Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech: 10 Things We Learned from the Hokies' Win
The Virginia Tech Hokies opened their ACC season in impressive fashion on Thursday, defeating Georgia Tech 17-10 in Atlanta.
The win improves the Hokies to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the ACC. It is even bigger for the Hokies, considering the Yellow Jackets were 2-0 in conference play entering the game.
Logan Thomas stepped up big for the Hokies, completing 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards. Thomas also led the team in rushing and did not turn the ball over.
Here are 10 things we learned in the Hokies' win over Georgia Tech.
Bud Foster Has Paul Johnson's Number
The Hokies have now won four straight over the Yellow Jackets. A big reason for that success is Bud Foster's ability to shut down Paul Johnson's flexbone option offense.
Virginia Tech held the Jackets to just 129 yards rushing on 42 attempts. That is a meager 3.1 yards per attempt.
Foster's defense held Georgia Tech to just 198 yards rushing last year. The unit was even better on Thursday night.
Kyle Fuller Is a Stud
Kyle Fuller set the tone for the Hokies on Georgia Tech's first possession. He was involved in the first three plays of the game and forced a Vad Lee fumble on that same drive.
Fuller moved back to whip linebacker, a position he played with great success in 2011, because the Hokies wanted to get as much speed on the field as possible.
It is tough to maintain the same level of play for four quarters against an offense like Georgia Tech. Fuller had no problem doing so on Thursday night and was the team's MVP.
Fuller is having an All-American senior season thus far.
Defensive Line May Be the Best in the Country
To beat an option offense, you must win in the trenches. The Hokies not only won in the trenches, they dominated the Yellow Jackets up front.
Senior defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins received most of the attention and rightfully so. Hopkins finished with seven tackles, including five solo stops. He consistently pushed Georgia Tech's interior linemen into Vad Lee once the ball was snapped.
Luther Maddy was terrific, too. James Gayle had his usual outstanding game, although he didn't post a sack. Gayle put pressure on Lee several times, forcing him to make ill-advised throws.
The great thing about this Virginia Tech defensive line is depth. The Hokies can comfortably go eight deep and not experience a dramatic drop in productivity.
Freshman Defensive Backs Are Special
It is rare you can get an all-conference performer back and not know where to put him.
That is the dilemma Virginia Tech soon faces with the impending return of senior cornerback Antone Exum. Exum, returning from knee surgery, may be back in time for the Hokies' next game if he gets a good report from the doctor.
Why is Exum's return a dilemma?
Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller. The two freshmen continued to impress on Thursday as each player recorded an interception. The interception was Facyson's fourth and Fuller's second. The only mistake either player made was when Facyson failed to recover a Vad Lee fumble.
Facyson and Fuller are future stars. The good news for Virginia Tech is it has two pretty good corners in front of them in Exum and Kyle Fuller. Exum's return may allow Kyle Fuller to play more whip linebacker where he dominated against Georgia Tech.
Logan Thomas Stepped Up
Thomas completed over 70 percent of his passes and, most importantly, did not turn the ball over against the Yellow Jackets.
Thomas also led the team in rushing and accounted for both of the Hokies' touchdowns.
The most impressive part of Thomas' night was his accuracy. There were only two occasions where Thomas threw the ball at the feet of a Virginia Tech receiver, one of which was a throwaway under pressure.
If Thomas can build off this performance, the Hokies will win the Coastal Division.
D.J. Coles Must Sit
Yes, Coles scored Virginia Tech's only touchdown through the air on Thursday. However, it was the passes he didn't catch that hurt the most.
On a critical third-down play in the third quarter, Thomas hit Coles on a perfectly thrown slant, and he dropped it. The ball hit Coles right in the chest, and had he caught it, there was room to run. The Hokies were forced to punt.
Coles dropped another pass that was a little behind him but still catchable.
Drops have been a recurring theme for the senior receiver. On a team with such an inexperienced group of receivers, the Hokies need more from Coles. They aren't getting it.
