The Virginia Tech Hokies couldn't have gotten off to a better start on Saturday. In the end, it didn't matter, as they fell to Clemson 38-17.
On Clemson's first offensive possession, the Hokies sacked quarterback Tajh Boyd twice and forced a punt. The Hokies went to work on offense with a quick and efficient drive that ended with a Logan Thomas 29-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller.
Essentially, that was the end of the highlights for the Hokies on offense.
The defense, however, played terrific all day but were saddled with terrible field position at times and could never get any help from the offense.
The Hokies actually outgained Clemson on offense with 406 total yards compared to Clemson's 295. They also held an eight-minute edge in time of possession.
Here are the winners and losers from the Hokies' loss to Clemson.
For the second straight week, the Hokies' defensive line played a terrific game.
Sophomore defensive tackle Luther Maddy had two sacks for the second straight week and defensive end James Gayle had another sack and was terrific all day.
This is how everyone expected this unit to play and it finally seems Maddy's health has played a huge part in this group's turnaround. Maddy injured his ankle in the season-opener against Georgia Tech and wasn't the same player for weeks. That has changed.
The Hokies still need J.R. Collins to show up consistently opposite of Gayle. If he doesn't, look for more snaps for guys like Corey Marshall, Tyrel Wilson and Dadi Nicolas.
The defensive line set the tone for the Hokies' secondary on Saturday and, as anyone knows, pressure goes hand-in-hand with coverage. Expect this group to continue to play well moving forward.
The final box score will indicate outstanding sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins had a terrific day against the Hokies. He finished with eight catches for 84 yards. However, most of Watkins' catches weren't for big plays and he didn't have a major impact on the game.
DeAndre Hopkins had three catches for 68 yards including a 37-yard touchdown reception. He came into the game with 49 receptions, 777 yards and eight touchdowns through six games. Kyle Fuller did a terrific job on him.
Credit Fuller and fellow junior cornerback Antone Exum, as they played their best game as a tandem all season. As mentioned in the previous slide, the pressure applied by the defensive line helped the Hokies' secondary—as should be the case for any good defense.
Exum seems to have rebounded from his early-season struggles and sophomore safeties Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett continue to get better each week.
After two steady performances, Logan Thomas struggled in the passing game. He finished 15-for-28 with 207 yards passing and threw two interceptions. He looked very good on the first drive for the Hokies that ended with his touchdown pass to Corey Fuller.
Both interceptions were on Thomas. Many of his passes sail high as a result of poor mechanics. He often doesn't set his feet when throwing and the results generally aren't positive. His second-quarter interception—returned 74 yards for a touchdown—was a terrible throw.
After every game, the topic most discussed for Thomas has been missed opportunities. In this game, Thomas missed Dyrell Roberts deep for what should have been an easy touchdown. The ball was overthrown.
Overall, Thomas' play has regressed from his first season as a starter in 2011. With four games to go, Thomas still has a chance to finish the season on a strong note.
Thomas did lead the team with 99 rushing yards, which speaks more to the lack of an overall running game.
The final numbers will indicate this unit did a better job than they actually did. The Hokies rushed for 199 yards, a respectable total. However, the quarterback rushed for 99 yards, often on broken plays.
Take out Dyrell Roberts' 17-yard carry and four running backs combined for 98 yards on 26 carries.
Keep in mind, Clemson was the 97th ranked defense in the country. The Tigers were 99th versus the run.
J.C. Coleman was coming off a career day last week against Duke but finished this game with 24 yards on 12 carries. As fast as Coleman is, there were not many holes for him to take advantage of in Saturday's game.
The interior of the Hokies' offensive line has been in flux all season long. Even when healthy, the Hokies often rotated series at right guard and center. How often have you heard of a team rotating a center? Not to mention that center was your top returning player on the offensive line.
Now that center Andrew Miller is out for the season and Caleb Farris is still hurt, the Hokies will continue to rely on senior Michael Via at center, for better or worse.
In all sincerity, you could put this group in this category on a weekly basis. Play-calling is constantly in an issue but that is what you get with an offensive philosophy that never evolves.
Great coaches evolve, this group is always left behind. While changing coaches is a discussion for the offseason, the same problems continue to haunt the Hokies each week.
The wide receiver pass from Marcus Davis was another example of terrible play-calling. The Hokies were down a lot and in the fourth quarter, so why do you call that play there?
By the way, it was intercepted.
Trick plays are great, but they have a place in the game. Why wait all year to call that when you're getting blown out in the fourth quarter?
Beamer doesn't call plays but he presides over this team and refuses to allow a stagnant offense to develop new concepts.