Virginia Tech may be atop the ACC’s Coastal Division standings once again after Saturday’s 30-14 victory over Boston College, but something tells me many fans won’t take much solace in the Hokies improving to 7-1, 3-1 ACC.
Virginia Tech came out sluggishly and Lane Stadium sounded eerily quiet as an Eagles team that hadn’t beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision school took a 7-6 halftime lead. The good news was that the Hokies were able to turn things around in the second half and cruise to a relatively easy victory. The bad news is the bye week can’t get here soon for Virginia Tech’s defense, which saw two more starters go down to injury.
Linebacker Bruce Taylor left the game midway through the third quarter because of a sprained foot. He was wearing a protective boot on his right foot at the end of game as redshirt senior Barquell Rivers took his spot in the lineup. Defensive end James Gayle, meanwhile, played just one series before re-aggravating the left ankle injury that sidelined him last week against Wake Forest.
Perhaps even worse is that whip linebacker Alonzo Tweedy, who was already playing in place of the injured Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, went down with an ankle injury during the first half. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Nick Dew, a player who moved from rover to whip linebacker last spring.
Combined with the hamstring injury that kept cornerback Jayron Hosley out of this game, it means the Hokies’ defense could be without five opening day starters when Virginia Tech travels to Duke next weekend.
“A lot of people have injuries this time of the year,” Coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we’ve had more than our share, but the next guy has got to step up.”
To the Hokies’ credit, that’s exactly what happened Saturday. Though Boston College scored on its opening drive of the game thanks to a nine-yard shank by Virginia Tech punter Michael Branthover, the Eagles managed just 272 yards. And Virginia Tech’s replacements actually acquitted themselves quite well.
Filling in for Hosley, redshirt freshman Detrick Bonner finished with five tackles, two pass break-ups and a late fumble recovery. In the trenches, freshman Corey Marshall had a season-high five tackles and his second sack of the year playing for defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins.
River may have had the biggest play of the day early in the third quarter. He blitzed Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig with the Eagles driving after running back David Wilson got the Hokies’ offense started with a 42-yard touchdown run.
Rivers said Virginia Tech defensive end Zack McCray wasn’t in his proper gap, which opened a gaping hole at the line of scrimmage. He sprinted through it and put pressure on Rettig, forcing him to throw an ill-advised pass. Linebacker Tariq Edwards read the quarterback’s eyes, jumped the route and ended up with his second interception in as many games.
“Seems like every time you have to get pressure on the quarterback in order to get a pick,” said Edwards, who finished with seven tackles. “That’s how 90 percent of your picks happen.”
With the Hokies’ bye week still a game away, they’ll likely need to count on Rivers (more on his recovery from a devastating quad injury in the coming days) and a host of other depth players once again next Saturday at Duke. And as safety Antone Exum put it, the remaining starters from Virginia Tech’s defense will “have to play through minor injuries.”
***I wrote about the offense’s decision to turn to its running game during the second half in my game story, so I wanted to focus on a passing game that is quickly becoming the most prolific in school history. On top of the team’s two record-breaking receivers, quarterback Logan Thomas became the first signal-caller ever under Beamer to have three straight games of 260 passing yards or more with his 22-of-36, 268-yard performance against Boston College. He’s also already become the only Beamer quarterback to have 22 or more completions in three games over the course of an entire season.
Over the past three weeks, Thomas has now accounted for 11 total touchdowns and completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 858 yards. He’s also gone 118 pass attempts without throwing an interception.
“I’m pretty happy with my play, especially when I’m not turning over the ball,” Thomas said. “It gives us an even greater chance to win the game.”
No kidding. And though it didn’t show in the first half, when Thomas attempted 25 passes, this Mike O’Cain offense is fast becoming one of the more balanced units Virginia Tech has had in recent memory. Wilson became the 13th player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season Saturday, and Thomas seems to be setting records every week now.
***That’s all I’ve got for tonight. But before we go, one last thought on the Hokies’ halftime scene, which Beamer said was devoid of any emotional talks despite the deficit. It may cost Virginia Tech against a better opponent down the line, but if we’ve learned one thing since the loss to Clemson three weeks ago, it’s that these Hokies don’t seem fazed by adversity.
“You could see on faces of everybody there was a sense of urgency, but nobody was panicking,” wide receiver Danny Coale said of halftime. “We’ve been in that situation before and they had played some good defense, especially early on. We knew the opportunities were there and we needed to cash in on them. We just needed to get some drives going. There was no panic.”