In the course of a season in college football, every team has to win some games ugly.
Two out of the last three games, Virginia Tech has done just that.
After the Hokies pulled out a miraculous last-minute win over Nebraska three weeks ago, Tech dressed down mighty Miami and looked to continue firing on all cylinders against the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke was unwilling to cooperate, however, and their excellent efforts, coupled with sloppy, penalty-ridden play by the Hokies, made for a much closer game than most would have guessed.
I’ve been telling people for years that Thad Lewis is a good quarterback and that if he played anywhere but Duke, people would know a lot more about him.
In his career at Duke, Lewis has thrown for nearly 8,000 yards and 54 touchdowns. The Hokies found out the hard way Saturday that Lewis can burn defenses.
Lewis completed 22 of 40 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Tech’s defense was caught out of position several times and burned for long passing plays.
Senior Kam Chancellor has struggled in coverage during his first season playing safety. The Hokies’ inexperienced group of linebackers has also proven to be a weakness at times.
Senior Cody Grimm has been perhaps Tech’s best defender taking over for Chancellor at Whip linebacker. Grimm leads the team in tackles and has earned praise for his toughness and instinctive play.
Chancellor was an excellent player at Whip linebacker, but his skills don’t appear to lend themselves to playing safety.
Eddie Whitley, who started at corner against Marshall, is Chancellor’s backup at safety.
If Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster is compelled to tinker with his personnel, it would make sense to try Whitley at safety, move Chancellor back to Whip, and try Grimm out at the Backer position.
Sophomore Jake Johnson is the current Backer and is second on the team in tackles, but his aggressiveness sometimes works against him as he finds himself out of position. Redshirt sophomore Lyndell Gibson has been seeing more time at Backer as a result.
It will be interesting to see if Foster thinks a full-time switch or other temporary changes are necessary.
Of course, the bright spot from the game was the Hokie offense.
Duke put eight and nine men in the box and crowded the line of scrimmage, daring Tech to pass, and pass they did.
Tyrod Taylor had the best game of his career through the air. He was almost perfect, completing 17 of 22 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns.
Taylor’s receivers stepped up big. Despite an ill-advised personal foul and a fumble, Jarrett Boykin also had a career day, catching six passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
The dependable Danny Coale added 94 yards on three catches, including his first career touchdown.
While Duke was largely successful stopping the Hokie rushing attack, Ryan Williams still managed 83 yards on 24 carries, but the day belonged to Josh Oglesby.
Oglesby has been the forgotten man in the backfield this season, but he’s been making the most of his carries, rushing four times for 48 yards in the win over Miami and carrying six times for 59 yards and two touchdowns against Duke.
The emergence of Oglesby strengthens the backfield, giving Tech a legitimate backup to Williams who’s capable of carrying the load if need be.
The challenge for the Hokies the rest of this season will be to tighten up the defense and strike an offensive balance while wearing a gigantic target on their backs. Now that Tech sits ranked No. 5 in that nation, a spot that has been a revolving door of upsets this season, there is no doubt that they’re the favorite to win the ACC.
Traditionally, the Hokies have struggled as a front-runner. The journey to Tampa for the ACC championship game is paved with speed bumps; the first one comes in the form of Boston College next Saturday.