Though wide receiver Jarrett Boykin has rewritten Virginia Tech’s record book in recent weeks, something just didn’t seem quite right about the 6-foot-2 senior early this season. He was dropping passes, and couldn’t get any sort of consistent separation from opposing cornerbacks.
Boykin then sat out Virginia Tech’s win over Marshall with a hamstring injury and, like the entire offense, he struggled when he returned to the lineup a week later in a loss to Clemson.
But if you’re searching for a reason why quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown for nearly 600 yards and scored nine total touchdowns over the past two weeks, look no further than Boykin.
A week after catching seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown against Miami, the Charlotte native followed it up with seven more receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown in the Hokies’ 38-17 win on Saturday against Wake Forest. Afterwards, he said that hamstring injury is a thing of the past, something that doesn’t bode well for opposing defenses the rest of the season.
“I would say I was kind of feeling it,” Boykin said of his performance Saturday. “I was in a zone and I just kind of felt like I couldn’t be stopped right there. [Thomas] was just making some incredible throws and just go up and make a play when I could.”
No play was more important than his 39-yard grab early in the second quarter that set up Virginia Tech at Wake Forest’s 1-yard line. It was the Hokies’ first big play of the game and ignited the offense to a second straight prolific game after falling behind 10-0.
On the Hokies’ next possession, Boykin caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to give Virginia Tech a lead it would never relinquish.
“I think it kind of jump-started things,” Boykin said. “We were kind of struggling up to that point. Once we had those couple of plays, it motivated us to keep going.”
After punting on its first five possessions of the game — including four-straight three-and-outs to begin the contest — Virginia Tech scored points on six of its final eight possessions. Boykin, meanwhile, now has 27 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns this season. Keep in mind, he had just 13 catches and 103 receiving yards before these past two weeks.
“He’s big-time,” Coach Frank Beamer said. “He deserves to be the all-time leading receiver at Virginia Tech, catch-wise and yardage-wise.”
***Once again, Thomas was impressive, completing 17 of his 32 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to two more rushing touchdowns. But after a week of heaping praise on the Hokies’ emerging signal-caller, it’s worth pointing out that running back David Wilson is now just 97 yards away from a 1,000-yard campaign. Saturday was the sixth time in seven games Wilson has eclipsed the 100-yard mark, as he racked up 136 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Though he has a reputation as a speedster, Wilson has proven to be equally as good getting yards after contact this year. On Virginia Tech’s second touchdown drive of the game, he had a 43-yard gain in which he spun free of a defender and broke down the sideline. That comes just a week after essentially doing a cartwheel to stay on his feet during a long run against Miami.
“Sometimes you question where he’s going, but you know he’s going there full speed,” Beamer said.
Wilson also had a season-long 57-yard run in the fourth quarter that salted away the game. It was refreshing for the junior tailback considering he started the game by gaining just three yards on his first four carries. Wilson said he’s starting to see the sort of offensive balance his coaches have been yearning for all year long.
“We were looked at as a one-dimensional offense for a while, and the past couple games Logan has definitely been opening it up and defenses have to respect that,” Wilson said. “It definitely opens up running lanes because they have to drop into coverage more. Also when they’ve got to respect the run, they have to keep people by the line of scrimmage and that’s what opens it up for Logan.”
***The Hokies defense got a metaphorical punch in the mouth to start the game as Wake Forest drove 66 yards on its opening possession and kicked a field goal. Then, after a quick three-and-out by Virginia Tech’s offense, Demon Deacons wide receiver Chris Givens raced past a gimpy Jayron Hosley for a 79-yard touchdown catch.
It was the second straight year Givens has had a long touchdown against the Hokies, and this time it knocked Hosley out of the game for good with a hamstring injury. But down a fourth starter and losing 10-0, Bud Foster’s unit just kept blitzing Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price and eventually righted the ship.
The Demon Deacons mustered just one more score and averaged less than four yards per play after their opening quarter flurry. Defensive end J.R. Collins said there was no “here we go again” mentality when Hosley went down, leaving the Hokies even more shorthanded than they could have imagined.
“We weren’t really in panic mode,” Collins said. “They kind of caught us by, I wouldn’t say by surprise, but we just weren’t executing our assignments. If one guy doesn’t execute an assignment that causes the offense to go down and make a play. . . .
“The whole season has always been about being one play away and I think our guys are ready for their opportunity to play and they went out and showed it with the win.”
Virginia Tech’s replacement parts performed well for the most part. At defensive tackle, freshman Luther Maddy got the start in place of Corey Marshall and finished with a tackle for a loss. Marshall had two tackles. At defensive end in place of James Gayle, redshirt sophomore Tyrel Wilson had one of Virginia Tech’s four sacks. Linebacker Alonzo Tweedy added six tackles.
Hosley’s backup, redshirt freshman Detrick Bonner, finished with a career-high eight tackles, but did get beat a couple times by Wake Forest receivers.
“I went in against Marshall one time and they went right after me that play and I got scored on,” Bonner said. “So I had a feeling they were going to come after me. But I held my own.”
Even with some nice fill-in efforts defensively, the story line heading into next week’s Homecoming game against Boston College will continue to be the mounting injuries Virginia Tech’s defense must overcome.
The biggest questions will revolve around just how long Gayle and Hosley will be out.
“I thought we had a couple freshmen in there and they showed they were freshmen a couple times,” Beamer said. “We got stuff that we got to get done right and we probably got a little too many young guys playing but that’s what we got right now.”