A post-game wrap: Defense, Journell’s field goal make Hokies bowl eligible with 17-14 win against UVa
OK, here’s a full wrap of our coverage from the game, starting with the stories in the newspaper. They include:
Now for some more post-game notes and quotes from Virginia Tech’s 17-14 win against Virginia …
** The win makes Virginia Tech bowl eligible for a 20th straight season. That’s the third-longest streak in the country behind Florida State (31 years) and Florida (23).
“It probably makes it that much more significant that we were just fighting like heck to get to a bowl game and overcome some real frustration,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “It’s been a rugged year in some ways, but I’m really proud of what we’re made of.”
Just where the Hokies end up remains to be seen. A lot depends on whether or not Clemson, which as I write this is just getting going against South Carolina, can get an at-large bid to a Bowl Championship Series game. If the Tigers can do that, it would bump everyone else up in the ACC’s bowl pecking order.
If the Tigers make a BCS bowl, the Hokies (6-6, 4-4 ACC) would have a shot — albeit a long one — at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. N.C. State (7-5), Georgia Tech (6-6) and Duke (6-6) are their competition.
The ACC’s bowl pecking order after the Orange and Chick-fil-A bowls is Russell Athletic (Orlando, Big East No. 2), Sun (El Paso, vs. Pac-12 No. 4), Belk (Charlotte, vs. Big East No. 3) and Music City (Nashville, vs. SEC No. 7). I’ll probably write more on this tomorrow, once the picture becomes a little clearer following the Clemson-South Carolina game.
** Linebacker Bruce Taylor had the quotes of the night, as you can see in my game story. He was clutching the Commonwealth Cup afterward like it was a football.
“This grip right here? Whoever can pry this kung-fu grip away from this cup can have it,” he said, a sense of relief coming across his face. “And I don’t see that happening.”
What are his plans with the Cup tonight?
“It’s going out with us,” Taylor said. “We’re probably going to put a few beverages in it and drink from it. Soak it all in. … Like I said earlier, this thing ain’t leaving my sight.”
** Overall, it was a defensive slugfest (which is a kind way of saying it was an offensively-challenged outing). Virginia Tech’s defense, other than a 42-yard touchdown it gave up to Tim Smith after safety Detrick Bonner missed a tackle, shut Virginia down.
The Cavaliers finished with 217 yards, only 30 of which were on the ground. They had seven first downs, only three of which came in the second half. Tech held the Cavaliers to five yards in the fourth quarter and only one first down. UVa was 3-for-14 on third downs.
“The weather was perfect for defense,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “That’s the kind of weather we all like to play in, even though it was a little cold. They’re either going to run the ball or throw the ball short, and we like to say that we can pin our ears back when they do that, because everything’s so short and it’s in front of us.”
The game turned on an Antone Exum interception in the final minutes, a pick that set up Cody Journell‘s 26-yard field goal as time expired. Exum jumped a corner route by Smith — getting away with some contact in the process — and snagged his fourth pick of the year at the UVa 36 before returning it to the 24.
“I think that he knew that I knew that he was going to do a corner route, so he kind of bulldozed me just to try to bully me on his route,” Exum said. “I just undercut him and the quarterback threw it right to me.”
** Journell got a chance to atone for a miss from 42 yards with 3:38 on the clock, an attempt into a swirling wind that missed wide left.
“I tried to put it at the left upright and I pulled it just a little bit,” he said. “The wind never moved the ball.”
The second one was a chip shot by comparison. Virginia, which inexplicably didn’t use its two timeouts to stop the clock earlier and give its offense a chance after a Tech field goal, used them both to try to ice Journell. On a cold day, it was somewhat effective.
“Being a kicker you kind of get used to that,” Journell said. “You’ve just got to attack it a little bit. It was a little different today. Kind of took me away from the heater for a little while. Felt like my legs were freezing up out there on me. You can’t expect it because that’ll throw you off too if they don’t call a timeout. You’ve just got to go through your motions like you do every kick.”
He hit the kick as time expired, his second game-winner this year, matching the one from the opener against Georgia Tech.
“Awesome for Cody, coming back from everything he’s been through the last year to put us back into a bowl game,” Tyler said. “I can’t even imagine what he’s going through right now.”
** Regarding those timeouts the Cavaliers didn’t use until the clock had already run down to four seconds, UVa coach Mike London had this to say afterward (and I’ll run it verbatim because it’s a meandering thought that doesn’t make much sense):
“I felt that we were playing well defensively and you just have to make a decision of how to save timeouts with seconds left on the clock or hope your defense gets a crack and causes a turnover or knocks them back a little bit, but that didn’t occur. You try to play the game there to see if you can get into it at the last second and their kicker did a good job. He made it.”
