Virginia Tech’s defense rose to the occasion against East Carolina’s spread offense Saturday in a 15-10 victory. Read that game story before you do anything else. You’ll find most of the overall defensive superlatives there.
Then read a few more notes and quotes from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium:
– I seem to update this every week, but total yards by opponents vs. Bud Foster‘s defense the last five games: 217 (UVa), 196 (Rutgers), 206 (Alabama), 162 (Western Carolina) and 204 (East Carolina).
Of that 204, 60 came on the first drive for the Pirates (15 were on a penalty). The Hokies held them to 144 yards the final 58½ minutes.
“My high school coach used to tell me, and some of our coaches here, you’ve got to survive the initial flurry,” cornerback Brandon Facyson said. “We know they had a high-tempo offense and they came out here just ready to throw the ball, snap, throw the ball, snap. We adjusted to it really well. We just slowed it down.”
– Facyson had two interceptions against East Carolina, giving the true freshman three already in his nascent career.
“He’s a baller,” head coach Frank Beamer said, stealing a phrase from a younger generation.
Facyson, a 6-foot-2, 188-pounder from Newnan, Ga., is starting to gain a reputation as a play-maker. Kendall Fuller was the more hyped of the two freshmen, and has played extremely well as a starter early on, but Facyson is right there with him.
“They aren’t playing like freshmen,” Beamer said.
The Hokies used their nickel package almost exclusively against East Carolina’s spread, putting Facyson on the field with both Fullers, Kendall and Kyle, as cornerbacks.
Facyson jumped a Shane Carden pass in the first quarter, cutting in front of a receiver across the middle to make his first pick. His second came in the third quarter, off a ball tipped into the air by safety Detrick Bonner.
“He’s reminding me of Jayron Hosley, because Jayron Hosley used to leave with a couple picks every game,” defensive end James Gayle said.
Facyson nearly had another pick, barely missing one as he dove on a ball in the first quarter. The ECU receiver caught it for a 21-yard gain, although Facyson’s not backing away from his aggressiveness.
“My hand grazed the ball,” Facyson said. “He actually got it off, but next time, I’m coming for it.”
– With his final completion of the first half, a 5-yarder to Willie Byrn, quarterback Logan Thomas moved into first place on the Hokies’ all-time completion list.
It was Thomas’ 496th career completion. He moved past Tyrod Taylor (495 from 2007-10), Will Furrer (494 from 1998-91) and Bryan Randall (490 from 2001-04) on Saturday.
Thomas, who now has 513 career completions, went 25-for-43 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was 10-for-18 for 129 yards and eight first-down throws on third down.
He breathed a sigh of relief on one of his throws, however, a pass in the flat to start the fourth quarter that ECU linebacker Montese Overton dropped. It would have been an easy touchdown.
“I didn’t even see him,” Thomas said. “Apparently he rushed the tackle and then faded out. … Thankfully he didn’t make the best play possible.”
Did Thomas exhale after that one?
“Yeaaaaah. Yeah, I’d say so,” he said.
– Gayle separated his left shoulder after rolling over Carden on a second quarter sack.
“They had to reset it on the sideline,” he said. “I’ve never done that before. I thought I was dying.”
He had it wrapped and returned in the second half, making a big play near the end when he sacked Carden in the end zone for a safety.
– The Pirates had a scary injury of their own. Cornerback Joshua Hawkins went down at the end of a third quarter play. After tending to him on the field for several minutes, trainers immobilized his neck and put him on a stretcher. He waved his arms to the crowd to show he was OK.
Hawkins was taken to an area hospital but was released after being diagnosed with a concussion.
– After starting the same five on the offensive line in the first two weeks, Virginia Tech shuffled things up Saturday, elevating junior Brent Benedict to the first team at right tackle for Laurence Gibson.
Benedict has played mostly guard since last season, when he started six games at right guard. He worked in some at right tackle last week against Western Carolina before shifting to right guard after Andrew Miller sprained his ankle.
The line didn’t perform as well as it has the first two weeks. The Hokies ran 34 times for just 53 yards, a 1.6-yard average. Running back Trey Edmunds was largely held in check, carrying 21 times for 42 yards. He had a long of 13.
“That’s just not acceptable,” said Miller, who thought the offense played, in his words, terrible. “I think we could have beaten them by a more significant amount than we did.”
– The receivers weren’t perfect — Josh Stanford had a couple of drops and Demitri Knowles didn’t go up and battle for a deep ball that was intercepted — but they showed improvement.
Knowles finished 1 yard shy of his first career 100-yard game, with eight catches for 99 yards and a 30-yard touchdown. D.J. Coles caught three passes for 39 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown. And Byrn proved to be more than a one-week wonder, with seven receptions for 63 yards, often on crossing routes underneath coverage.
“They’ve always had it in them,” Thomas said. “It’s just confidence in themselves. If they can catch the first one, get themselves going, they’re pretty good. They just have to keep bringing the confidence, getting better week by week and once we do and once they have that confidence, we’re going to be pretty fun to watch.”
Coles got a lot of scrutiny last week about how well his knee would hold up going forward. Thomas thinks Tech needs him playing like this.
“When D.J.’s healthy, he’s one of the best guys out there,” Thomas said. “He’s stronger than everybody and when he’s running the right route, getting that stuff done, he’s a tough guy. I’m happy to see him back on the field, take a couple hits. We just have to keep getting him better and then hopefully as the year goes on he gets more snaps and gets better and better.”
Thomas threw one pick on a deep ball that Knowles took the blame for.
“He knows,” Thomas said. “He was a game ball winner today and he said, ‘I’ve got to start making those plays.’”
– Linebacker Jack Tyler led the defense with six tackles. End J.R. Collins, safety Kyshoen Jarrett, linebacker Tariq Edwards and Bonner had five tackles apiece.
The Hokies had seven sacks — two each by Gayle and Collins, 1.5 by Edwards, one by Tyler and a half of one by Derrick Hopkins.
Edwards looked particularly fast, running down Carden on one sack and diving to make an interception in the fourth quarter after Dadi Nicolas pressured Carden from the back side.
– Only twice prior to Saturday had kicker Cody Journell missed a field goal and an extra point in the same game. He had never missed more than one field goal in a game.
But he missed two field goals and an extra point and had another field goal that was negated by a penalty Saturday. The first, a 38-yarder that went wide right, he said was tipped at the line. His next two misses, from 40 and 32 yards, were low liners to the left.
“That’s what sets good kickers and bad kickers apart — I wanted to go back out there and redeem myself, get back in my rhythm, but it just wasn’t happening today,” said Journell, who had some lower back problems earlier in the week but didn’t pin his struggles on it. “Honestly, it’s probably the worst game I’ve ever played. I told them I’d get on it this week and make sure it never happens again.
The Hokies didn’t need to hear the apology to still have faith in their kicker.
“I have no problem with Cody,” Thomas said. “Last year Cody won, what, 2-3 games for us? … He has not lost any faith with us. I talked to him. We’re good friends. He’ll bounce back. He was like, ‘Just a miserable day.’ And I was like, you’ll have a couple of those now and then. Just block it out and get on to the next one.”
“That’s not like him,” Beamer said of Journell. “He’s way too good.”