That had most of the stuff about the offense’s struggles and this pretty telling quote from wide receiver Willie Byrn: “What more can the defense do, really?”
Read that first before moving on to this post. Now here are some more notes and quotes from the post-game …
An historic loss
Much of this was in the game story, but it deserves to be broken out here:
– It was Duke’s first-ever win in Blacksburg.
– The Blue Devils had not beaten the Hokies since 1981, a streak of 12 games.
– Duke had not beaten a ranked team since 1994 (Virginia), a streak of 47 straight games.
– The Blue Devils had not beaten a ranked team on the road since 1971 (Stanford).
– The Hokies hadn’t lost to an unranked team at home in 20 games. The last time it happened? James Madison in 2010. That should pretty well sum it up.
“I don’t think we played a Virginia Tech football game tonight,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.
Defense still tough in loss
The Hokies didn’t win, although it’s tough to blame the defense. Virginia Tech only allowed 198 total yards, had four interceptions and didn’t allow Duke to complete a pass in the second half. That effort allowed the Hokies to have nearly a 20-minute edge in time of possession.
“Sometimes maybe the best team doesn’t win,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “And I think today was one of those days.”
Virginia Tech’s defenders put on a good face afterward, taking some of the blame for the loss.
“That’s the most disheartening part is you can put that loss on us too,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Statistically and score-wise, it doesn’t seem like the defense played too badly, but we could have done better. We could have done more to get a win for our team.”
“Our job is just to give [the offense] as many opportunities to score as possible,” cornerback Antone Exum said. “I think we did that at times tonight. But we still gave up some field position, which allowed them to kick some field goals that we didn’t want to give up.”
Exum returns, Kyle sits, Kendall thrives
Exum made his return, Kyle Fuller was limited to spot appearances on special teams and Brandon Facyson didn’t suit up Saturday against Duke, but the biggest cornerback story of the day was freshman Kendall Fuller.
The younger Fuller had three interceptions in the Hokies’ 13-10 loss to Duke, becoming the first Virginia Tech player to notch three picks in a game since Jayron Hosley did so against Russell Wilson and N.C. State in 2010.
“With just a week of learning boundary corner, I can’t speak any more highly of him,” Tyler said. “Like I said before, he’s not a freshman. He plays like wily veteran.
“He’s good. He’s really good. We were hoping that coming in that he would be good and he is.”
Kendall Fuller normally plays Virginia Tech’s nickel position, but injuries forced him to the boundary corner spot.
His brother Kyle’s groin injury prevented him from playing more than on special teams. He had started 34 straight games prior to Saturday, dating back to the 2011 Orange Bowl. Facsyon’s concussion kept him out of the game.
With Exum making his debut after offseason ACL and bone fracture surgery, the Hokies moved Kendall Fuller to the outside and had freshman Chuck Clark make his first start as the nickelback.
Duke tested the younger Fuller often and had little success. He now has five picks this year, a Virginia Tech freshman record.
Exum, meanwhile, didn’t get tested much. Duke, which only completed seven passes, didn’t have any on the senior.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Exum said. “Because it was a milestone for me being out there and I was excited to play with my team again, but I definitely didn’t want to be on this end of the game.”
Quarterback Logan Thomas again led the Hokies in rushing, carrying the ball 24 times for 101 yards and punching in a touchdown from 5 yards out. It was Thomas’ 24th career rushing touchdown, breaking the previous mark of 23 set by Tyrod Taylor.
His passing day left more to be desired. Thomas was intercepted four times, snapping a streak of 116 straight throws without a pick, which was close to a personal best. Thomas finished 21-for-38 for 214 yards.
He appeared to throw a second quarter touchdown to D.J. Coles, but Coles was flagged for illegal motion, moving forward before the snap. On the next play, Thomas forced a ball into coverage that was intercepted.
“It’s a tough one,” Beamer said. “That’s kind of a diagram of the football game there.”
“There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “We’ve been walking that line. Today, our kids learned how important the details are. Lining up incorrectly, penalties and turnovers did it for us.”
Run game better
The Hokies’ offense struggled despite them getting more out of their running game than they had in all but two games this year.
Virginia Tech ran for 173 yards. It had run for only 180 in its first three ACC games.
The Hokies’ backs – Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman – still only managed 74 yards on 22 carries. The team averaged 3.8 yards per carry, not great, but better than the 3.3 Tech was averaging coming in.
Journell off the mark again
Place-kicker Cody Journell‘s turbulent 2013 season continued. The senior made a 42-yard field goal but missed from 45 yards and, with a chance to tie the game late, from 40.
“I’m always concerned when a guy as steady as Cody missed two, but we’ll look at it,” Beamer said. “There was pressure on the last one. We’ll have to look at it, but there was a lot of pressure there.”
Journell is now 8-for-14 on field goals this year. He missed only five field goal attempts all of last season.
“We wouldn’t be anywhere where we were in the past without Cody,” Tyler said. “That last one, I think it even got tipped. So it’s not even his fault. It’s just tough. Sometimes they don’t just go your way. But we still have confidence in Cody. He’s a senior leader and we’re going to need him going forward.”
Starting defensive end J.R. Collins and backup linebacker Deon Clarke were both suspended for the game for what Virginia Tech said was an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Collins, a senior who coaches praised earlier this year for turning his life around, leads the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
Sophomore Dadi Nicolas started in Collins’ place and finished with six tackles, a tackle for a loss and an interception off a ball batted into the air.
The Hokies wore orange jerseys and pants with maroon helmets for the first time in 19 years and only the second time under Beamer.
The last time they had that combination was a 43-23 home loss to Virginia.
– The last time Tech recorded four or more interceptions in a game and lost was a 50-49 loss to Rutgers in 1992, when it had five.
– The last time the Hokies had four interceptions in a game was against North Carolina in 2010. The last time they threw four in a game was against Miami in 2001.
– In addition to Nicolas and Clark, tight end Darius Redman made his first career start. He was in for Kalvin Cline on the first play, although Cline came in the next play, so it was more of a formation reason than anything.
– Defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins came in at fullback for a goal line play in the second quarter. The running play behind him did not get any yardage.
– The Hokies were 4-for-6 on fourth-down conversions. They were 4-for-18 on third-down conversions.
– Duke was 0-for-11 on third-down conversions and possessed the ball for just 20:33 to the Hokies’ 39:27.
– Defensive tackle Luther Maddy led the Hokies with a career-high eight tackles and the team’s only sack.
– Duke linebackers David Helton and Kelby Brown combined for 33 tackles.
– Kickoff specialist Michael Branthover didn’t dress for the game, but, in a bizarre situation, the Hokies decided in warmups to dress him out. They called for him over the PA system in the stadium to report to the locker room. Luckily, he was in the stadium. He kicked off for Tech in the second half.
The Hokies will try to bounce back in a noon game at Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC), which lost 34-10 at North Carolina on Saturday.
Virginia Tech is 3-1 in the ACC, a half game back of Coastal-leading Miami. The teams play in Miami on Nov. 9.
“Really, we have everything we want in front of us,” Tyler said. “We can still go to the ACC championship. We can still achieve those goals. We’re just going to have to play a lot better and work a lot harder.”