Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

November 17, 2013

Column: One game at a time? Ask Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Give Virginia Tech credit, they can sure make it interesting.

 See if you can figure out the Hokies. Or even West Virginia, which can take Texas to overtime one week, and lose to lowly Kansas the next.

 Hey, even Virginia Tech sophomore running Trey Edmunds isn’t sure why college football is as unpredictable as it is. Who would have expected the Hokies to lose to Maryland, which they did in a 27-24 overtime decision on Saturday against the Big 10-bound Terrapins.

 “You never know,” said Edmunds, with a smile. “The game of football, anyone can win.”

 Believe it. No wonder college football is so much fun, but can be frustrating for a player, coach or fan.

 Just look at the Hokies. In their previous home game, Virginia Tech was shocked 13-10 by Duke, and that was followed by more turnovers and a 34-27 loss at Boston College.

 ACC hopes over, right?

 Not so fast.  

 Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3) goes to Miami _ which had lost the week before convincingly to Florida State, but still had the Coastal Division lead _ and all the Hokies do is score 42 points to get right back into the race.

  In fact, the Hokies knew that with wins over struggling Maryland and Virginia that they could still claim the Coastal Division title and play second-ranked Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.

 Who would have thought that losses at home to Duke and Maryland could dash those dreams.

 “It is the game of football,” echoed Edmunds. “Anything can happen any day.”

 Something like this seems to happen every week. Don’t ask Edmunds to figure out why the Hokies were dominant against a nationally-ranked team in Miami, but felt flat against Duke, Boston College and Maryland.

 “I just think it is the game of football, each week has its different curves thrown at you and this week just wasn’t as good as last week,” Edmunds said. “I still feel like we went out there and played a great game, but at the end of the day, we just didn’t come out victorious.”  

 Yet, it all sounded so good. Maryland had lost three straight and four of five since starting 4-0 on the season, finishing off that run with a 37-0 shellacking of West Virginia.

 Maryland did nothing with the football for the first quarter and a half, collecting two first downs, losing one fumble and nearly had another that could have been a Virginia Tech touchdown, but was overturned by replay.

 It took a 63-yard punt return by William Likely to put the Terrapins on the board, and that seemed to be the spark they needed.

 Those early struggles quickly changed to big plays, especially from quarterback C.J. Brown, who accounted for 257 yards and three touchdowns.

 “At the end of the day Maryland just came out and made more plays than we did,” Edmunds said. “I am not taking nothing from us and I am definitely not taking nothing from them. I feel like we both went out there and we both played good games and they made more plays.”

  Meanwhile, the Hokies were just 4-of-16 on third down conversions, didn’t call any of its three timeouts in the final minutes to get the ball back in regulation, and settled for a field goal by freshman walk-on kicker Eric Kristensen to start the overtime.

 “I think as an offense we really wanted to score a touchdown,” Virginia Tech receiver Willie Byrn said. “Obviously you always want to score a touchdown rather than field goals, especially in overtime.

 “We didn’t do that, we still have confidence in our ‘d’, but stuff happens. Maryland took advantage of something they saw and here we are.”

 Brown was able to dive to the end zone from three yards out to help the Terrapins shock the Hokies in the extra period.

 “We had some early opportunities and the longer they hung around the better they got…,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “It is what it is right now. If we had started out a little tougher, we’d be OK, but the longer Maryland was in it, the better they got. That is to their credit.”

 Maryland followed that punt return with 14 more points to take a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter before the Hokies scored twice to tie the score at 21-21.

 Virginia Tech still felt confident, but certainly didn’t show the ability to score like they did against Miami, which left the Hokies _ and us sports writers_ trying to figure out what happened a week later against a team with less talent than the Hurricanes, and probably the Hokies too.

  “Last week we cut down the no-talent issues and did a good job and everything was growing, that stuff just happens,” said Byrn, who hesitated before continuing on. “It is definitely frustrating, but we are just going to get back in, watch film and get better.

 “Youth might play a factor here or there, but we have just got to be consistent and that is something we are going to learn.”  

 It was the final home game for the Virginia Tech seniors, and the rest of the Hokies wanted to send them out with a smile. Instead, those hopes were dashed.

 “It is devastating, those guys were truly leaders and they really showed us some things that we never knew about the game,” Edmunds said. “Just for those guys to go out on a low instead of on high, I just really feel for them. I just hope that their future is bright.”

 Virginia Tech’s future will come down to playing Virginia in two weeks. There is still hope in the jumbled Coastal Division that the Hokies could still wind up in Charlotte against the Seminoles, but there are too many scenarios to list here.

 As the Hokies learned the hard way, the game must be won first before thinking ahead to the possibilities. The fact that it is Virginia, which has lost seven games in a row, is enough reason to focus on the next game.

 “You have definitely got to win it, in-state rivals,” Edmunds said. “Most of us played with those guys in high school, most of us know all those guys. It is going to be a real fun game and like Logan (Thomas) said, this is a must-win game.”  

 Edmunds has family connections to both teams on the field Saturday. A talented tailback from Dan River High School, his father is Ferrell Edmunds, who played for seven years in the NFL, twice earning Pro Bowl honors. He also played at … Maryland.

 Yet, Trey knew how his father felt after this particular game.

 “Most definitely my father was rooting for me,” said Edmunds, with a smile. “Maryland is his alma mater, but, hey, Maryland played a good game, we played a good game. They came out victorious and we have just got to live with it and get ready for Virginia.”

 Now the Hokies must wait around for 13 days before playing another game, which is a long time to think about what might have been.

 As Edmunds points out, who knows what will happen between now and then in college football.  

 “It is definitely going to sting a lot, just all this time to think about it and just think about all the plays we left on the field and to think about how we should have, could have and would have,” Edmunds said. “Hey, it is the game of football.

 “We just have to move on and get ready for the next one.”

*****

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com.

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