I’ve finally landed in Greensboro, which gives me a chance to get to some Internet access that doesn’t come at an airport rate. (Take some cues from Greensboro’s free WiFi, Newark. I paid $12 for a sandwich. At least give me some free Internet. It’s not too much to ask.)
Anyway, just before my flight left, the ACC announced game times for next weekend. Virginia Tech’s game against Virginia in Lane Stadium will kick off at noon. It will be televised by ESPNU.
Here’s the full lineup of games:
Saturday, November 24
- Georgia Tech at Georgia, ESPN, Noon
- Virginia at Virginia Tech, ESPNU, Noon
- Miami at Duke, ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.
- Maryland at North Carolina, RSN, 3 p.m.
- Boston College at NC State, ESPN3, 3 p.m.
- Florida at Florida State, ABC (National), 3:30 p.m.
- Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.
- South Carolina at Clemson, ESPN, 7 p.m.
As usual on Sunday, here are five thoughts after Saturday’s 30-23 overtime win against Boston College …
1. Like it or not, when properly motivated, Marcus Davis makes this offense go.
The vitriol some fans had for Davis last week reached peak levels — and some would say went over the top — for his lack of effort in blocking. And he paid the price, forced to watch in the first half Saturday at BC from the sideline. But the Hokies paid a price too. Their offense looked out of sorts with Davis out. Say what you will about his effort (and at times it’s completely warranted), but when he’s on, he’s the biggest play-maker Tech has. He takes the top off a defense like nobody else on the team. He can go up and make a catch on a defender like he did in the third quarter for a touchdown. And this week, he made a clutch catch on a deep ball, something he was only 1-for-2 on last week.
There’s a reason why he leads the team with 43 catches, 858 yards and five receiving touchdowns. In fact, 105 more yards and he’ll be the school’s single-season receiving yards leader, passing Andre Davis’ mark of 962 set in 1999. He could take the Hokies off the list of established FBS schools that have never had a 1,000-yard receiver before, a group that includes run-first teams (Army, Navy and Nebraska), a relatively new program (South Florida) and a one that has struggled historically (Temple).
I still think Corey Fuller is Tech’s most dependable receiver, because he provides a consistency that allows quarterback Logan Thomas to trust where he’s going to be on a particular play. That’s huge in a passing game, and I think it’s clear Thomas is more comfortable looking Fuller’s way. But Davis, with his physical skills, can do things at the position that no other receiver on the roster can do. Tech needs him to be at his best for the offense to go. It looks like this week’s first-half benching touched a nerve with him. Hokies fans are probably wondering what took so long.
2. The win is nice, but a lot still ails this offense.
A win is a win is a win, but there were still big problems with the offense. Tech had three points at halftime against a Boston College defense that had been giving up 29.9 points a game (the Hokies reached that mark but needed overtime to do it). The first half was a disjointed effort. If not for a fortunate tipped ball that ended up in Fuller’s hands, the Hokies might not have scored. The second half was better, but still full of issues. A long kick return yielded a touchdown when Thomas spun his way into a second-effort touchdown on a fourth-down sneak, barely getting it across the goal line. On one wide receiver screen, both players went to block on the play (apparently not wanting to be featured on Deadspin) and the ball zipped by incomplete. Even at the end, when the Hokies were moving the ball well, they bogged down in BC territory, with a few errant throws, clogged up runs and even a fumble thrown into the mix. The clock management by the staff in that situation was equally bad, only to be out-done by BC’s coaches running out the clock on the ensuing possession and playing for overtime, a dueling banjos of time mismanagement.
Thirty points is the most points Tech had scored since Duke. And the Hokies crept over the 400-yard mark for the fourth time in the last five games. But this was a bad Boston College defense. The Eagles were giving up 228.4 rushing yards per game coming in. Virginia Tech ran for 154. The Eagles are now giving up 463.7 yards per game. Tech managed 401, 25 of which came in overtime. The Hokies didn’t give up any sacks to one of the worst pass rushing teams in the country, but Thomas was still under pressure quite a bit. And even Thomas would admit he wasn’t his best, completing less than 50 percent of his passes for the third time this year, although he snapped a six-game interception streak. The win is a salve for a team that needed something to feel good about again, but Virginia Tech can’t ignore the fact that there remain plenty of offensive issues to address in the offseason.
