Before you jump into my post-game wrap, here’s the game story from Virginia Tech’s 29-21 triple-overtime win against Marshall on Saturday. I detail the ways that the Hokies (3-1) got plenty of luck to go their way, which they fully admitted afterward.
Also, read Aaron McFarling‘s column about the Hokies realizing what they are right now.
Here are more notes and quotes from the post-game that didn’t made it into the game story:
– Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell hoped he could redeem himself after last week’s shaky outing against East Carolina. He never got the chance.
Hokies head coach Frank Beamer suspended Journell for one game prior to Saturday’s 29-21 triple overtime win against Marshall on Saturday. He cited an unspecified violation of team rules and did not elaborate.
“That is the only comment I’m going to make,” Beamer said when pressed on the issue.
Junior punter Ethan Keyserling, who hadn’t tried a college field goal before, replaced Journell on field goals but had a rough day in the rainy weather. He missed all three of his field goal attempts, from 36, 50 and 32 yards. Two of those misses came in overtime.
“He’s been around a long time and he’s a good kicker,” Beamer said. “He was put in a tough situation today with the weather and some critical kicks.”
Journell, who was present with the team as it walked to the stadium, was not allowed to dress.
The senior has had disciplinary issues before. He was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on a breaking and entering charge prior to the Sugar Bowl two years ago, returning to the team seven months later after pleading to misdemeanor trespassing.
Journell was coming off the worst game of his career, when he missed an extra point and two field goals in the Hokies’ 15-10 win against East Carolina, with another miss negated by a running into the kicker penalty.
– Quarterback Logan Thomas had a tough time with the wet field, going 18-for-34 for 181 yards and a touchdown. He was also picked off twice, giving him six interceptions this year, already more than his goal of having five or fewer this season.
“I think we would have liked to have thrown the ball,” Thomas said. “We thought we had an advantage in the throw game. Obviously we were able to run the ball as well. The line did a great job there. It’s just hard to grip the ball and throw it. It seemed like [Rakeem] Cato didn’t have a problem at all, but I did. But like I said, we were just fortunate.”
Thomas did run 23 times for 58 yards, assuming a large part of the ground game as conditions deteriorated. He scored two rushing touchdowns and had a 2-point conversion run.
Thomas’ touchdown runs were the 21st and 22nd of his career, moving him past Bob Schweickert (21, 1962-64) for second place on Tech’s all-time list for quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor is the record holder with 23.
The win was also Thomas’ 21st as a starting quarterback, putting him in a tie with Michael Vick for third place on Tech’s list under Beamer.
“Couldn’t have a better leader than Logan,” Beamer said. “Not only tough but smart and competitive. We follow that guy.”
– The aforementioned Cato’s final stat line didn’t look great, but he made plenty of big throws, going 19-for-41 for 228 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. His favorite target was Tommy Shuler, who had 10 catches for 120 yards.
“He was putting balls in perfect spots,” Hokies safety Kyshoen Jarrett said.
Cato also ran for 46 yards (a figure lower because of sack numbers), and patted Jarrett on the head on the sideline after going out of bounds on one play.
“It’s cool. They had a little swagger,” Jarrett said. “Because if he wanted to stay in bounds, I would have dropped that swagger that he had. He is a great player, and that just makes the game more fun when someone is having fun as well.”
Jarrett and the Hokies got the last laugh. Kendall Fuller made his first career pick off Cato in the fourth quarter in Hokies territory when a field goal would have put Tech away. Jarrett made a game-saving interception in the final minute after Marshall receiver Devon Smith got behind Brandon Facyson. That too was the first of his career.
After gaining 205 yards and scoring 21 points in the first half, the Thundering Herd had 156 yards and no points in the final 30 minutes and overtime.
“At the end of the day, we conquered that situation with the quarterback,” Jarrett said.
– The Hokies’ offense slogged through a tough day. They were 2-for-16 on third downs, failing to convert on their last 13 opportunities. They did manage to go 3-for-4 on fourth downs, getting a key conversion on an 11-yard Josh Stanford catch that set up Willie Byrn‘s fortuitous touchdown catch (which was detailed in the game story).
