– Game story: Thomas, defense lead Hokies to 17-10 win at Georgia Tech
– Notes: Freshman Facyson looks right at home
– Aaron McFarling column: Virginia Tech’s supporting cast steps up to help Thomas
Now for some more notes and quotes from Thursday’s big win:
– First of all, this dance happened in the locker room afterward. Frank Beamer adds whatever you call that to his repertoire of moves, including the Dougie and the Harlem Shake.
– Since deadlines were so bad, I didn’t get to put as much Thomas stuff in the game story as I would have wanted. The senior was 19-for-25 passing for 221 yards and carried it 16 times for another 58 yards, factoring into both of Tech’s touchdowns.
As I mentioned in the game story, Thomas had 279 total yards. The Hokies had 276. That is not a typo. The running backs contributed next to nothing. Trey Edmunds had six carries for 1 yard and Chris Mangus two for minus-2 yards.
And Thomas did it with an abdominal strain he suffered in warmups before the Marshall game. Thomas said he didn’t do too much at practice this week, not throwing passes until today.
“I can’t speak highly enough [of him],” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “He gets a lot of bad rap for his game play by a lot of people, but he stepped up tonight. He’s a warrior. He really is. I knew about his nicks before the game and told him, ‘Just give it all you got.’ And that’s what he did.”
Thomas said the pain wasn’t as bad Thursday as it had been the previous couple days, but it stiffened up on him a little bit when Georgia Tech had the ball for so long in the second half. Still, he fought through it.
“I thought his leadership, I thought his throwing, I thought his decision making, I thought being in control — I think he’s a quality, quality quarterback,” Beamer said. “And he’s tough. He’s mentally tough and physically tough the way he runs the football and bangs around people. I’m proud of that guy.”
– It was a fast start for Thomas, who completed his first nine passes.
“Watching film I knew we had a chance,” he said. “Me and Lefty [Scot Loeffler] talked about it, we knew we were going to start throwing it early and often. And then getting whatever we can. I was just seeing the field well and just took what they gave me.”
Receiver Willie Byrn has seen it before.
“I mean, I see him in practice,” Byrn said. “He’s that sharp all the time. He’s got a great arm. … When he gets in a rhythm, he can be pretty deadly.”
– The touchdown throw to D.J. Coles to get on the board first, an underneath route that broke free for the score, was a play Thomas and Loeffler discussed at the pre-game meal.
“He was like, ‘I’ve got this gut feeling about that play. I think it’s going to score,’” Thomas said. “And as soon as he caught it, I looked up and D.J. was running wide open. He’s been 2-for-2 on his gut feelings this year.”
The other? The underneath route on fourth-and-11 that Josh Stanford turned into a crucial first down late in the Marshall game.
– As McFarling wrote, the receivers helped Thomas immensely. Thomas pointed out that fullback Sam Rogers made a one-handed catch on a swing pass, saying “he’s probably got the best hands on the team.”
“We helped him out tonight I think,” Byrn said. “Like the receivers, we caught what he threw to us for the most part. We just want to continue that rapport with him.”
“That keeps coming along,” Beamer said. “And we’re going to be who we are and what we’re best suited to do. I think the offensive staff did a good job, saying, ‘OK, what are we capable of doing? What are our strengths? And let’s play to those.’”
Byrn, by the way, said he sprained an MCL in his knee. He’s hopeful he’ll be fine for the North Carolina game after a week-plus of rehabbing it.
– Last note on Thomas, but he’s played well in Bobby Dodd Stadium in his career. He’s 26-for-38 in two games here for 430 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also run 34 times for 128 yards and three scores.
“For one, I just love playing in this stadium,” he said. “And the fans are always great here. They’re always into it. No. 2, this is how you get to the ACC championship. You’ve got to beat these guys. That’s my goal. That’s what I want to do. It’s always fun to play against them, like I said. And when it’s fun to play against them, it’s making it easier for me.”
Thomas now has 7,015 passing yards in his career. He needs 3 yards to break the school record held by Tyrod Taylor.
– Duan Perez-Means didn’t make the trip to Atlanta. That’s because he’s left the team, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Giannotto. It does not sound like he’ll return.
Kalvin Cline started in his place and had three catches for 28 yards.
– Now to the other story of the night: the defense. Bud Foster‘s group held Georgia Tech to only 129 rushing yards on 42 carries. The Yellow Jackets, who were averaging 345.3 yards per game on the ground entering the day, hadn’t rushed for that few yards since the 117 they had in a 41-17 loss to BYU last year.
“Coach Foster, he’s brilliant,” Tyler said. “He really is. He knows what he’s doing.”
The Yellow Jackets got a couple deep plays that went for 41 and 40 yards — picking on safety Detrick Bonner – but quarterback Vad Lee still was only 7-for-24 on the night for 144 yards and two picks.
Georgia Tech had three turnovers, including a fumble on the opening drive when Kyle Fuller poked the ball loose from Lee and Facyson jumped on it, leading to the quick touchdown. (There’s more on Facyson in the notes link at the top of the post, and I’ll be writing a follow-up on him for Saturday’s paper.)
– Virginia Tech still has not allowed a fourth quarter point this year. In fact, that streak goes back seven game, all the way to the Virginia game at the end of last season, quite a stat for a team that blew a couple of late leads early last season.
“I just think we kind of settle in and we just have a lot of experience,” Tyler said. “We know fourth quarter, what that means for this team. And we just go out and execute. And I just think everyone just kind of settles down in the fourth quarter and knows that that’s our time. The fourth quarter is ours.”
Tyler didn’t hold back what he thought the potential of this defense is.
“I think it’s one of the best defenses that have come through here.”
– Kicker Cody Journell returned from his one-game suspension and made a 39-yard field goal, seemingly breaking him out of the slump he had against East Carolina. But then he pulled a 25-yard attempt with 5:37 left that would have essentially put the game away.
“It was close,” Beamer said. “What you worry about is when it’s a bad miss. Cody said he thought he had it. So I guess it was just left of the bar. I thought it was good when I saw it. But I’ve got bad sight.”
Journell has missed three of his last four field goals, with another miss wiped out by a penalty, although Thomas said he’s still not concerned.
“No, not at all,” he said. “We’ve just got to do our job. We’ve got to let him do his. Not worried about it. Obviously we’d love to have the points, but we’ve got to have the mentality that we’re going to go score touchdowns.”