It wasn’t pretty, but the Virginia Tech Hokies escaped with a 20-17 win in overtime against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in their season opener.
Quarterback Logan Thomas made plays when it mattered the most, and Bud Foster’s defense held Georgia Tech to 288 total yards. Georgia Tech’s prolific running game averaged only 3.5 yards per carry.
History says the winner of this contest always represents the ACC’s Coastal Division in the conference championship game. While it may be too early to tell if that holds true, the season couldn’t have began any better for the Hokies.
Here are the grades for each position for the Hokies in tonight’s game.
Logan Thomas didn’t play badly, but he was uneven for the majority of the game. Most of his rushing yards came in the first quarter. He was unable to establish a rhythm in the passing game for a multitude of reasons.
Thomas was dominant running the ball in the first quarter. Of course the Yellow Jackets adjusted, and the Hokies were forced to go away from it.
Being the first game of the season definitely played into Thomas’ inaccuracy. Timing was an issue on some patterns, especially with Marcus Davis. The first throw of the game Davis had the defender beat, but Thomas badly underthrew the ball.
Thomas was especially accurate on slant routes. Some of the intermediate routes where Thomas was forced to take velocity off his throws were an issue. That will certainly improve with repetition.
Overall, Thomas did what he had to do in the fourth quarter. He made twoo big throws, one to Davis and the touchdown pass to freshman Demitri Knowles for his first career catch. That was a beautiful throw.
On the Hokies’ final drive in regulation, Thomas took the Hokies from their own 25-yard line down to the Georgia Tech 25-yard line to set up a game-winning field goal. On that drive, Thomas shouldn’t have settled for the tight end on two straight throws as time was becoming an issue, even with the Hokies having multiple timeouts remaining.
The bottom line: Thomas took his Hokies down the field when it mattered most, leading three straight drives which ended in points. That is what great quarterbacks do.
Overall grade: B
Michael Holmes started off slowly but had some impressive runs. He finished the game with 54 yards on 13 carries, including a big 18-yard run in overtime.
Holmes looked indecisive at times, but on the long run in overtime he made an impressive cut. Overall, it wasn’t a bad debut for Holmes.
Fellow freshman J.C. Coleman showed Hokie fans why they should be excited. When it looked like the Hokies’ running game was stalling, Coleman had two big runs in the fourth quarter. On one third-down run, Coleman made a defender miss in the backfield and got down the sideline for a key first down.
Coleman was consistently in the backfield on third down. Despite his size, Coleman is good in pass protection.
While he only finished with 25 yard on four carries, Coleman showed his big-play ability. He will be involved in the running game more as the season wears on. Coleman reminded many of the departed David Wilson. However, Coleman is much more advanced as a true freshman than Wilson was.
Overall grade: B+
Everyone knows about Marcus Davis. And he didn’t disappoint. He did have some moments where his lack of concentration hurt him and the Hokies. He doesn’t take plays off but keeps his eyes downfield before he catches the ball. That is a problem for younger players making the transition to wide receiver.
Davis finished the game with six receptions for 82 yards. He left yards on the field but made some very impressive plays, especially the catch-and-run on the final touchdown drive.
Senior Corey Fuller was big tonight for the Hokies. Perhaps the fastest player on the team, Fuller showed versatility tonight. He appeared to be Thomas’ security blanket on fourth down. His big catch that set up the game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter was the play of the game.
If D.J. Coles’ injury is serious, Fuller will immediately see a larger role in the coming weeks. If he plays like this, he will be on the field at all times.
Redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles showed his speed on the big touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech coaches have been excited about him since he arrived on campus in 2011. Again, Coles’ injury could give Knowles more time, and he appears to be the Hokies’ top deep threat in 2012.
Overall grade: A-
Traditionally, Virginia Tech tight ends are not big pass-catchers. Eric Martin scored the first touchdown of the game, getting open in the middle of the end zone to give the Hokies an early 7-0 lead.
It was Martin’s only catch.
Ryan Malleck caught three balls for a whopping three yards. Two of those catches came on the final drive in regulation.
Overall grade: C
The Hokies went to a quick passing game to ease the pressure on the reconfigured offensive line. One play in particular stands out. In the second quarter, Thomas dropped back to pass and no one on the right side picked up the blitzing defensive back. Mental lapses like this can get your quarterback severely injured.
The running game finished with 96 yards on 35 carries. That has to get better. At times, the Hokies’ running backs had no room to run.
Late in the game, the offensive line did open some holes just enough for Coleman and Holmes to make one cut and get up the field.
This unit will improve as the season continues. Offensive line play is about cohesion, and this group needs time on the field together. The pass blocking overall appeared to be solid.
