HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Virginia Tech football team was all smiles as it left the field Saturday, seemingly satisfied with another nonconference victory against an overmatched opponent. This time the Hokies beat Marshall, 30-10, a win that will allow No. 13 Virginia Tech to enter the month of October undefeated for the first time since 2005.
But when those same players entered their locker room, there were no rousing cheers or victory speeches. Instead, the Hokies were confronted with a quieter-than-usual scene and a troubling realization: With undefeated and 21st-ranked Clemson coming to Lane Stadium next week, a repeat of the performance Virginia Tech put on in the hills of West Virginia likely will result in defeat.
Despite opening up a 23-3 lead in the first half, Virginia Tech couldn’t put away from Marshall until running back Josh Oglesby (12 rushes, 75 yards) scored his second touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter.
But the score was never indicative of how uneven the Hokies looked. The Thundering Herd, after all, was just a week removed from losing to Ohio, 44-7.
“We do some very good things and then we don’t consistently do very good things, and that’s kind of where we are as a football team right now,” Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said. “We’re certainly at a part of our schedule now, coming up here this next week, where we’ve got to be consistently good with Clemson coming to town.”
Maybe the most disconcerting part, though, was the number of injuries the Hokies will bring back to campus with them this week.
Quarterback Logan Thomas had a second consecutive strong outing, finishing 22 for 33 for 229 yards and one interception. But he sprained his left shoulder on a five-yard touchdown run in the first quarter when he barreled over Marshall strong safety Devin Arrington en route to the end zone. The redshirt sophomore spent much of the second half handing off backhanded with his right arm because of the shoulder pain.
Thomas’s best targets were senior Danny Coale (seven catches for 107 yards) and redshirt junior D.J. Coles (career-high eight catches for 66 yards), but the Hokies’ once-deep wide receiving corps is now one of their most pressing needs. Already without seniors Dyrell Roberts and Jarrett Boykin on Saturday, the Hokies also lost redshirt junior Marcus Davis for much of the second half. A team spokesman said Davis sprained his right foot but X-rays were negative.
Running back David Wilson helped alleviate some of those losses by rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown, but he lost one fumble in the second half and had another voided after officials ruled he was down.
It’s those turnovers and missed opportunities that had Thomas frustrated even after the Hokies gained 444 yards.
“We gotta come out here next week and play twice as well as we did,” he said.
On defense, the Hokies held Marshall to minus-one rushing yard in the first half (and six overall), sacked Marshall’s freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato five times and got an interception for the 11th consecutive game dating from last season.
But Virginia Tech’s prolific secondary still allowed Cato to throw for 245 yards, including a three-play, 71-yard drive just before halftime that took all of 38 seconds. The sequence included all-American cornerback Jayron Hosley missing a tackle and backup cornerback Detrick Bonner getting beat on a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
During his postgame news conference, Beamer revealed that Bonner saw more snaps because Hosley broke open a blister on his foot.
Beamer’s biggest concern, though, may be his kicking game. Punter Scott Demler had a punt travel less than 30 yards for the fourth straight game, and apparently that persuaded Beamer to make a change.
In the second half he went with Coale, a wide receiver who had never before attempted a punt in a game. But even that move backfired a bit when the wide receiver’s first punt traveled just 25 yards.
So it was no surprise when linebacker Bruce Taylor described Beamer’s postgame talk as “happy with the win, but he saw some things that we definitely need to fix before next week.” Taylor then echoed that sentiment by delivering a message of his own.
“We can’t afford those mistakes and we’ve had competition this week that might not be as good as we’re gonna face next week,” Taylor said. “We got a chance to do something special here, so if everybody is not coming out and doing their best, then we’ll end up getting beat by someone when we should’ve won.”