Read that before you get to the rest of this post. Now for some more post-game notes and quotes …
Freshman walk-on Erik Kristensen’s debut as Virginia Tech’s kicker was a hit-or-miss affair.
Called upon to kick short field goals and extra points in place of Cody Journell, who was dismissed from the team Wednesday for violating team policies, Kristensen went 1-for-2 on field goals and made all three of his extra points in the Hokies’ 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland.
“I thought he did OK,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “He missed the one, but he’s been a good kicker and he hung in there. He was put in a tough situation and he did OK.”
Kristensen, who made the team during a September tryout, missed his first field goal attempt, a 34-yarder that grazed the left upright in the first quarter.
It would have given the Hokies an early 10-0 lead. Instead, Tech watched as Maryland stormed back to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
He got a second chance in a big spot in overtime, making a 31-yard field goal to briefly give the Hokies a 24-21 lead. Maryland erased it in four plays, ending the game on C.J. Brown’s touchdown run.
Kicking has been a season-long struggle for the Hokies, who are 11-for-21 this year on field goals. That’s the most misses nationally.
No answer for Brown
The Hokies couldn’t slow down Brown, who ran for a season-high122 yards, mostly on read plays and scrambles. That was the second most an individual has rushed for against Virginia Tech this year, behind Boston College’s Andre Williams (166).
“He was taking advantage of our aggressiveness,” defensive end James Gayle said. “Basically, he wasn’t even looking down the field. As soon as we got off the ball, he’s shooting the gaps and stuff. …
“The kid had juice. I’m not even going to lie about it. He was breaking tackles. He was just making plays. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Brown hadn’t run very well since suffering a concussion against Florida State. He’s missed two games since, including the Clemson game with a trunk injury. He had 23 carries for negative-30 yards his last two games.
Linebacker Jack Tyler gave a nod to Brown’s impressive day, although Tech contributed with a score of missed tackles.
“Their quarterback was good. He’s elusive. He could break tackles,” Tyler said. “We just didn’t tackle very well. That will get you beat in just about any game. That’s something that we like to harp on. We’re a good tackling team. We always have been. Some of these losses, we’ve just been off with tackling. That’s the difference.”
Whatever offensive momentum the Hokies had after the 42-24 win at Miami was lost in a sluggish effort Saturday.
The Hokies couldn’t move it consistently, finishing with 264 yards, nearly 300 fewer than last week. They couldn’t run it, finishing with 54 yards. And they couldn’t protect Logan Thomas, who was sacked seven times. Tech finished 4 of 16 on third downs.
“Maryland did a great job. They were pretty much right on to everything we were about to do,” Thomas said. “They made plays when we dropped it shallow. They made plays when were just short of the line. They did a good job of covering all day.
“At times, we could have made plays. Sometimes we got bumped around by linebackers, corners, stuff like that.”
Punt coverage woes
Virginia Tech gave up a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown to Maryland’s Will Likely in the second quarter at a time when the Terps hadn’t shown an offensive pulse. It tied the game at 7.
“I think it starts with the kick,” Beamer said. “If you kick a line drive and then miss a couple tackles, there’s a lot of teams that’ll take one back on you. They did a nice job, but we have to get the ball up in the air. We can’t be hitting line drives.”
It was the second punt return for a touchdown the Hokies have allowed this year. Alabama’s Christion Jones took one back in the opener for a score.
It’s the most punt return touchdowns Virginia Tech has allowed in a season since giving up three in 2008. East Carolina, Nebraska and Boston College all had one that year.
Virginia Tech appeared to get the short end of a pair of similar replay rulings that contradicted themselves.
On Maryland’s second play, Brown threw a pass to fullback Kenneth Goins. He had the ball and took two brief steps but had it knocked loose by linebacker Josh Trimble. Tariq Edwards picked it up and took it back for what appeared to be a touchdown.
The refs ruled it an incomplete pass, however, and upheld the call after a review, much to Beamer’s chagrin.
“It looked like he had the ball and carried it for two steps,” Beamer said. “When it went to the replay, I couldn’t believe the replay. Maybe I saw something that wasn’t there. Did he take two steps? … I didn’t think it was a question.”
In the third quarter, Brown threw a 16-yard pass to receiver Nigel King in the end zone for a touchdown. King had it briefly for two steps, but safety Detrick Bonner knocked it loose before he completed the play.
After a review, the officials upheld the touchdown call.
Fuller, Exum spectators
Virginia Tech honored its 13 seniors before the game. Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller (groin) and Antone Exum (ankles) were in street clothes for it because of injuries.
“It was definitely hard,” said cornerback Kendall Fuller, Kyle’s younger brother. “Him and Antone, they’re not the kind of guys to show their pain. I know they definitely would do anything to get out on that field.”
