A night of great plays by both Virginia Tech and Michigan was sullied by poor officiating Tuesday night. Danny Coale made a highlight reel catch for the Hokies on third-and-long in overtime. Coale caught the pass from Thomas in the end zone, his elbow touched down in bounds and then the receiver bounced out of the end zone. It was called a touchdown on the field but was reversed from instant replay.
The ball didn’t budge from Coale’s grip as he hit the ground on what would have been the biggest catch in his career. The ESPN commentators said they thought it was a catch, but only one opinion mattered and the replay official said no catch.
The official may have blown the call but he didn’t miss the kick that followed. Third-string kicker Justin Myer made his first four field goals in the Sugar Bowl but missed the kick that ended up costing the Hokies the game. He missed a 37-yard attempt. Michigan didn’t blow the opportunity and made a game winning field goal.
It was a terrible way to say goodbye to so many great Hokie seniors but the season is over now. At this point it is still unclear if Jayron Hosley and David Wilson will return for their senior season. No matter how hard it is right now, the Hokies must turn to the future. There are five things that Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech need to improve upon to have more success in 2012.
Justin Myer made a valiant effort in the Sugar Bowl. He made four out of five field goals, but he isn’t the long term solution. Chances are that starting place kicker Cody Journell has played his last game for the Hokies now that he may be facing jail time for breaking and entering.
Journell’s backup Tyler Weiss is a senior, so he is no longer an option. Myer has a powerful leg but he isn’t accurate enough so it is necessary to either recruit a kicker or find a new one.
The punting situation isn’t much better for the Hokies. Punting was a weakness for the Hokies until starting wide receiver Danny Coale took over the position. He is a senior and heading for the NFL draft. The Hokies two other punters Scott Demler and Michael Branthover don’t inspire a lot of confidence in the punting game, so it is necessary to find a suitable punting replacement for Coale.
Thomas had an excellent first season as a starting quarterback. He also had a good showing in the Sugar Bowl, but there is still room for improvement. The signal-caller completed 19-of-28 passes against Michigan for 214 yards and an interception. He also ran for a touchdown.
One interception in a game isn’t terrible but that one was pretty ugly. Thomas was attempting to set up a screen pass but threw it directly into Michigan defensive end Frank Clark’s hands. If David Wilson decides to forgo his senior season and enter the draft then Thomas is the offense.
Wilson’s abilities as a running back carried the Hokies offense early in the season, but if Wilson leaves then that safety net is gone. The Hokies need Thomas to take a few more steps towards becoming an elite quarterback in 2012.
While it still isn’t clear as to whether or not Hosley will leave for the NFL draft; all indications are that he will leave early. If that is the case then the Hokies need a new cornerback. Kyle Fuller will probably move to the boundary corner if Hosley leaves which will leave the field corner position open.
Freshman corner Detrick Bonner will probably take over the position. Nickelback Cris Hill is a senior leaving Bonner as the next option. It is hard to forecast how good a player will be as a freshman but it is important for the defense to have options at the position.
Bud Foster’s unit played stellar defense against Michigan, and the defense should only get better next season as three starters will return from injury in 2012 but it is necessary to sure up the secondary.
The Hokies may have lost the Sugar Bowl because of an unsuccessful fake punt late in the fourth quarter. At the time the game was tied at 17-17. Michigan’s offense couldn’t move the football and the Hokies had all the momentum. Virginia Tech had the ball at midfield on fourth and one.
Danny Coale then went back to punt the ball or so it seemed. Coale attempted to run for the first down but was unsuccessful. That play basically handed the Wolverines a field goal. There are two plays that can be called at that moment, either a punt or a quarterback sneak. A fake punt is not one of those two plays.
The Hokies play calling was questionable in many situations on Tuesday. That leads us to the final thing that Frank Beamer must improve upon in 2012.
Stinespring has been the Hokies offensive coordinator since 2002 but has been on Frank Beamer’s coaching staff since 1993. The coordinator has been heavily criticized for years by fans and players alike. The reason Virginia Tech lost the Sugar Bowl was because the offense couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone.
Beamer is loyal to a fault. He took a big step by removing Stinespring as play caller this year. Quarterback coach Mike O’Cain took over as the Hokies play caller. It may now be necessary to take the next step and replace him.
Bryan Stinespring has had some very good years at Virginia Tech, but it may be time for a new voice in the room.