Tech ran for 201 yards but didn’t dominate the ground game. It took the Hokies 53 carries to reach that number, with a 3.8-yard average.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Hokies still out-gained the Thundering Herd 382-361 and held a 33:21 to 26:39 advantage in time of possession. Marshall’s up-tempo attack ran 87 plays, but Virginia Tech’s plodding offense hit that same number.
– Virginia Tech blocked a punt that it returned for a touchdown and blocked a field goal that prolonged the game in overtime, its best special teams showing in a while.
Kyle Fuller came off the edge untouched to block a punt on Marshall’s first drive. Linebacker Derek DiNardo scooped it up and scored on an 11-yard return, giving the Hokies a 7-0 lead.
“They had a two-man shield instead of a three-man shield, and they also shifted a guy to the other side,” DiNardo said. “They didn’t block me either. I just came right through.”
It was the Hokies’ first blocked punt against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since Davon Morgan got to one in the Boise State opener in 2010.
In the first overtime, Marshall’s Justin Haig lined for a 39-yarder that would have won the game. Defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins got up in the middle to block it.
It was the Hokies’ first blocked field goal since Jason Worilds had one against Boston College in 2008.
Beamer still didn’t get an answer for why Jarrett’s long punt return in the third quarter was negated by a block in the back. The officials announced the penalty on No. 22. The only player with that number on Virginia Tech is running back Tony Gregory, whose career is over after tearing his ACL for a fourth time.
“Did y’all see the block?” Beamer asked reporters afterward, still seeking answers. “They said it was 22 and we didn’t have a 22 in the ball game. So I couldn’t figure it out.”
“I just wish they didn’t call a block in the back on my return,” Jarrett said. “That was kind of wack.”
– Hopkins nearly ended the game in the second overtime with a defensive touchdown, picking up a fumble after J.R. Collins sacked Cato.
Alas, the 60 yards of green in front of the 311-pounder was too much. Thundering Herd tailback Essray Taliaferro raced him down from behind for the tackle.
“I was hoping Derrick could rumble, but he kind of ran out of gas at the end,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I think anyone else but him would’ve scored.”
“That would have made my week,” right guard Andrew Miller said.
Running back Trey Edmunds, who ran for 110 yards, said an exhausted Hopkins came up to him on the sideline after and said: “Man, I don’t have the speed you do.”
“I think that was an amazing run for a 300-pound guy,” Edmunds said. “I don’t think too many guys could do that.”
– Virginia Tech played for a field goal in the second overtime, despite a driving rain that intensified at that exact moment and having an inexperienced kicker.
Beamer explained his logic like this: “You wanted to get the ball as close to the goal line as you could and you really wanted to score, because you’re putting a new kicker into a tough, tough situation. And the weather didn’t help either. It was just a lot of stuff there. We were going to keep going as long as we could get some positive yards but then when it got down to third down we wanted to get the ball to the middle of the field.”
– Both Jarrett and Edmunds were slowed by leg injuries in the second half. But both were at post-game interviews, so neither seems that severe.
– Collins led the Hokies with 9 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. He played so well that Beamer referred to him as “Mr. J.R. Collins” as he got on the interview stage in the post-game.
The Hokies two tackles – Luther Maddy and Hopkins — had big days too. They combined for 11 tackles, five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
– The win was the 700th in program history. The Hokies are just the 15th school in Football Bowl Subdivision history to reach that mark.
– The white uniforms with orange camo trim and helmets the Hokies wore for Military Appreciation Day will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
– This was only the fifth triple-overtime game in ACC history. Tech’s last three-overtime game came before it joined the ACC in 2002 at Syracuse, a 50-42 loss.
– The ACC opener against Georgia Tech is right around the corner, Thursday night in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets came back to beat North Carolina 28-20 at home Saturday.
The short week means accelerated prep work.
“We’re going to go in in about 30 minutes, start grading our film for Marshall and get that done, and then we’ve got a day tomorrow of planning and then Monday becomes Tuesday for us,” Beamer said. “It is what it is. We’ve got it all planned out. We know exactly what time we’re doing what and the whole deal. It runs together, but it is what it is.”