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October 15, 2012

Final Grades: Duke Comeback Win

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The first quarter and most of the second quarter looked like another disastrous start for Virginia Tech, which fell behind Duke 20-0. But the Hokies found themselves after that, running away with a 41-20 win. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of the Hokies' win:

Finally, it appears like junior Logan Thomas has not only found a rhythm, but can maintain it. Clearly agitated when junior running back Tony Gregory compounded the Hokies' rough start by juggling a pass that was intercepted by the Blue Devils, Thomas kept calm. He did a good job of putting his throws where they needed to be and knowing when to tuck and scramble. His receivers also finally helped him with few drops. Thomas looks comfortable and poised under center and in the pocket. Thomas arguably had just one poor throw, a first quarter deep route that sailed over the head of Marcus Davis.


Has the real starting running back stood up? Freshman running back J.C. Coleman had a monster game with 13 carries for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Once he got to the edge, on his to scoring runs, there was no stopping him. Fullback Joey Phillips also had a few excellent blocks, including on Coleman's first score and Gregory rebounded admirably from his receiving gaffe for eight rushes and 33 yards. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes has a big mountain to climb if he's to get back into the rotation, after just two carries for nine yards Saturday.


Senior Marcus Davis was the playmaker the Hokies needed to stretch the field. He did well to beat coverage on his first touchdown catch just before halftime and made a great adjustment on his second touchdown to come back for an underthrown ball. Davis hurt his right shoulder on the play and walked off gingerly. He still finished with five catches for 144 yards. Virginia Tech also got a great game out of tight ends Randall Dunn and Ryan Malleck, who each blocked well and made some big grabs over the middle of the field. Senior Corey Fuller was surprisingly absent, but junior Dyrell Roberts got in the mix with five short catches


The thin line just got a bit thinner as junior center Andrew Miller fractured his left leg and will miss the season. He underwent surgery this morning. Michae Via stepped in and struggled early, but finished strong in Miller's place. With Caleb Farris and David Wang still banged up, Brent Benedict and Matt Arkema will have to pick up the offensive line play, which overall gave up three sacks.


Pressure finally came from the Hokies' defensive front, which got five sacks on Duke quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Anthony Boone. Defensive ends James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Tyrel Wilson got good pressure on the outside, while up the middle, Luther Maddy and the Hopkins brothers did the rest. Dadi Nicolas even got in on a Blue Devils fumble late in the fourthh quarter when he got to Renfree and Maddy made the recovery. Great to see the line getting physical after being handled in previous games.


The Hokies' linebackers didn't have monster games but did what they were supposed to do. Jack Tyler had Bruce Taylor each had eight tackles, while Tyler also got in on a tackle for loss. Ronny Vandyke in action at the WHIP, also forced a fumble. The group did well to help in quarterback pressure, while not giving up a lot to the outside, as had been the case in previous games.


Still not a great game, but MUCH better after last week's debacle at North Carolina. Junior cornerback Kyle Fuller, still not 100 percent healthy, was beaten on Duke's opening drive touchdown and Antone Exum had a pass interference call, but there big mistakes seemed to be corrected. Rover Michael Cole particularly seemed to rebound well, with an interception and a fumble recovery, albeit with still a few miscues in contain and coverage. Safety Detrick Bonner had a big return of his second quarter interception, while Kyshoen Jarrett also had some nice pass coverage breakups. Still a work in progress, but much improved in a week's time.


Punter A.J. Hughes had an ugly 20-yard punt in the first quarter that shanked off the side of his foot. He recovered with a 52-yarder that boosted his four-punt average to 40.5 yards. Junior Cody Journell also matched his season-long with a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter to go with a 37-yarder in the second quarter. Not a big day in returns, but the Hokies didn't give up any either.


The majority of the first and second quarters were rough going for the coaches. But the offensive coaches did a nice job of mixing up plays. Going for the home run pass to Davis just before halftime pulled Virginia Tech closer and fully swung the momentum. Defensively, the Hokies made good adjustments after getting burned early on a couple of plays and used a good amount of blitzes and spies to throw off the Blue Devils, even when they got into Virginia Tech territory.


On homecoming, many fans were ready to hit the exits after another struggle early. But the crowd rallied behind Virginia Tech during their comeback and were treated to the biggest comeback under Frank Beamer. The roar of the crowd seemed to really energize the Hokies and helped them comeback and then add to their lead.



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