3. This is the pass rush the Hokies always envisioned.
Poor Chase Rettig. The BC quarterback was under siege all day, pummeled by a Hokies pass rush that sacked him a season-high seven times and hit him several more times. By the end, he was understandably gun shy, finishing 13-for-30 for 129 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But the Hokies have been doing that to a lot of quarterbacks lately. They have five or more sacks in four or the last five games. After getting only eight sacks the first six games, they have 22 in the last five. Their 30 sacks this year rank 19th nationally.
What was most impressive Saturday was the variety of players who got in on the plays. Coming into the game, you probably would have figured James Gayle, Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicolas would have had the best shot at getting to the quarterback. They had pressure, but never notched a sack. Instead, a group of players got in on it. Bud Foster continued to blitz his linebackers like crazy. Bruce Taylor and Alonzo Tweedy had two sacks apiece. The defensive line showed its depth, getting a sack from Tyrel Wilson and J.R. Collins and watching Corey Marshall and Derrick Hopkins combine for one. Line coach Charley Wiles has substituted liberally with his group, and head coach Frank Beamer thinks it’s keeping them fresh, which helps in the rush. Nicolas and Wilson’s emergence has helped that as well. It allows Collins to play inside, where he appears to be more effective. And it opens up snaps for Marshall at end. Overall, the front seven, even though it gave up 167 rushing yards to a bad BC ground game, is playing at a high level.
4. Antone Exum is starting to turn into a pretty good cornerback.
It seems like all anyone remembers about Exum is the Cincinnati game, where he was isolated for most of the afternoon against a good receiver and had several penalties that convinced the fan base that moving him from safety to corner was a bad offseason decision. Well, he played a great game at BC and has generally been the Hokies’ best cornerback all year. He made a couple of well-timed plays yesterday, getting a hand in on the receiver one time to knock the ball away right as it arrived, his ACC-leading 15th pass breakup this season. Would that have been interference earlier this year? Maybe. Perhaps he’s getting acclimated to the position.
But given Kyle Fuller’s struggles, some of which has to do with the injuries he’s been battling all season, Exum has been a blessing for the Hokies’ secondary. (Although Fuller made a heck of a play early on to flip the ball into the air on an early interception by Tweedy that the refs missed on the field and in the booth, the latest in what seems like a never-ending series of mistakes by the ACC’s replay officials.) Many have criticized the decision to move Exum away from safety, where he the leading tackler last year. But given Virginia Tech’s situation in the secondary, corner is where he would have made the most impact this year. It might be too late to make enough of an impression to get in the All-ACC discussion, but give him another year at the position and it seems like he could get to that level.
5. Given the way UVa played last week and how the Hokies have played at home, it would seem like Virginia Tech should win next week.
I know, way to go out on a limb. But there have been a lot of things Virginia Tech should have done this year. Only a handful of those things have actually happened. The team that showed up at Boston College was not the same one that played Florida State. It was a flat group for a half, showing a lot of the same problems that have plagued it all season. So yeah, Tech should beat the Cavaliers and, considering it has played noticeably better at home this year, will probably be favored pretty heavily to do so, but that’s not guarantee.
As up-and-down as Virginia Tech has been this year, Virginia is just as hard to figure out. Who knows which UVa team will show up next Saturday — the one that clobbered N.C. State and out-scored Miami for an upset win or the one that lost six straight earlier this year and didn’t show up in its first home Thursday night game in six years with its hopes for bowl eligibility on the line? Virginia Tech still has that postseason goal to motivate it, needing one more win to go to a bowl for a 20th straight season, as if there was really a need for extra motivation against a state rival. The Hokies have owned the series, winning eight straight and 12 of the last 13, but if ever there was a year that they were vulnerable in this game, even at home, it would be this one, its worst season since 1992. As the Hokies have proven time and time again this year, if they’re not sharp, they’re vulnerable. Barely squeaking by the worst team in the ACC proved that Saturday.