At this point, the younger receivers are making more plays and should be on the field. Coles has a role on this team, but he is no better than a fourth receiver at this point.
Demitri Knowles Quietly Had an Outstanding Game
On a night when Logan Thomas and the defense got all of the attention, one performance quietly went under the radar. Sophomore wide receiver Demitri Knowles led Tech with five catches for 67 yards.
Knowles, much like Coles, has struggled catching the ball this season. Unlike Coles, though, Knowles has progressively gotten better each week.
One of the fastest players on the team, Knowles is a relative newcomer to the game of football. Growing up in The Bahamas, he didn't begin playing football until high school.
Knowles is a big-play threat, that's why the Hokies have continued to feed him the football. Against Georgia Tech, Knowles not only ran good routes, he made two big plays down the field.
His progression will be fun to watch moving forward.
Interior Offensive Line Struggled
Too many times on Thursday night, Georgia Tech got pressure up the middle. Pass protection as a whole was solid, but Virginia Tech struggled diagnosing Georgia Tech blitzers all night.
The running game was nonexistent. The Hokies finished with just 55 yards on 27 carries. Amazingly, Thomas had 58 yards rushing while the running backs combined to carry the ball eight times for a loss of one yard.
Keep in mind, Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof was going to take away the running game and make Thomas beat him through the air. It was a sound strategy as Virginia Tech's passing offense was anemic through the season's first four games.
Tech needs to pick its three best interior linemen and stick with them. New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes probably isn't a big fan of any of his interior guys, but at this point he needs to stick with his best group and not rotate.
It's tough to blame this one on the running backs. It would have been interesting to see what J.C. Coleman could have done, but the Hokies rarely used him Thursday, as he is still recovering from a pair of sprained ankles.
Scot Loeffler Has Yet to Impress
It's tough to truly judge Loeffler after five games. He inherited his current group of players, and they may or may not suit his style of offense. However, Virginia Tech does have some talent on offense and it is up to Loeffler to put his players in position to get the best out of their ability.
Play-calling is the biggest issue with Loeffler. He called for Thomas to run up the middle too many times. How predictable is that? It is a repeat of 2012. It is smart to run your 6'6", 260-pound quarterback up the middle on occasion, but this happens far too often. Get the running backs involved. Use play action more often.
Another issue I noticed with Loeffler was how he used personnel. On a critical third-down play in the second half, he had freshman Joel Caleb in the backfield on a passing play. Running backs who play on third down must be able to block. Needless to say, Caleb missed the block, and Thomas got hit, ending a promising drive.
It's important to note, Caleb didn't begin playing running back until the beginning of summer as he is a former quarterback and wide receiver. Trey Edmunds or Sam Rogers should have been in the backfield on this occasion.
The passing offense did improve versus Georgia Tech. If Thomas continues to improve, then Loeffler's first season as Tech's offensive coordinator will be a success. He certainly deserves ample time to implement his offense.
Cody Journell Is Finished
Senior kickers have been good to head coach Frank Beamer over the years. Many of those senior kickers only played one or two years but were very successful.
The Hokies have a senior kicker this year, but things aren't going quite so well. Cody Journell, a three-year starter and former All-ACC kicker, has missed three field goals and an extra point in his last two games. The Hokies were fortunate it didn't cost them either game.
If Journell made the short field-goal attempt against the Yellow Jackets, it would have sealed the game.
Journell, who was suspended for last week's game, said a mechanical flaw caused him to struggle in Week 3 and he had fixed it. It sure didn't appear that way on Thursday.
Where do the Hokies turn if they bench Journell? Junior Ethan Keyserling had an opportunity last week and he, too, struggled. In Keyserling's defense, the conditions were horrible at Lane Stadium.
It's often said that when a kicker loses his confidence, he is effectively done. At this point it is hard to imagine the Hokies have a lot of confidence in Journell making a big kick for them.
Does Journell believe in himself?
This bears watching over the next few weeks.