There will come a point in time this season when the caliber of performance Virginia Tech put forth on Saturday won’t be enough to escape with a win. But thanks to one of the easiest nonconference schedules in the country this year, that moment has not yet arrived for the Hokies, who escaped with a 17-10 victory at East Carolina.
But perhaps more notable — on an afternoon when Virginia Tech mustered just 91 passing yards — was the continued re-emergence of Bud Foster’s defense. A year after getting routinely gauged by opposing rushing attacks, the Hokies’ starting defense looked downright dominant facing an East Carolina passing attack that’s supposed to be among the most potent in the country.
The numbers really say it all. The Pirates gained just 112 total yards, accumulating minus-15 rushing yards. East Carolina senior quarterback Dominique Davis was sacked five times, failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his career and threw for a career-low 127 yards.
After the Pirates gained 72 yards on their first two drives of the first quarter, the Hokies allowed just 40 yards the rest of the way. Not to mention, Virginia Tech had two interceptions called back by penalties in the first.
“We knew what they were doing, but things happen fast,” said sophomore cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had his first career interception in the second half. “I think after the first couple drives things slowed down and we actually saw and were able to make some plays on the ball.”
Linebacker Tariq Edwards, who had six tackles, said Virginia Tech’s main schematic adjustment this week was to move him into coverage – even as the Hokies played almost the entire game in their nickel package. That meant Virginia Tech had six players in coverage (including Edwards) and just one linebacker.
Add in sacks from three of the Hokies’ four starting defensive linemen, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Next week brings Arkansas State, which put up 42 points in a win over Memphis Saturday.
“We’re all amped,” Edwards said. “From a defensive perspective and our coaches’ perspective, they recruited us to do this. I figure that all we need is the confidence and all we need is playing time so we can keep learning.” . . .
As for the offense, quarterback Logan Thomas was quick to give credit to his offensive line for opening up so many running lanes. The Hokies gained 241 yards on the ground, and Thomas accounted for 66 of them, mostly on designed runs.
Afterward, Thomas faced several questions about whether his body felt worse for the wear as a result. The redshirt sophomore said play-caller Mike O’Cain informed him Friday that the plan was to feature him quite a bit in the running game.
“I’ll probably be a little sore tomorrow and on the plane ride home, but I’ve been asking for it the whole time and I take my beatings and go with them,” Thomas said, smiling.
But it was Thomas’s passing that will draw the most scrutiny this week. For a second week in a row he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. And for a second week in a row he got no help from his receivers, mostly notably when redshirt junior Marcus Davis dropped what would have been a 38-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
This week, though, Thomas threw his first career interception and had a few more that were dropped by East Carolina defenders. That’s perhaps the biggest reason why the Hokies went to the run game so often.
By my count, after Thomas threw his interception early in the second quarter, the Hokies attempted just 11 passes the rest of the afternoon. Even Thomas realizes they’ll need more balance than that in the future.
We’ve had too many incompletions and too many bad passes, but I think it’s right around the corner,” he said. “We’ll get better throughout the year.”
O’Cain wasn’t made available to reporters, but it should be interesting to hear his perspective during the week on this hard-fought, but at times ugly, victory.
That’s all for tonight. We’ll have much more here on Hokies Journal throughout the coming days, though.