There were some serious issues that Virginia Tech’s football team must address after Saturday’s exciting 38-35 victory over Miami, especially when it comes to Bud Foster’s revamped defense. But as he sat down for his postgame news conference, Coach Frank Beamer said all of those concerns could wait after he watched his new quarterback, Logan Thomas, orchestrate his first signature moment as the Hokies’ starting signal-caller.
“I want to talk about our offense,” said Beamer when this reporter asked about what went wrong for his defense Saturday. “You guys have written about our offense, but I wanna see you write about it tomorrow now, too, because I’m awful proud of Bryan [Stinespring] and those guys. I thought they did a great job.”
The suddenly dynamic offense, which gained a season-high 482 yards after a disappointing performance in a loss to Clemson last week, is the biggest reason the Hokies still control their own destiny in the race for the ACC’s Coastal Division crown. And now a mid-October affair at Wake Forest carries more importance than anybody would’ve guessed before the season began after the Demon Deacons remained undefeated in conference play with a 35-30 upset of Florida State.
“We talked about it after the game last week that this game was the most important game that we have coming up,” Thomas said. “Going 0-2 in the ACC, it’s gonna be hard coming out of that hole to get back to Charlotte. We had to get this one, and we’ve got to get the rest of them from here on out.”
Any discussion about the offense begins and ends with Thomas’s spectacular performance. He completed 23 of his 25 passes for a career-high 310 yards and five total touchdowns. His 92 percent completion percentage is the highest for a Virginia Tech quarterback during the Beamer era. And of those two incompletions, one was a dropped pass by running back David Wilson and the other was a flip to Wilson as Thomas tried to avoid a sack.
Really the only mistake Thomas made was a fumbled shotgun snap in the first half when the Hokies were driving and could have taken a commanding 21-0 lead. But keep in mind, former quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was on the sidelines Saturday talking to Thomas throughout the afternoon, didn’t have a single game in which he threw for more than 300 yards during his record-setting 2010 campaign.
“He’s made out of the right stuff,” Beamer said of Thomas. “I always thought he was, I always knew he was. But he’s poised, he’s tough, he’s under control, he’s talented. He’s a great leader. He’s a guy you want leading your football team, and I thought he showed all those things here tonight.”
Thomas’s favorite target on this day was wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who seems just fine after missing the Marshall game two weeks ago with a hamstring injury. The senior finished with seven catches for 120 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave Virginia Tech a 31-21 lead.
In the second quarter, Boykin passed Ricky Scales on the Hokies’ all-time receiving yards list. He now has 2,346 career yards and the Virginia Tech record for receptions, which he set earlier this season at East Carolina.
“I thought we were clicking and we had the momentum the whole way throughout the game,” Boykin said. “There was nothing in my head that said we couldn’t be stopped today.”
***The one major flaw for Virginia Tech was a defense that couldn’t stop the run. Miami finished the afternoon with 519 total yards, easily a season high for a Hokies defense that came into Saturday as the No. 4 unit in the entire country.
The Hurricanes were particularly effective in the second half, gaining 337 total yards and scoring touchdowns on four of their five drives after halftime. Miami had nine plays of more than 20 yards, five of which came in the second half.
The biggest beneficiary was Hurricanes running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for 166 yards on 18 carries. He had two of Miami’s fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 30-yard touchdown run that gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the game.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to talk with many players after the game due to the crazy finish and a tight deadline, but here’s what Beamer had to say about what went wrong for his defense as it tried to slow down Miller.
“I think they kept blocking out on the backside and cutting that thing back,” Beamer said. “We’ll look at it, but we’ve got to get another guy in that area right there.”
One issue to keep an eye on is defensive tackle, where the Hokies started freshman Corey Marshall. During Miami’s final drive, junior Courtney Prince, a guard who was moved to defensive tackle this week for depth purposes, was in the game. Prince played on the defensive line when he first got to Virginia Tech, but it’s not a good sign when someone like that is playing during the biggest drive of the game.
So even though they picked up the victory, the Hokies defense suffered their first significant setback of the year. And with Wake Forest’s Josh Harris up next — he gained a record 241 yards against Virginia Tech a year ago — Foster has some serious adjustments to make.
***Part of the problem defensively was that Virginia Tech lost two starters before the first quarter was complete. On Miami’s first drive of the game, defensive end James Gayle left with a sprained left ankle and never returned.
Linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, meanwhile, left the game with a foot sprain after stopping a fake field goal attempt by Miami early on — a play that got lost in the shuffle with all the second-half madness. The Ashburn native had X-rays taken during the game, but the results were not disclosed to reporters.
Beamer offered no updates on the status of Gayle and Gouveia-Winslow after the game.
That’s all I’ve got for tonight. I’ll say, though, never in a million years did I think my trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., next week would be something to look forward to. But after getting picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division by reporters during the preseason, Coach Jim Grobe has his squad thinking back to 2006 when it won the ACC championship.