QB Logan Thomas gets his moment, and delivers
Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor said he knew exactly what play was being called as soon as he saw his back-up, redshirt freshman Logan Thomas, fumbling to take off his headset and grab his helmet off the sidelines.
It was third-and-goal early in the first quarter, after a 58-yard punt return by cornerback Jayron Hosley had set the Hokies up in prime field position inside Wake Forest's 10-yard line. But Thomas, who saw his first action of the year under center last week against Central Michigan, was not coming in to take Taylor's spot. Instead, he lined up to the left of the formation as a wide receiver.
At the snap, Taylor didn't even hesitate, lofting a pass towards Thomas in the corner of the end zone. The 6-foot-6, 242 pound Thomas then leaped over a Wake Forest defender and made a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch to give the Hokies a 7-0 lead they would never relinquish. As Taylor noted afterwards, Thomas did it with "no gloves, so he’s a heckuva athlete.”
Thomas, who has a 43-inch vertical jump, practiced some at tight end during the preseason, and had even done some extra work with corners covering him during recent weeks. But through six games this season, Virginia Tech hadn't utilized those packages.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said the plan was for Thomas to see some snaps at H-back against Central Michigan, but he tweaked his hamstring during Tuesday's practice leading into that game. This week, though, Thomas finally had his number called.
“It was just nice to be on the field and to come down with it was the best part of the whole situation," said Thomas, who also went 3 of 8 for 22 yards in relief of Taylor. “I think it brought a lot of energy to our team, just keeping us going in the right direction. It was just a nice little beginning of the career, I guess you could say.”
Some more postgames notes
*Speaking of dynamic offensive plays, Virginia Tech had a ton of them today, racking up 605 yards of offense and scoring touchdowns on seven of its eight first-half possessions. Really, it's hard to find fault in anything the Hokies did on that side of the ball.
They averaged more than 8.5 yards per play and their 49 points before halftime were the second-most since Coach Frank Beamer arrived here in Blacksburg 24 years ago. All of the hiccups that seemed to cause Virginia Tech's offense trouble earlier in the year evaporated against an inexperienced (and I'll say it, BAD) Wake Forest defense.
The Hokies were seven of eight in the red zone, and a week after going 0-fer on third down conversions against Central Michigan, they improved to 12 of 17 in that category. Maybe the most telling statistic was time of possession. Virginia Tech had the ball for 41 minutes, 26 seconds, a new record during the Beamer era.
It's only one week against a mediocre opponent, but with the meat of the schedule just around the corner, Saturday was an encouraging sign.
"Hopefully we can continue to build off this," said running back Darren Evans. "I think this is what we [thought] our offense to be in the beginning of the year, before games were played. It’s really good to pull it out like this today.”
*The performance of wide receivers Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts also deserves some recognition in this space. Roberts finished with a career-high six catches for 134 yards, including a beautiful grab along the sideline on a 42-yard bomb during the second quarter. Coale, an Episcopal High product, had struggled with drops a bit in recent weeks but recovered in a big way this week with 103 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Afterwards, Stinespring talked about how Friday night while the team was at the Hotel Roanoke, he happened to be in the room next to where Roberts and Coale were sleeping. After bed checks, Stinespring slipped a note under their door that was supposedly from the Wake Forest secondary. It read, "I hope you sleep well underneath your covers tonight because we’re gonna cover you tomorrow."
"About ten minutes later I got another little note underneath my door, too," said Stinespring. "But I can’t repeat it.”
Here's what Roberts had to say about his career day: "Coming in this week watching film and seeing how the secondary played, it was just a matter of the position that I play that we seen some openings and we just took advantage of the openings that they were giving us."
*The defense, meanwhile, endured another day in which an opponent gained more than 300 yards. But Wake Forest's 346 yards are a bit misleading since 235 of them came on four plays. Otherwise, the Hokies defense only gave up 2.9 yards per play and allowed just four completions the entire game.
But we can't just eliminate those plays, they did happen and the defense made some costly mistakes. Demon Deacons running back Josh Harris gained 241 yards on the ground, the most allowed in school history. The previous mark belonged to Paul Palmer of Temple, who gained 239 yards against the Hokies in 1986. Here's the key, though. Palmer accomplished that in 44 carries; it only took Harris 20 attempts to set a new record.
I'm not sure if the television folks picked this up or not, but all three of Harris's big runs came off of the same inside handoff from the shotgun formation. And each time, there was a gaping hole in the exact same spot of the defensive line. I asked cornerback Rashad Carmichael about this afterwards.
"We just had a gap open, there wasn’t supposed to be a gap open, but guys fit in the wrong way," he said. "The running back, he has good vision and exposed us. ... At the same time we were running some different stuff today, which guys weren’t too comfortable with. After those couple big plays … we went back to the basics."
Carmichael wouldn't get into detail, fearing he might incur the wrath of defensive coordinator Bud Foster if he was more specific. But against the teams the Hokies will have to get past in November, giving up big plays like that will not be as easy to overcome.
*So what did we learn today? Well, when it puts all the pieces together, this offense is as good as was advertised during all the preseason build-up. But Stinespring's crew has yet to prove they can do it against the ACC's best, and next week against Duke certainly won't provide that sort of litmus test.
That said, you can't ask for much more than you got Saturday. I don't know if I've ever seen a team move the ball the way the Hokies did in the first half. It sure seems a lot shorter than five weeks ago that this squad was 0-2. I'll let Beamer have the last word.
“I credit the kids," he said. "You got a bunch of bad guys running around and you go 0-2, you’re probably not gonna come out of it.”