve had to do every year in recent memory. It’s hard to break a pattern like that, and the Hokies did, in fact, rebound like they have in years past.
This game reminded me of the 2010 season’s ECU game. The Hokies were coming off a brutal loss against Boise State, and a monumental upset to James Madison at home. The Hokies needed to rebound but started slowly and got into a deficit against East Carolina. Eventually though, the offense found their rhythm and they ended up scoring more than 40 points in the win.
Just like that game, the Hokies’ offense still sputtered early and often. After the first quarter the Hokies had totaled less than 30 yards on offense, and all signs were pointing to another tough game. But then Logan Thomas busted off a very physical 11-yard run for a first down, and things began to click. From there on out it was all Hokies all the time, as Virginia Tech proceeded to score on four of their next five drives en route to a 37-0 win.
Here are some more specific thoughts on how the team looked.
This was another up and down game for Logan Thomas. At times he made some smart throws and put the ball where it needed to be, and at other times it looked like the Logan Thomas we saw against Pittsburgh. The stat line of 11/24 doesn’t look good on the surface, but seems a bit better when you factor in smart throwaways and drops. That being said, Logan still has a lot of work to do. Late in the game he threw a nasty interception right to a Bowling Green defensive back while trying to squeeze the ball to Marcus Davis on an out route. Plays like that are what got the Hokies into trouble against Pittsburgh and Logan needs to know his limits when it comes to being able to squeeze a pass through a window.
All that being said, it was nice to see the play action pass working again. The addition of a legitimate run game, which we’ll touch on shortly, really opened up the defense and allowed Logan to go deep a couple of times, once for a touchdown to Dyrell Roberts. If the play action pass continues to be an option, I think it really opens up all other aspects of Virginia Tech’s offense.
As far as the receivers go, Marcus Davis continues to be up and down, but moreover – frustrating. At times it appears that Davis has elite speed, good route running, and adequate hands for a potential NFL receiver. Other times he’s dropping screen passes and running lackadaisical routes. You just never know what you’re getting from Davis play in and play out.
Dyrell got back into the mix at wide receiver, leading the team with 63 receiving yards, including a long 42-yard touchdown catch from Logan. He seems to be getting his physicality back and should be emerging as another weapon for Thomas to throw to.
You guys, Virginia Tech football has a running game again (for one game at least). It took a quarter to get it going, but the Hokies finally figured out the key to running the ball with this group of players – horizontal, field-stretching runs, as opposed to north-south running. The Hokies surprisingly turned to Tony Gregory for a spark in the running game, and he found success on sweeps and misdirections. Gregory finished with 11 carries for a team high 68 yards.
Gregory’s explosiveness from sideline to sideline really opened up things for the likes of J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes. Coleman was also able to utilize his speed on sweeps, and eventually spread the defense so wide that he began to find holes up the middle of the line. Michael Holmes was also able to get into the mix, though with only four carries, and also took advantage of the stretch running scheme. He was able to scamper for a 40-yard touchdown run, which seemed to indicate that the Hokies had found a formula for success.
Logan Thomas also got into his rhythm running the ball between the tackles instead of counter, or misdirection like we saw against Georgia Tech. Also encouraging was the Hokies’ ability to use the QB sneak to score on short distances in the redzone and convert 3rd and shorts, a skill that was noticeably absent during the first three games of the season.
Most of the offensive line looked pretty good for the most part yesterday. There were three low snaps by Andrew Miller, which is certainly concerning. We’ve seen too many bad snaps this season, whether by Miller or Caleb Farris. They need to get that straightened out as soon as possible.
The tackles played well enough, but the real cause for concern is still the guards. Michael Via played OK, but Brent Benedict and Matt Arkema played dreadful games. Time after time, Arkema could be seen getting beat on his assignments and letting pressure through the left side of the line. When Benedict subbed in, he wasn’t much better. The Hokies desperately need David Wang back at left guard, because they just can’t afford prolonged stretches of Benedict or Arkema at this moment, especially against better defensive lines.
Let’s start with some good from yesterday – the defense pitched their first shutout of the season. Their last shutout was last season’s 38-0 rout against UVA. Bowling Green was also held in check in terms of yardage for the most part, gaining only 266 total yards. Both of Bowling Green’s quarterbacks combined for a 33% completion rate, which bodes very well for a secondary that struggled at times. A lot of bad throws were also the result of pressure by Bud Foster’s blitz packages.
Now let’s move to the bad from yesterday – defensive lapses in the secondary were a massive problem. Yes, the Hokies technically pitched the shutout. However, had Bowling Green’s wide receivers not had hands like James Gayle they would have scored 14-21 points probably. Time after time, Bowling Green had wideouts running free and unchecked 10-20 yards from the line of scrimmage. It’s mind boggling to try and figure out where the lapses in coverage are coming from time and time again, but they keep happening. Against a better team, points would have been put on the board for sure.
Next, the front four still aren’t getting pressure. We mentioned how pressure was causing some bad throws, but most of that pressure came off linebacker blitzes. The fact is that the front four just aren’t getting adequate pressure on the QB like we all thought they would be this season. James Gayle gets his fair share of action, and Tyrel Wilson played his ass off and wreaked havoc on his own, but the rest of the line just isn’t penetrating enough. I saw Luther Maddy get double-teamed plenty of times, but that should have created some one-on-one situations for our other linemen to get into the backfield. The fact that it’s not happening is very concerning to me, and it’s something to watch moving forward.
Lastly, let’s finish with some more good – young players are seeing action and are making the most of it. Kyshoen Jarrett is proving to be the real deal – fact. It always seems like he’s coming in to assist on a tackle, or is in on almost every play to some degree. I’m in love with this kid’s game, and he is only getting better. I can say the same about Ronny Vandyke at whip linebacker. Vandyke plays with great physicality and isn’t afraid to come up and make a big hit. This kid needs to see the field more, and I’m inclined to believe he will.
You take the good with the bad, and now you have a 3-1 start for the Hokies. Next up, the Bearcats of Cincinnati. This will be a more difficult challenge for the Hokies, and we’ll have to see how this team, specifically the offense, continues to improve.