Frank Beamer nearly saw his Hokies throw away a chance at the Coastal Division earlier this year. It’s why the coach isn’t reveling too long about the Miami win Saturday.
“It won’t mean much if we don’t finish this thing off,” Beamer said.
Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) is in the thick of the Coastal Division picture with two games remaining in the regular season, tied in the loss column with Georgia Tech (5-2 ACC), Miami (3-2) and Duke (3-2).
If the Hokies can win out, starting this weekend against slumping Maryland and after Thanksgiving against woeful Virginia, the only way they won’t make it to the ACC championship game is if Clemson beats Georgia Tech on Thursday and Duke wins out against Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina.
That would put the Hokies and Blue Devils in a tie at 6-2 atop the division, with Duke advancing because of a 13-10 win last month that gives it the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Most of the other scenarios are favorable for Virginia Tech, with its wins against Georgia Tech and Miami as trump cards. If Tech and Duke win out and Georgia Tech upsets Clemson on Thursday, the Hokies would win the three-way tie at 6-2 based on a better divisional record (5-1 vs. 4-2 for the other two teams).
If Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech are tied in the standings, either at 6-2 or 5-3, the Hokies would win the division based on their 2-0 record against the other two.
The only tiebreakers at 5-3 that would prove problematic are the ones involving Duke, because of the Hokies’ head-to-head loss, although there’s plenty of football to be played before outlining each specific scenario.
Considering that Virginia Tech lost to both Duke and Boston College, neither of the final two games are a gimme, despite Maryland’s recent skid (losers of four of five) and Virginia’s general struggles (losers of seven straight). Even with their recent two-week slip, the Hokies’ goals remain in front of them.
“We never lost faith in ourselves,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “We knew we could win really any game at any given time. We just had to put it all together. … That’s just how we are. Ups and downs go by, and everybody stays together, and I think that’s how close this team is as a family.”
Here are a few more notes and quotes from Monday’s press conference …
– Three Hokies earned ACC Player of the Week honors. Thomas was the Offensive Back of the Week after accounting for 408 yards of offense against Miami.
“I told our team, we can all learn from Logan,” Beamer said. “Because the week before he played a great football game except for a couple plays. But the flak and what he went through last week, he didn’t panic, he kept his focus straight ahead and came back and played a really great football game. I’m really proud of him. When he plays like that and we help him, we’ve got a pretty good football team.”
Center David Wang was the Offensive Lineman of the Week after grading out at 86 percent and recording a career-high 16 knockdowns.
Josh Stanford was the Receiver of the Week after catching seven passes for 107 yards, including 32-yard touchdown. That’s 13 catches for 278 yards in the last two weeks for the redshirt freshman. He had 20 catches for 268 the first eight games.
“That guy has come a long, long way,” Beamer said. “I think it’s totally confidence. He wasn’t really confident early in the year and then he made a couple catches and all of a sudden now he’s catching, he’s running, he’s blocking. He’s turning into a terrific player, just a terrific player. And really happy for him and us, because we needed it.”
– Immediately after the game, Thomas was greeted in the tunnel by offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who gave him a big hug. What’d the coach say?
“He said he was extremely proud of me,” Thomas said. “He said you’ve been thrown a lot of stuff the past two weeks, probably some stuff that you shouldn’t have and he was just like this is the biggest game I’ve seen one of my quarterbacks ever play, and that means a lot coming from him.”
“I’m just thankful to have the chance to do it. I think it was so big because we knew how much the game counted, and to be able to play the way I did then, it’s just a lot of the hard work has paid off that I’ve been through the last nine or 10 months.”
Thomas took an earful last week from the fans after his second straight game with four turnovers — both losses. But he tuned them out, like he has most of his career.
“It’s happened to me before,” he said. “My first year starting people were trying to pull me after the Clemson game, but I bounced back and played a great game then. That’s just how people are. Fans are going to be fans. They’re going to want what’s best for the team. I’ve just got to do my job and just kind of block them out, just stay within the program.”
– It was a wet field Saturday, and Thomas said he had trouble throwing a wet ball against Marshall earlier this year. It didn’t affect him in Miami, though, where he completed 25 of 31 passes, with most of his incompletions being on throwaways.
“I think it was a little bit different than it was against Marshall,” Thomas said. “For one, it was warmer, and for two, the rain drops were big, thick rain drops at Marshall and these were small and didn’t really cover the ball as bad, so I was able to grip. The ball was moist, not wet, so I was able to throw it.”
– The offensive line had one of its best performances of the year Saturday, opening holes for the Hokies to rush for 183 yards, mostly from the tailbacks. What sparked the performance?
“I think it was coach [Jeff] Grimes talking to us all week,” Wang said. “His big thing was to come off the ball with confidence. Get up there, look at the defense and just play football and just have fun. That’s what you needed to do. He said you can’t worry if you mess up one play. He said you can’t keep it in your mind. You’ve got to forget it and move on. …
“I feel like it was definitely a confidence booster to be able to play well against people of their caliber and their athletic ability. It kind of puts a fire under us and makes us want to keep going forward as hard as we can.”
– The line’s early success fed its late success on the ground, where running back Trey Edmunds ran for four touchdowns.
“It’s exciting because after the first couple you kind of see a sparkle in Trey’s eyes,” Wang said. ‘And it kind of gets us going to because when we see the backfield excited, it means that they’re actually seeing holes and seeing lanes to run through, and that gets us excited and it gives us an extra boost of energy as well.
“Just seeing him that happy and kind of getting into a zone kind of make us want to play better and block for him even better than we were that last series or last couple of series.”
– The secondary’s lineup remains up in the air this week. Beamer said the X-rays on CB Antone Exum‘s came back negative, but they won’t know how much he’ll do until later. Freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller will get plenty of work with Kyle Fuller still dealing with a groin injury.
– Virginia Tech didn’t go on the practice field Sunday, just using it as a film review day. With Monday off, that means the Hokies’ first day back on the practice field this week will be Tuesday. Beamer said that’s necessary this time of year, given the number of bumps and bruises along the way.
“We didn’t practice last week [on Sunday], but I told our staff, where we are in the season, we don’t need that practice right now,” he said. “Earlier on, we did some different things with it, but I think rest is important. Right now, as the season goes along, I don’t want to practice just to be practicing. I want a purpose. And I think we’re far enough along in the season where we don’t need that.”
– I’ll have more on Derrick Hopkins for a newspaper story later this week, but he’s taking to the fullback position, where he has a limited role around the goal line. His goal is basically to hit anything in his way, even if it’s a teammate unlucky enough to get in the 300-pounder’s track.
“He was in there and he actually had two knockdowns in the game coming out of the backfield as a fullback,” Beamer said. “The problem is one of them was our own guy, Kalvin Cline. Even took him out. But he was kind of hitting anything that was in his way. And Kalvin was in his way.”
– Beamer, in conjunction with his literary charity Herma’s Readers, donated $20,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The coach wore an Intrepid Fallen Heroes hat Saturday night — two actually, because one became rain-soaked.
“Really a salute to all those people who have served our country and want to pay tribute to them,” Beamer said, doing so on Veteran’s Day. “Sometimes we don’t think enough about those guys, in my opinion.”