By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
The White team didn’t need those 13 points.
That new and improved Virginia Tech offense was missing in action during the Hokies’ Orange-White spring game on Saturday. Either that, or perhaps — as head coach Frank Beamer said — some backups might need to be starters.
“In the end you are trying to get where the game is close in the fourth quarter so you can find out some things about your football team,” Beamer said. “What I found out is maybe some of those second team guys need to be first team guys, it was the first team against the rest...
“I credit the second teamers on down, they did their job today, and the two interceptions were the big thing.”
Logan Thomas threw three interceptions in the first half, two of which were returned for touchdowns in the opening period, and the Hokies’ rushing attack managed just 23 yards, as the starter-dominated Orange team dropped a 27-9 decision to the White team in front of an estimated 25,00 fans on sunny, but chilly Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle, who played for the Orange, felt like his team would have no problem making up the 13-points the White team was given prior to the game.
“I thought it was going to be cake work honestly, but they came out there and they played well, and we were just not able to overcome it,” Gayle said. “If they didn’t score the two touchdowns we still would have lost though. It was just one of those days.”
Beamer, who is in his 27th season with the Hokies, did see some positives for the Hokies, who will open their 2013 campaign in 133 days against two-time defending national champion Alabama on Aug. 31 in Atlanta.
“Our defense has a chance to be very good, we have to keep working and keep improving, I think that showed there today,” Beamer said. “Kicking-wise, I think we can be very good, we have some good kickers and some good return guys…
“Offense, we have got to get more consistent. We have heard that before, but in catching the ball, the blocking up front, I can tell you there is more to our offense than we showed today, but we also started out trying to get a good foundation and I think we have done that.”
Beamer made three changes to his offensive coaching staff in the offseason, including the addition of coordinator Scot Loeffler, but the Hokies’ first game in front of the Virginia Tech faithful included just one touchdown, a 30-yard pass by Mark Leal to Ryan Malleck to narrow the margin to 27-9 in the third of four 10-minute quarters.
Malleck (3-45) and Thomas’ cousin, Zack McCray (4-65), showed promise at tight end, while Joshua Sanford was the top receiver with three receptions for 86 yards.
Yet, it was Thomas that Virginia Tech fans were anxious to see. He struggled last season after a stellar sophomore campaign, and has worked in the spring with Loeffler, but Thomas said much of the new offense is still waiting to be installed in the fall.
“The ball wasn’t coming out of my hand great all day and offensively we only got a little bit in,” Thomas said. “The defense they were playing allowed us to just two or three plays the entire time. It is tough when you landlocked like we were.”
Thomas completed 16-of-29 passes for 214 yards, along with three interceptions and he was sacked three times. He was on target with his first nine throws, but two of those went to the White team, and those were returned for touchdowns and a 27-0 lead after one quarter.
“All of ya’ll are going to say and people are going to say that I had a bad day today, but I can’t complain about how I played,” Thomas said. “I threw the ball the way I wanted to, I hit my spots and I was accurate. I really can’t complain in that area.
“My mechanics got better, my accuracy got better, that is all I can ask for from learning the playbook. I am excited to go through this summer, work with these guys, get them better and get me better and we will be ready in the fall.”
Thomas completed a short pass to Joshua Sanford on the Orange team’s first possession, and he dashed 57 yards, but was brought down at the 4. After three running plays netted negative-2 yards, Thomas tried a pass to Dmitri Knowles at the goal line, but Der’Woun Greene jumped the route, caught the ball and ran 98 yards for the touchdown.
“I seen the ball coming and I jumped on it and I just took it to the crib,” said Greene, who added about running so far with the ball, “it was tiring. I was kind of tired, but once you get the ball in your hand you can be a playmaker from there.”
It happened again in the Gold’s next shot with the ball. Sanford admitted that he turned the wrong way on the route, which allowed Donovan Riley to snag a Thomas pass and run 53 yards for another defensive touchdown, and a 27-0 White team lead.
T.J. Shaw also picked off a Thomas pass in the second quarter, and the Hokies rushing attack, which was a problem all last season, had 23 total yards in the game. Virginia Tech was led in rushing by Michael Holmes with 24 yards, while Trey Edmunds had the game’s longest run at 41 yards, but it was nullified by one of 11 penalties that were called.
Both teams managed just 23 yards on the ground on just 22 carries.
“I thought when we gave them 13 points I didn’t think that would be a problem because we had the majority of 1s on our team,” Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller said. “It does seem like the offense wasn’t playing well, but I felt like we would get it together.
“I know it was a spring game, but I have faith in those guys and I know they will be all right.”
The only points scored the rest of the half was a safety when Kris Harley knocked the ball loose from White team running back Maurice Taylor at the goal line and it was recovered by the Gold team in the end zone. That narrowed the margin to 27-2 at the break.
Leal, who is the top back-up to Thomas, was able to lead the Hokies on a 9-play, 66-yard drive in the third quarter, connecting with Malleck with 6:20 on the clock.
“I think overall I did all right. I didn’t get to play too much, but when I was in I just tried to make the most of every opportunity,” Leal said. “I feel like I did OK, there were a couple of throws I would like to have back, but other than that I thought I did well.”
The White team had just 87 yards in the game, compared to 297 for the Orange, but those 13 points and two interceptions were too much for the starters to overcome.
Or, perhaps, the White team defense should get the credit. They were led in tackles by Deon Clarke with nine, while Devin Vandyke had three tackles for loss. Carl Jackson paced the Gold team with five stops.
“I would say it was the defense that was making them struggle,” Greene said. “I would say they need to come together more as a team. Once they come together as a unit, they will be good in the fall.”
*Eleven Hokies didn’t play in the game, including safety Antone Exum, who is out with a knee injury, along with fellow starters in guard David Wang and defensive end Tyrel Wilson.
*Several spring football awards were given out at halftime of the game, which also included the introduction of 10 Virginia Tech players who are now in the NFL.
*Team captains for 2013 will be Thomas, Fuller, Derrick Hopkins and Andrew Miller.
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org