By HANK KURZ Jr.
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech is going from one extreme to the other.
One week after losing to No. 1 Alabama, the two-time defending national champions, the Hokies will welcome Western Carolina to Blacksburg on Saturday.
“This week’s about us,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said.
Virginia Tech played stout defense and ran the ball well against the Crimson Tide, but struggles in the passing game and on special teams gave them no chance in their 35-10 loss. Alabama scored on a punt return, a kickoff return and an interception return, the first time that trifecta has ever happened to a Frank Beamer-coached team. Offensively, quarterback Logan Thomas’ numbers were abysmal: 5 for 26 for 59 yards.
But it wasn’t all on Thomas; receivers dropped nearly twice as many balls as they caught.
“The pass game is a combination of a lot of things,” Loeffler said this week. “It’s a combination of protection. It’s a combination of receivers being at the proper splits, proper depth. And we need to improve in that area immensely. And there were some things Logan did excellent in that game.”
He also missed a few plays where he should have thrown the ball elsewhere, Loeffler said.
“We’ve got to get the wide receivers, the running backs, tight ends and Logan all tied together,” Loeffler, in his first season with the Hokies, said. “And the fact of the matter is that failed Saturday.”
The Catamounts (0-1), of the Southern Conference, know that feeling all too well. Their 45-24 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Aug. 29 was their 11th straight overall since their opener in 2012. Against Bowl Subdivision competition, they have dropped 27 in a row.
They’ll arrive at Lane Stadium taking the same approach as the Hokies.
“Obviously we’ve got a monumental task taking this team up to Blacksburg,” coach Mark Speir said. “But our approach to it is, we can’t worry about Virginia Tech — of course, we will schematically with what they do and how we best match up against them — but we’re taking the approach that it’s all about us, getting that consistency we need that we showed at times against Middle Tennessee, and to just continue to get better and concentrate on ourselves. We’ve just got to get better in all three phases.”
Here are five things to watch when Western Carolina plays at Virginia Tech:
LOGAN’S HEROES: Thomas has struggled with mechanics, but his passing numbers — and perhaps the final score — might have been different if his receivers had made routine catches against Alabama. The Hokies plan to add Charley Meyers, Joshua Stanford and maybe others to the WR rotation.
RETURN EXCITEMENT: While the Hokies allowed punt return and kickoff return touchdowns against Alabama, prompting several defensive starters to ask Beamer to be placed on the first-team coverage units, the Catamounts allowed a 57-yard punt return touchdown against Middle Tennessee State.
RUNNING CONSISTENCY: Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds turned heads for the Hokies by running for 132 yards against Alabama, but 77 of those yards came on a touchdown run in the first quarter. On its other 58 plays from scrimmage, the Hokies totaled just 135 yards.
OUCH: The Catamounts have lost 20 of their last 21 games. Their victory against Division II Mars Hill to open last season snapped a nine-game slide, and they haven’t won since.
COMMON OPPONENT: The Catamounts played Alabama in their regular season finale last year, losing 49-0. The Hokies lost 35-10 to the Crimson Tide in their season opener this year.