Virginia Tech Football: Report Card Grades for the Hokies' Win Against Miami
If you heard a loud roar yesterday around 7 p.m. Eastern time, it was probably from the crowd at Lane Stadium watching the Hokies take down Miami at home to keep their hopes of reaching another ACC championship game within reach.
It's hard to explain, really, how an offense can play so bad one week and then look incredible the next. The credit has to go to the coaching staff and to the players to rebound like they did. That being said, there are still a few concerns, mostly because of injuries for the Hokies moving forward.
Here's how the Hokies graded out against their win over Miami.
After an abysmal performance against Clemson, a week of tough questions from the media and the pressure of stepping up and taking the next level as quarterback of Virginia Tech, Logan Thomas played the game of his life.
He may never have a performance like that again. Thomas went 23-of-25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He added two scores on the ground, including the go ahead 19-yard touchdown run on fourth down and one that locked the game up for the Hokies.
Everything that Thomas had been struggling with all season vanished against Miami. He was confident in the pocket, ran when we had to and put the ball on the money for his receivers. He also did a great job of utilizing the running backs in the backfield.
If Thomas can continue to play like this, or close to this level, then the Hokies will be tough to beat no matter who they face.
David Wilson is the featured back of this offense, and that was made loud and clear yesterday. Through the first five games of this season, Wilson would be left standing on the sidelines for sometimes an entire drive.
Yesterday, Wilson only came out of the game when he needed a breather. Josh Oglesby carried the ball only two times for four yards, and third string running back Tony Gregory received only one carry.
Wilson carried 23 times for 128 yards and added four catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. If Thomas continues to play at a high level under center, it should only help Wilson moving forward.
Virginia Tech's receivers had their best day as a group this year, and it's obviously due to the play by Thomas. However, this group was dropping a number of balls early in the season, and the only drop yesterday was from Wilson.
Jarrett Boykin had his best day of the season by far, recording seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. Danny Coale added five catches for 91 yards and Marcus Davis caught three for 31 yards.
This group is loaded with playmakers, and they've just been waiting for someone to get them ball. Things should continue to improve for this group if Thomas continues to progress.
The offensive line was able to rebound from last week and did a great job of giving Thomas time to throw and opening up the running lanes for Wilson.
Miami did not bring a lot of pressure in the first half, but turned up the heat in the second half. For the most part, the line remained strong and did a great job of replacing right guard Jaymes Brooks who left with an ankle injury.
Overall, this offensive line has been good this year. Miami isn't the defense they used to be, but they still have a lot of athletes to account for, and the offensive line can add another strong outing to their 2011 report card.
This is where the majority of the Hokies' problems came from on defense against Miami, and it's likely because of a number of injuries. The Hokies lost Antoine Hopkins for the season after he tore his ACL against Clemson, so they were already short coming into the Miami game.
Then, arguably their best pass rusher, James Gayle, left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Gayle was quickly becoming one of the leaders of this defense, so his absence was going to be felt.
It was, as Miami's Lamar Miller ran all over the Hokies' defense. Plus, there was not a tremendous amount of pressure put on quarterback Jacory Harris, which allowed a few plays to open up down field.
It didn't help either that Miami has one of the biggest offensive lines in college football, and it was evident on Saturday. Miami's offensive line dominated Tech's defensive front and was a big reason Miami was able to stage a comeback.
Gayle or no Gayle, Bud Foster has some work to do with his defensive front.
The Hokies' linebackers continue to struggle with pass coverage over the middle of the field. They also did a poor job of tackling, especially when Miami rushed the ball.
The linebacking corps also suffered a loss when Jeron Gouveia-Winslow sprained his foot and did not return. However, Alonzo Tweedy stepped up with a huge game, recording eight tackles and a sack.
Bruce Taylor continues to be the leader of this group, but the Hokies have to do a better job of tackling, pressuring the passer with their linebackers and covering the middle of the field. Until that happens, you'll continue to see big plays given up by the defense.
The Hokies' secondary became a victim of their own aggression on multiple occasions yesterday. If you go for it all sometimes you're left with nothing, and that's what happened on the 77-yard touchdown catch by Travis Benjamin.
Instead of playing the receiver, Eddie Whitley tried to play the ball and he got burned. He's not the only one on this group that does it. Jayron Hosley is famous for doing this, but he does it a little better than Whitley.
That being said, that's what this group does best. They take chances, and usually, they pay off. However, this time, it almost cost the Hokies the game because that play put Miami right back into it. This is an athletic secondary, but they continue to give up way too many big plays, and sometimes, it's due to poor tackling.
This group needs to start playing smarter and more consistent. The big play is nice, but playing smart gives you a better chance to win.
The Hokies came into this week with one of the worst punting games in college football. By one of the worst, I mean 117 out of 119. That's terrible, and it's because of Scott Demler's inability to punt the ball, which is a problem considering he was the punter.
Frank Beamer finally pulled the plug on Demler and put in true freshman Michael Branthover. He only punted twice, but on his first punt, Branthover punted the ball 52 yards and jogged to the sideline, receiving a huge ovation.
His second punt only went 32 yards, but he looks like the Hokies' best option for now. Cody Journell made his only field goal attempt, and the Hokies stuffed a Miami fake field goal attempt on their first possession, which turned out to set the Canes back big in the end.
Overall, it was a much better performance for the Hokies' special teams, which had been struggling all season.
The offensive coaching staff took a quantum leap forward against Miami. They called more of a hurry-up offense, they called smart plays that utilized the runners out of the backfield and they took some shots down field.
They played quick, aggressive and smart for the majority of the game, and it showed. It was a welcome change for Hokie fans.
Defensively, Bud Foster has been hit by the injury bug. Foster already has a very young defense, and the guys he has behind his young guys are even younger. The good news for Foster is he won't face an offensive line that big or running back of Miller's caliber again, at least in ACC play.
What is concerning is the defensive line. The Hokies' should be able to weather the storm for the next couple of weeks, but against a team like Georgia Tech, the defensive line is going to have to play well.
Beamer finally made a change at punter, and although we only have two punts to go off of, it looks like the Hokies will be better off with Branthover.
There was one thing that stood out more than anything else in the Hokies' win against Miami, and that was Thomas' leadership.
Thomas, a redshirt sophomore with only five starts under his belt coming in to the Miami game, was asked to lead his team down the field with about three minutes left and score a touchdown.
A week ago, Hokie fans would have been terrified by that situation. But Thomas was having one of the greatest games ever by a Virginia Tech quarterback, and you could tell that he was confident and comfortable in the setting.
He led the team down the field, and when faced with a fourth down and one on the 19-yard line the Hokies' coaching staff put the ball in Thomas' hands, who rushed the ball into the endzone for the game winning go-ahead score.
Leadership is hard to find, but Thomas showed that he has the ability to be the leader that the Hokies' need to compete. Now, he needs to build off of this performance and continue to grow as a quarterback as the Hokies try to win their fourth ACC title in five years.