Kendall Fuller and Facyson started in their place. Kendall stripped a ball for a key turnover in the second quarter but also got beat up the sideline on a 43-yard pass to Amba Etta-Tawo on Maryland’s touchdown drive early in the third quarter.
Facyson notched his fifth interception of the season, tying Kendall for the team lead. Both have tied the freshman school record.
Tough home finale for seniors
The non-seniors hurt for the 13 seniors on the team who went out like this in their home finale. Virginia Tech hadn’t lost a Senior Day game since 2003 against Boston College.
“I’m only a year younger than a lot of the seniors, so it sucks seeing these guys that I’ve grown with and knowing they didn’t get sent out the right way,” Byrn said. “That’s probably the worst part of this.”
Thomas had a message for the younger players.
“I just told the younger guys: just remember this day,” he said. “It’s not the way you want to go out on your Senior Day. Never let it happen again. This is supposed to be a day you remember the rest of your life.”
Gayle said it was a surprising result, but not unthinkable the way the Hokies have played this year.
“It’s not shocking because we’ve lost to Duke,” he said. “We’ve lost to Boston College. It’s just things that we have to work on as a team, but I’m not going to sit here and cry about it. I’m going to move on. I’d rather lose with coach Beamer than win with their team at the end of the day.”
First ’15 commit on the board
Marcus Lewis, a cornerback/wide receiver from Washington, D.C., committed to the Hokies prior to Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-1, 187-pounder from Gonzaga High had a long list of suitors, including Clemson, Maryland and Rutgers.
He is Virginia Tech’s first commitment for the 2015 class. 247 Sports lists him as a three-star recruit.
– Virginia Tech wore the Hokie Stone helmets for the second time this year, pairing them with gray pants and maroon jerseys.
– Thomas started his 38th straight game, tying the school record for consecutive starts by a quarterback set by Bryan Randall.
– Thomas also went over 10,000 yards of total offense in the game, adding on to the school record he already owned. He now has 10,064 yards.
– This was the first time in his career Thomas has not thrown an interception and Virginia Tech lost. He had been 15-0 in such games prior to Saturday.
– Trey Edmunds ran for his 10th touchdown this year, the first time a Hokies tailback has reached double digits since Darren Evans in 2010.
– With Maryland off to the Big Ten next year, this might be the last time the teams play for a while. The Terps took a 16-15 lead in the series heading into whatever hiatus there is in the matchup.
– Laurence Gibson started at right tackle again for Brent Benedict.
– Byrn had six catches for 69 yards. He leads the team with 46 catches, tied for seventh-most in school history for a single season. The record belongs to Jarrett Boykin, who had 61 receptions in 2011.
– Tech dropped to 6-3 in overtime games. The Hokies had won four straight in overtime prior to Saturday (vs. GT, at BC, vs. Rutgers in 2012; vs. Marshall this year). It was Tech’s first loss in overtime since the loss to Michigan in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
– Maryland had seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. Reserve defensive end Andre Monroe had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Entering Saturday he had 14 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
The Hokies have another off week before traveling to Charlottesville to play Virginia on Nov. 30. This loss would seem to knock Tech out of the Coastal Division race, but that’s not true.
Duke, courtesy of its beatdown of Miami on Saturday, leads the division at 4-2 and will go to Charlotte for the ACC championship game by winning out. The Blue Devils can make everything written after this a moot point by doing so.
Georgia Tech (5-3) is next, followed by Virginia Tech (4-3) and North Carolina (4-3). A very plausible scenario exists where the Hokies could backdoor their way into the ACC title game.
If Duke beats Wake, North Carolina beats Duke and Virginia Tech beats Virginia, there’d be a four-way tie in the Coastal between Georgia Tech, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. The Hokies would win that tiebreaker by virtue of a 2-1 record against the other three teams (GT is 2-1, UNC and Duke 1-2 in that scenario). VT would then win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Georgia Tech.
Even if Miami (3-3) wins out and is thrown into the mix in a five-way tie, it only enhances the Hokies’ position, since Tech beat the ‘Canes last week.
If it beats Virginia, Virginia Tech wins a three-way tie with Georgia Tech and Duke at 5-3 (better divisional record, since all three teams would be 1-1 against each other).
Virginia Tech would also win a four-way tiebreaker with Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami, provided Duke loses twice.
The tiebreaker the Hokies wouldn’t win is a four-way that includes Miami, Georgia Tech and Duke. That would require Duke to lose to Wake Forest but beat North Carolina. Both VT and Duke would be 2-1 against the other three teams. Duke would then advance based on the Blue Devils’ head-to-head win against the Hokies.
Granted, all of this requires Virginia Tech to beat Virginia in two weeks. Given the way the Hokies have played lately, that’s no guarantee.