It may have been the worst season in Virginia Tech football in 20 years, but the Hokies ended the season on a positive note with Friday's 13-10 victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Offense, as usual, was a struggle for the Hokies as they trailed the Scarlet Knights 10-0 at halftime. Bud Foster's defense was their usual dominant selves. Amazingly enough, both teams finished with 196 total yards for the entire game.
The Hokies defense held Rutgers to 2.5 yards per play while the offense finished with a meager 2.7 yards per play.
Regardless of how you view Virginia Tech's 2012 season, it did end on a three-game winning streak.
Here is a look at how all Virginia Tech starters or starting units graded out in the win over Rutgers.
Thomas was his usual inconsistent self in Friday's game. He made one throw, a 21-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller, that shows the kind of potential NFL scouts love. Outside of that, Thomas finished 15-for-39, 193 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
He missed several open receivers throughout the game and often waited too late to throw on more than one occasion.
Friday's game was much like the entire season for Thomas, although it isn't all his fault.
He grades out with a C- because the Hokies did win, and Rutgers' quarterback Gary Nova was so bad. Thomas' overall stat line may be comparable to Nova, but anyone who watched the game can tell you just how bad Nova was.
Giving this group such a low grade may not be completely fair. This offensive line is one of the worst in college football, and holes just haven't been there. Add to that, Rutgers has a top-10 defense. They are extremely good.
For the game, the Hokies finished with three yards net rushing. That, of course, is so low because sacks do count against the rushing total. But four different tailbacks carried the football, and they totaled 21 carries for 33 yards. That is anemic.
The Hokies' longest run of the night was 11 yards, and that was by wide receiver Marcus Davis.
Freshman J.C. Coleman was good in the passing game, though. Coleman finished with five receptions for 39 yards and showed why the team should use him out of the backfield more.
Fuller capped off an impressive senior season with another solid performance. His 21-yard touchdown reception in the second half was the Hokies' only touchdown.
He finished with only two catches but had 46 yards and the touchdown. He was open several times, but Thomas either didn't look in his direction or overthrew him.
At times, at least in the first half, it seemed like Thomas was just forcing the ball to Davis and hoping he'd come away with it. Davis finished the game with 62 yards on four receptions and had one carry for 11 yards. He came up just short in breaking Andre Davis' record for single-season receiving yards.
Davis, statistically, had an excellent senior season. However, his inconsistency catching the football is sometimes maddening. Davis had one drop Friday.
He, like Fuller, was open on several occasions, but Thomas just missed him. He could have played a larger role had he gotten the ball more.
Dunn finished the game with only one catch for six yards. The Hokies rarely throw to the tight end, but Thomas targeted Dunn on at least three occasions. One downfield pass hit Dunn in the hands, and he couldn't snag it.
Sure, you can't technically have an F-, but if you could, this offensive line deserves it.
The Hokies finished with three net rushing yards and were sacked four times. This to a Rutgers defense that hadn't previously put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The interior of the offensive line was terrible which has been the case all year. The offensive tackles, while not as bad as the interior of the line, failed to seal the edge on a number of runs leading to Rutgers getting in the backfield.
And Rutgers' only touchdown came on a bad snap by center Caleb Farris that landed in the end zone.
Should we continue?
Gayle finished the game with three tackles and one for loss. He wasn't his usual dominant self, but Rutgers often double-teamed him allowing his teammates to make plays. While the box score may not show Gayle's impact, he played well.
Marshall was injured in the game, but it isn't believed to be serious. He got in the backfield on a few occasions and finished with three tackles, including one for loss. He, along with Gayle, often proved too athletic for Rutgers' offensive tackles.
Maddy continued his impressive play, finishing the game with seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also registered a quarterback hit.
Maddy was disruptive the entire game against the run and the pass. His presence is a big reason Rutgers couldn't establish a consistent ground game.
Maddy was the best player on the defensive line for the Hokies in Friday's win.
Hopkins, along with Maddy, proved to be a disruptive force all game for the Hokies. He had four tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and a sack.
What a way for Taylor to finish his outstanding career. He led the Hokies with 11 tackles and was all over the field. He was solid in coverage and even got pressure on the quarterback on a couple of occasions.
Taylor looked healthy, and it showed Friday. He led an outstanding effort by the Virginia Tech linebackers.
Tyler may not be fastest of the Hokies linebackers, but he plays the fastest. He showed that in Friday's win.
Tyler finished with seven tackles, one for loss, and a pass break-up. He often came across the formation to make plays in the running game and did a good job in coverage.
Tweedy, a senior, has long been known as the Hokies' best special-teams player. He was just inserted into the starting lineup on defense late in the season and made a big impact.
It's hard not to think how good Tweedy could have been if he were starting on defense earlier in his career. Although a bit undersized, Tweedy is extremely fast and covers like a safety.
On Friday, Tweedy was second on the team in tackles with eight and recorded a sack. An excellent finish to his college career,
Exum played an excellent game Friday. He did miss on one interception that if he had caught, he could have easily scored. But his second-half interception that he returned 32 yards set up the Hokies' only touchdown and seemingly helped the offense wake up from its malaise.
Exum was named the game's MVP, perhaps by default, but he did play very well.
While Fuller didn't technically record a turnover in Friday's game, he did have one in the first half that should have been ruled an interception. He was called for pass interference on the play, but it was clearly good coverage, and he made a great play on the ball.
Fuller did a tremendous job on the 6'6" Brandon Coleman when lined up against him. He finished the game with six tackles, one for loss and broke up two passes. He was outstanding in run support as he often is.
It wasn't as if Bonner was terrible; he wasn't. But he did drop two interceptions that could have changed the game. For a team with an offense like the Hokies', those opportunities are even more important.
Bonner finished with two tackles, including one for loss and had three passes defensed.
Not a bad game, but he needs to catch those near-interceptions.
Jarrett finished the game with six tackles and broke up one pass. He did a good job in coverage and, as usual, was a good tackler.
He brings a physicality to the position the Hokies have lacked in recent years, and it is an absolute necessity for this defense. He had a few big hits in Friday's game.
It could be argued that the Hokies' freshman punter should have been the game's MVP. He punted 11 times for 464 yards, good for an average of just over 42 yards per punt. He also had four punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Hughes has showed the Hokies this position is in good hands for the next few years, and that is essential for a team with such a strong defense and struggling offense.
It is really tough to grade Journell's performance in this game. He made both short field-goal attempts yet missed a 51-yarder.
The degree of difficulty, college or NFL, is much higher from 51 yards, especially considering the conditions. The rain was coming down pretty heavily at that point, and the Hokies shouldn't have even attempted it. Beamer should have punted it or went for it considering how well his defense was playing.
Journell should not be blamed for the miss.