It was a decent effort for Virginia Tech today in a 37-0 win against Bowling Green. Not the greatest competition but a solid showing nonetheless, especially after last week’s ugly effort at Pittsburgh.
Here’s my game story for Sunday’s paper.
Now for a few other notes and quotes …
** I thought cornerback Antone Exum summed up the game nicely. The Hokies didn’t want to dwell on last week’s game, but they didn’t want that performance to linger either.
“You don’t want to get too much into a revenge thing and all that stuff, because all that means is that your mind is still on the previous game,” he said. “But I feel that we needed a game like this to come out and make a statement that what we put on film last week was not going to be our identity this year.”
** First things first, the running game (and keep in mind that everything written about the offense today comes with a disclaimer about the level of competition in Bowling Green).
Virginia Tech had 246 yards on 43 carries, a 5.7-yard average. For a team that had averaged 89 rushing yards a game against FBS foes this year, it was a major step forward.
Our columnist Aaron McFarling had some good stuff from Vinston Painter on the subject.
“That’s what you live for being a lineman — moving a man from point A to point B against his will,” Painter said. “We get our chance to do that in the running game, and we relish it. That’s what we enjoy doing the most.”
Thomas might have set the tone when he lowered his shoulder on a Bowling Green defensive end early in the second quarter when he could have just gone out of bounds.
“Coach [Bryan] Stinespring had been saying it all week: we needed to play aggressive and, I guess, we needed to play with an attitude,” Thomas said. “We just needed to set a tone right from the get-go that we weren’t going to back down.”
** The running back carry split was interesting. Tony Gregory, who had almost no role at Pittsburgh, got the most work, carrying 11 times for a career-high 68 yards. Michael Holmes had four carries for 51 yards. J.C. Coleman had four carries for 45 yards. Martin Scales even came on late to run for a 4-yard touchdown.
“They all have a place,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “We’ve just got to keep figuring it out.”
The bigger step forward might have been from the beleaguered line.
“I feel like the o-line really stepped up today,” Coleman said. “It was a lot of open holes out there, and as backs we try to hit the hole.”
Speaking of the line, there was plenty of shuffling up front. Michael Via started at right guard and Matt Arkema at left guard with starting left guard David Wang (ankle) out. Brent Benedict rotated in at right guard, with Via playing some left guard as well.
Caleb Farris rotated in for Andrew Miller liberally at center. I’m not sure if that was injury-related or planned.
** A bit of a disgusting note: Thomas had to get medical attention on the sideline on the thumb of his throwing hand after sneaking the ball in for the third touchdown in the second quarter.
“My fingernail just got peeled back, about midway through all the way back to the base,” Thomas said. “It was one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt.”
There was plenty of blood. Thomas pointed to a bright red shirt a reporter was wearing to approximate the color.
“It was just squirting,” he said. “All you could see was the meat underneath my fingernail and just blood covering it.”
Trainers taped it up and Thomas stayed in the game. That might have been part of the reason for his second-half stats. He was 9-for-17 for 127 yards and two scores in the first half but just 2-for-9 for 17 yards and a pick in the second.
His 42.3 completion percentage was the second lowest of his career, behind only the East Carolina game last year when he went 8-for-20.
** Wide receiver Dyrell Roberts’ 42-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter broke a touchdown drought for him. Because he’s suffered season-ending injuries the last two years, the senior’s last touchdown catch was Oct. 23, 2010, against Duke.
“Man, when I scored, I was like, ‘I finally got back here,’” Roberts said. “It’s like a sense of relief.”
He has six career touchdown catches.
** It was a bounce-back performance by the defense, which only allowed 266 yards and forced a pair of turnovers in recording its first shutout of a non-conference team since Kent State in 2006. (The last shutout, of course, was the 38-0 showing in last year’s UVa game.)
That’s the Hokies’ 26th shutout under defensive coordinator Bud Foster. It’s the third straight year Tech has had at least one shutout. There was the aforementioned UVa game last year and a 19-0 win against Boston College in 2010.
The Pittsburgh game wasn’t too far from the defensive players’ minds.
“That was motivation, because that’s not us,” linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “That’s not how we play defense. That’s not how we’re coached. We just had to come out today and show that was just a fluke.”
The defense shook off the missed tackles from last week. Linebacker Jack Tyler led the way with seven tackles and safety Kyshoen Jarrett and Taylor (six stops each) bounced back from sub-par tackling efforts against the Panthers.
Defensive ends Tyrel Wilson and Matt Roth had Tech’s two sacks. The Hokies had seven quarterback hurries.
Exum had his second interception of the year.
** Linebacker Tariq Edwards got his first action this year after a slow recovery from offseason leg and knee surgery. He got in during the fourth quarter and assisted on a tackle.
“He’s only going to get better, too,” Taylor said. “You’re always going to kind of favor [the leg] the first time out, but I think he’s getting better each week and he’s going to work his way back into the rotation of linebackers.”
Edwards’ 71 tackles last year were third on the team.
** Freshman kicker Brooks Abbott got his first college action, becoming the eighth true freshmen to play for the Hokies this year.
He took over kickoff duties for Michael Branthover, getting one ball in the end zone for a touchback.
“Branthover has been doing fine, but I think Abbott gets the ball higher,” Beamer said. “And I think he’s more accurate placing it where we want the ball on the field time after time.”
The true freshmen who have played this year: Coleman, WR Josh Stanford, LB Deon Clarke, CB Donaldven Manning, CB Donovan Riley, S Desmond Frye and P A.J. Hughes.
** Saturday was Military Appreciation Day at Lane Stadium, which featured flyovers from a World War II B-25 bomber and a P-51 Mustang and special Hokies uniforms, which had camouflage helmets and numbers.
But it was about more than a show. The seniors spent time the day before the game at a veteran’s hospital.
“It was good both ways,” Beamer said. “It was good that they could see our guys, but it was good that our guys could see their situation.”
“I think it also motivates you,” Taylor said. “A lot of guys wanted to go out and play hard for a lot of those guys, people who have fought for our country or are fighting for our country.”
** Exum ranked the camo uniforms second of the ones he’s worn at Tech, behind the all-black unis the team had for the Boise State game in 2010.
“If we ever bring back the maroons, the maroons would be [No.] 2,” he said.