– Game story: Virginia Tech rolls over Western Carolina
– Notes: Hokies’ sellout streak ends at 93
– Last night’s wrap-up post: Virginia Tech 45, Western Carolina 3
Here are five thoughts following the Hokies’ 45-3 win against the Catamounts …
1. Like all games against FCS teams, you can’t read too much into it.
Saturday’s game was a win, and not much else. I know FCS teams have been pulling off upsets of FBS teams in record numbers this year, but those have been good FCS teams. Western Carolina was not. If not for a pair of wins against Division II Mars Hill the last two years, you’re talking about a 28-game losing streak. So anything the Hokies did in this game, you have to look at it through that lens.
Now, I will say it would be cause for alarm if things didn’t go well in certain aspects. And probably the one person who is still under the microscope is quarterback Logan Thomas. I thought Thomas was just so-so. His receivers gave him a little more help, making a few catches on balls that could have gone for incompletions. The interceptions were big, considering both were in the end zone. The first, on a deep ball, wasn’t thrown long enough. The second, in the end zone, wasn’t the correct read, going to the back shoulder and not over the top of the defender. Thomas said as much after the game. If he’s not making those throws against Western Carolina, will he be able to against FBS foes? Other than that, he looked better, establishing a rapport with the receivers. But for a guy who wanted to throw five or fewer interceptions this season, he’s not off to a great start in that category.
2. The Hokies look like they’ll spread the ball around in the passing game.
This too might have been a function of the competition, but I think it’s more than that. Thomas’ top receivers Saturday were Josh Stanford, Willie Byrn and Kalvin Cline. None had major roles against Alabama, when nearly all the passes went to D.J. Coles and Demitri Knowles. Now, I think those two will still be a big part of the passing game, but I don’t think this new trio is going to fade to the background once the Hokies get into the meat of their schedule.
All three showed promise. Stanford and Byrn displayed steady hands, catching passes that weren’t perfect and several times going to the ground or diving to do so. That’s more than Coles and Knowles showed in Week 1. Kline is a fast, rangy tight end who is a little more athletic than the rest of the guys at his position. For someone who got a late start on football (he only played on year in high school), he certainly didn’t look overwhelmed. Without Malleck, he could be the pass catcher at tight end the Hokies so desperately need.
I’ll say one more thing about the receivers: I don’t know if Knowles is a guy you can count on to go up and make a play in traffic. Tech had a guy like that in Marcus Davis, who, despite his flaws, was big and physical, and could simply wrestle the ball away from a cornerback in the air. He pretty much did just that on touchdown grabs against Duke and Boston College. I don’t think the 6-1, 180-pound Knowles is the same type of receiver. He’s fast, no doubt, but just not as aggressive when the ball’s in the air. Thomas could get away with throwing up a jump ball with Davis, but WCU made both of its picks Saturday on plays that were essentially 50-50 balls, although both could have been thrown better to give Knowles a chance.
3. The running back situation seems to be in good hands.
The huge concern coming into the season was: who would carry the ball? Now, it seems like the Hokies have a full complement of backs. With J.C. Coleman and Joel Caleb back after missing the opener, all four of Tech’s running backs got work Saturday, and they all showed a little bit of something. I don’t think it means that the Hokies are going to devolve into the four-man rotation that they had last year that was so unsuccessful.
It’s clear that Trey Edmunds is still the workhorse. He had 15 of the tailbacks’ 33 carries, even in a blowout like this. I’d expect him to hit that number in at least every game. Coleman came back and was the No. 2 back, taking an entire series that ended up with a touchdown. (He left a little gingerly after that and didn’t return, but he was walking on the sideline later, so I don’t think it’s anything serious. We’ll see this week.) Chris Mangus showed he can be a change-of-pace back too, coming in and breaking a 76-yard touchdown run. Mangus also caught a pass for 8 yards, so he can be used in the receiving game too. Caleb came in late to get mop-up duty. I think the fact that he didn’t get reps until the fourth quarter probably tells you his standing in the RB pecking order. But he had a nifty touchdown run, so there seems to be promise. Remember, he’s been a tailback for about a month.
I know the symmetry of having four backs makes it seem like this is a carbon copy of last year’s group, but this is a much more talented stable of backs. Judging by the plays they’ve made so far (and aided by a much-improved offensive line), Tech won’t have a repeat of last year’s struggles.
4. Those freshmen cornerbacks just keep making plays.
I know, this if flying right in the face of point No 1, but freshmen cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson continue to impress. You notice them, and in a good way. Facyson made a nice diving interception on the game’s second play, the first of his career. And Fuller tipped the ball that Detrick Bonner intercepted and returned for a touchdown. When the season started, alarm bells went off when you heard that Virginia Tech potentially would start one or two true freshmen in the secondary. But I think it’s pretty clear these aren’t your average freshmen. They’ve both handled the spotlight well. And while Saturday’s game wasn’t a top-notch opponent, Alabama was, and neither looked overwhelmed. They’ll get a big test the next two weeks, with pass-happy offenses in East Carolina and Marshall, but I’d say the chances that this duo will be the weak link of the defense like last year’s young cornerbacks are probably slim.
5. Kyshoen Jarrett is a big risk, big reward type of punt returner, and sometimes that means playing a little reckless.
Jarrett is a game-breaker on punt return, no doubt. He had a 43-yard return in the opener and had a few long returns last year, including the touchdown against Pittsburgh. But he does take chances. There were a number of times Saturday where he didn’t fair catch a punt and got leveled. He also has a habit of running into a crowd to pick up a rolling punt, then darting upfield. Sometimes, that’s what makes him great. He’s fearless in that sense and can get Tech yardage. But it’s also risky. I know Frank Beamer didn’t like the no-call on the punt that bounced off his leg, arguing that the WCU defender interfered with Jarrett’s ability to catch it. But honestly, I don’t think Jarrett should have been that close to it anyway. The result was a turnover, and against a better opponent it could have been costly. I don’t know if Beamer will try to rein in that aggressiveness from Jarrett. Like I said, that’s part of what makes him so good. But it seems like it could lead to a mistake that could bite Virginia Tech in a big moment.