Overall grade: C
This unit was touted for its depth in the preseason, and they didn’t disappoint tonight.
James Gayle had an early sack as the coaches tried to ease him back from an injury. Bud Foster brought him in the game on obvious passing situations, and he thrived. He will play full time as the season wears on.
J.R. Collins was all over the place tonight. He consistently wreaked havoc in the backfield and was in on several stops behind the line of scrimmage. He put pressure on Washington all night and was disruptive in every phase of the game.
Luther Maddy was dominant in the middle of Virginia Tech’s defensive line. Combined with Antoine Hopkins for much of the game, Maddy made several stops at the line of scrimmage, forcing Paul Johnson to run away from him.
Overall grade: A
Jeron Gouveia-Winslow was outstanding. After he missed much of last season due to injury, many fans were questioning if Foster should start. In the past, Winslow struggled against both the run and the pass. Not tonight.
Foster did an outstanding job putting Winslow in the position to make plays. Winslow is a smart player. It takes discipline against an offense like Georgia Tech, and Winslow showed patience. But with that patience, Winslow was still aggressive. If he plays like this over the course of the season, this defense will be dominant.
Bruce Taylor, the Hokies’ outstanding middle linebacker was quiet for much of the night. He didn’t play badly but was overshadowed by Winslow and Jack Tyler. Taylor was playing in Tariq Edwards’ position for much of the night while Tyler filled in for Taylor.
As great players do, Taylor made the defensive play of the game for the Hokies. As Tevin Washington rolled out to pass in overtime, Taylor applied the pressure, forcing Washington to release the ball early leading to a Kyle Fuller interception. That essentially wrapped up the game for the Hokies.
Tyler is the unsung hero of this Hokies defense. Tyler, a junior, may not look the part, but he is an outstanding player. He knows where to be, and for what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for it by always being in right place.
He made several key stops tonight, including one on Washington that forced a fourth down. Tyler was not embarrassed in the open field by the elusive Georgia Tech quarterback.
Overall grade: A-
It is truly hard to judge cornerbacks against an offense like Georgia Tech. But Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum were outstanding tonight.
Exum was rarely tested down the field, and when he was, he had tight coverage. Fuller was tested on at least three occasions down the field, but he used great technique, often forcing bad throws.
Fuller, while being extremely talented, is a technician at cornerback. On one pass he used the sideline to his advantage and didn’t have to put his hands on the receiver. He made several tackles in run support and isn’t afraid to come up to the line of scrimmage and deliver a big hit.
Fuller missed one tackle but more than made up for it by catching the game-clinching interception. Fuller got off to a very strong season and showed everyone why he can be an All-American at corner.
Sophomores Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner played well at rover and free safety, respectively. Jarrett delivered several big hits, including forcing a big fumble on third down. Georgia Tech would initially go for it before deciding to punt. Jarrett’s hit cost the Yellow Jackets four yards and kept them out of a 4th-and-1.
Overall grade: A
This continues to be an inconsistent group for the Hokies. Freshman punter A.J. Hughes hit three punts inside the 20-yard line, but his fumbled snap cost the Hokies seven points.
Cody Journell missed a 38-yard field goal that killed a Hokies’ scoring opportunity. However, Beamer showed faith in Journell late in the fourth quarter as Journell hit a 42-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
Journell also hit the game-winner, which was shorter than an extra point. The last two kicks show Journell can kick in the clutch, though. Moving forward, the Hokies need consistency from Journell.
The coverage units were solid, and the Hokies didn’t have any long runs on returns. J.C. Coleman did have a 34-yard kickoff return, which proved to be the best return for the Hokies tonight.
Beamer made his name on special teams, but these mistakes seem to happen far too often. The Hokies need to solidify the punting position because the defense is too good.
Journell will continue to get better. He made his last 10 kicks in 2011 and is off to a new streak in 2012.
Overall grade: C-
Beamer’s biggest lapse was allowing the Yellow Jackets to score late in the fourth quarter and not using his timeouts. Using one timeout would have saved the Hokies probably close to 40 seconds.
The way the Hokies were moving the ball late, that could have cost them the game. Beamer was let off the hook here. His son, Shane, was even advising him to use one of his timeouts with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.
Play-calling was solid overall. There were times when the Hokies should have stayed with short passing more. Give credit to play-caller Mike O’Cain, as he didn’t totally abandon the run even when the team was struggling. That paid off big in overtime.
Defensively, Bud Foster was his usual self. He played it close to the vest early wanting to see how Paul Johnson’s squad attacked his defense. As the game progressed, he became more aggressive with his calls. It rarely backfired.
When Georgia Tech would gain some offensive momentum, Foster would adjust. He had his unit prepared for the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense.
Overall grade: B-