** Offensively, it was a rough day for the Hokies. Tech finished with 303 yards on an astonishing 95 plays, the third-most the Hokies have ever run in a game. That’s 3.2 yards per play, though, which was lower than UVa’s 3.9.
Quarterback Logan Thomas did not have a great passing effort, completing only 18 of 38 passes for 129 yards on a blustery afternoon. He had one touchdown pass to Randall Dunn from 7 yards out in the second quarter.
Thomas did shoulder the rushing load, however, carrying it a career-high 29 times for 89 yards and a 4-yard touchdown.
“Obviously we needed it,” Thomas said. “I think it helped us pull out the win. You kind of go to something until the well dries up. It was working for us a long time. … If I have to run the ball, I’ll do it. It doesn’t bother me too much.”
Overall, the Hokies ran for 174 yards, getting limited production from their tailbacks. Martin Scales got the start and had 10 carries for 37 yards, although one was a hard-nosed run on third-and-two on the final drive to move the chains. J.C. Coleman had 13 carries for 36 yards. Tony Gregory had only two carries for 1 yard.
It was still a frustrating day for the Hokies, who were 8-for-23 on third downs and only scored 17 points, despite a 23-7 advantage in first downs.
“Any time you go three and out its frustrating,” Thomas said. “As an offense, that’s the last thing you want to do. We put ourselves in tough situations on first down. … We weren’t moving the ball the way we wanted to. Everybody was frustrated, not just me.”
Beamer, as you’d imagine, praised the effort.
“I thought we showed what we were made of when things didn’t look good today,” he said. “We were down a touchdown and we didn’t really play that well offensively. So I thought we really showed some stuff.”
** The Hokies made a huge stop on a fake field goal attempt in the third quarter. UVa was ahead 14-7 and could have gone ahead two scores with a 38-yarder, but London called for a fake. Reserve linebacker Chase Williams sniffed it out and stuffed holder Jacob Hodges two yards shy of the marker.
The 38-yarder might have been a stretch for UVa kicker Drew Jarrett, who is 8-for-12 this year with a long of 46.
“Not that it was out of range, but it was close,” London said. “You notice the wind there a little bit, there was a swirling wind there.”
“We’re always prepared for fakes,” said Tyler, who helped stop a fake field goal against Cincinnati earlier this year. “That’s one of our things. We’re always anticipating fakes.”
** The win moved Beamer into a tie for sixth-place on the all-time career victories list among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches.
After passing Nebraska’s Tom Osborne last week, Beamer is now up to 257 career wins, tied with Brigham Young’s Lavell Edwards.
Penn State’s Joe Paterno, who had 111 wins vacated as part of the NCAA’s punishment for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is in fifth place with 298 wins.
** Here are some quick hitters:
- Dunn’s touchdown catch was his second in as many games. He has four in his career.
- Tech’s 95 plays were the third-most it has ever run in a game. The Hokies ran 98 in a game against Cincinnati in 1985 and 96 in a game against Wake Forest in 1975. They also ran 95 plays against South Carolina in 1972.
- Tech had a 37:30 to 22:30 advantage in time of possession.
- Virginia Tech is now 4-1 under Beamer in games when the temperature at kickoff is 32 degrees or lower.
- Thomas now has 20 career rushing touchdowns, one behind Bob Schweickert for second on Tech’s all-time list for a quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is No. 1 with 23.
- A.J. Hughes punted a career high nine times, averaging 39.1 yards. He only punted once in the second half, though.
- An overlooked play in the grand scheme of things was linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow‘s 8-yard run on a fake punt in the first quarter. The senior got the snap as the up back and ran around the end for a first down. Tech went three more plays before punting it anyway.
- Demitri Knowles and Marcus Davis tied for the team lead with four catches for 33 yards apiece.
- Exum had a big day. He also stripped the ball loose from UVa running back Perry Jones in the first quarter and recovered the fumble. He finished with five tackles, a TFL, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
- Tech only notched two sacks, but it pressured UVa’s quarterbacks throughout, particularly in the fourth quarter. The Hokies have 24 sacks in the last six games.
- Bonner led the team with 10 tackles, adding two pass breakups. Tyler was next with nine stops.
** Lastly, the win keeps the Commonwealth Cup in Virginia Tech’s possession for a ninth straight year. That’s 2,919 days and counting.
“It’s huge for a lot of reasons,” Tyler said. “Obviously coming here, bragging rights, you want to be the best team in Virginia. Most of us are from Virginia and most of us got recruited by Virginia. It’s a great feeling knowing that — nine years in a row — we can keep coming up on top and hopefully keep this streak going. But it’s just joyous. It’s a great moment and it feels good that we have 365 days to brag a little bit.”