The big news today is that kicker Cody Journell was dismissed from the team after one too many missteps. That’ll come up in both of the coordinator takeaways in this post.
But there’s plenty more from defensive coordinator Bud Foster, a Walmart connoisseur, and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Here’s what they had to say Wednesday night.
1. It sounds as though Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson will start, with Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum doing whatever spot duty they can.
Foster said Kyle Fuller (groin) was in a green, no-contact jersey again Wednesday. Exum (ankle) was in a blue, limited jersey.
Since it’s already so late in the week, Foster said that means it’ll be Kendall Fuller and Facyson starting at cornerback against Maryland.
“That’s kind of what we’re banking on right now,” he said. “I think Fuller and ‘Tone will be gametime or emergency situations right there. I hope we don’t need that.”
2. The injuries to Kyle Fuller and Exum will force some other shuffling too.
Foster said redshirt freshman Der’Woun Greene will play a larger role this week in the nickel, coming in at free safety while Detrick Bonner plays the nickelback spot. True freshman Chuck Clark, who has played that nickel spot, is still on the mend from an ankle injury.
Foster said the Hokies had to do some scrambling on the back end against Miami. Kyle Fuller didn’t play after the second snap. Exum went out in the second quarter. The Hokies had to go to a base defense for a while before they sorted out what they were going to do in the nickel.
“It’s kind of like we were at Pitt last year, when all those guys got hurt,” Foster said. “But that’s where it helped to have a little bit more depth and experience, where Bonner played that nickel last year, he stepped right in and did it this year, without any hesitation. And then Der’Woun Greene came in and did a great job. But we were scrambling.”
The back end is still a concern for the Hokies. Tech gave up four long plays that amounted to 230 yards, including 81- and 84-yard touchdown passes. Miami’s other 49 plays went for 122 yards.
“They’re going to get that occasionally,” Foster said of the big plays. “But we’re capable. Our kids did a great job of adjusting to the injuries.”
3. Like everyone, Foster had trouble identifying one of the replacement kickers today.
With Journell’s dismissal, the Hokies are giving every kicker on the roster a chance at winning the job. Foster said he saw one player wearing No. 1 doing kicks who he didn’t recognize.
“I think we must have picked him up at an aisle at Walmart or something, or Kroger,” Foster joked. “I don’t even know his name. I’m sorry. You know?”
The kicker in question was likely true freshman walk-on Eric Kristensen from Ann Arbor, Mich. Foster said he looked good, later adding, “Yeah, I’m pulling for the guy.”
Foster said he was talking to tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring about out-of-nowhere kickers and when, in 2006, Boston College beat Virginia Tech 22-3 behind a strong kicking effort by left-footer Steve Aponavicius.
“The guy kicked like four field goals, and he was a dude they got out of the student body,” Foster said.
4. Maryland’s production doesn’t mesh with how many points it’s scoring.
Foster, like Frank Beamer earlier this week, pointed out that the Terps have moved the ball this year (5th in the ACC in total offense at 415.6 ypg) but haven’t finished drives (9th in scoring offense at 25.1 ppg).
“They’re fighting their tail off and they hit a rough stretch here,” Foster said. “Last week was kind of like our game against Duke or BC: they turned it over and I think the game is a lot closer. It’s 20-3 or whatever it was, but I think it was closer than that when all is said and done if they don’t turn it over. Same kind of thing with Clemson. That thing was a tight ballgame until the end.”
Foster said the Terps don’t do much different, even with receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long out for the year with injuries.
“I haven’t seen them curtail a lot of their offense because of these guys,” Foster said.
5. The drive he saw the offense put together at the end against Miami was one of the best he’s seen by Tech in a while.
The Hokies’ offensive ate 9:06 off the clock and, despite not scoring, took it down from 11:03 to 1:57.
“I’ve been here 27 years,” Foster said. “Even though we didn’t score, that was probably as big a drive as we’ve had here in a long time in a big game. … That was tremendous.”
Once the ‘Canes got the ball back, Foster said it was nice just to be able to play a prevent defense and watch the clock tick down after a few completions.
1. Journell’s absence, and no certainty in his replacements, factors into some offensive decision-making.
Loeffler didn’t get into specifics of how that might work (he said they needed to sit down as a staff and decide a course of action), but the uncertainty at kicker is sure to affect things in one way or another.
“We’ll plan appropriately. We need to sit and talk,” Loeffler said. “The guys that we have behind him [Ethan Keyserling and Michael Branthover], they kicked really, really well today. We’ve got to worry about our phase. That’s the kicking phase. We’ll worry about our phase and try to score touchdowns. We’ll have a plan for it, though.”
2. Running the ball made everything else flow, plain and simple.
Loeffer said the difference Saturday at Miami was that the Hokies ran the ball. It opened up everything else.
“It made my life much better,” he said. “It made the quarterback’s life better. It made the team’s life better. Any time you can do that and look up and you’re in second and medium or second and short you have a totally different approach how you can call a game.
“Whenever you can’t run the ball it’s like playing a third down every down and that’s not fun. And we’ve had to do that quite a bit this year. Hopefully we can have some momentum going. Hopefully things clicked and people grew up the way that we think, and we continue that. Because if we can run it, we’ve got a shot.”
He said that was the best the o-line, running backs and perimeter blocking has been this year.
“The success in the throw game was all predicated on us having the ability to run the ball,” he said. “When we’re not one dimensional, we have a chance. It’s difficult to stop both. Running the football was a huge, huge, huge reason why we won the game.”
3. He thought the running backs got just the right number of carries.
Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman combined for 38 carries and 142 yards. Prior to last Saturday, the duo hadn’t gotten more than 22 carries in a game (primarily because of Coleman’s ankle injuries early). Quarterback Logan Thomas also ran it 10 times, although those weren’t all planned.
Thomas threw the ball 31 times, his fewest attempts since the North Carolina game.
“It’s how the game went,” Loeffler said. “We’re always trying to give the ball to the backs. It was a good plan. We had a good plan. It was really nice to establish some balance. We don’t want to throw it 50 times a game if we don’t have to, only if the defense is completely taking away the running game or we’re struggling in it.”
Loeffler said in a perfect world, 25 to 35 throws and 35 to 40 runs is great.
4. Loeffler didn’t feel vindicated for how Thomas rebounded, although he felt good for his star player.
Loeffler’s taken criticism before. He doesn’t really care.
“I [can't] care less about that stuff,” he said. “My job and our job as coaches is to get this group better. And improve it. But I [couldn't] care less about that. Our job was to try to help us win the Miami game so no, that was the furthest thing from my mind.”
He did like that Thomas answered his detractors with a big week, however.
“He played excellent,” Loeffler said. “And the sad thing about is, the Boston College game was almost equivalent, it’s just we had three miserable plays. That’s how the quarterback position works. If two or three things didn’t go the way that they went in Miami, you’d sit in here and you’d hear the same stuff, the criticism and all that other stuff.
“Playing quarterback, it’s an every play deal.”
5. He called Maryland’s defense a “salty” group.
Like Foster, Loeffler said the game tape doesn’t really match up with the Terps’ latest results. He cited the Clemson game, when the Tigers led only 19-13 heading into the fourth quarter in an eventual 40-27 win.
“They’re a dangerous group,” Loeffler said. “They play really well together. They’re strong, they’re big up front. … They’re a salty group.”
It’s why his goals as an offensive coordinator doesn’t change this week.
“If we go out and we turn the ball over than it won’t be a good day,” Loeffler said. “So we have to protect the ball, try to establish the run. If we can do that, everything else will fall into place.”