Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

October 29, 2013

Hokies still have hope, but need help from the offense

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Don’t count out the Hokies just yet.

That was the message from coaches and players after Virginia Tech suffered a stunning 13-10 home loss to Duke last Saturday in Blacksburg.

Even though the Hokies outgained the Blue Devils 387-198 and had the ball for nearly 20 minutes longer on offense, four turnovers, two missed field goals and ill-timed penalties doomed   Tech to defeat.

“The fact of the matter is we should have won that game,” Virginia Tech wide receiver Demetri Knowles said. “Everybody on our team knows we should have won that game, but we didn’t so I guess we just have to keep going and win out the rest of the way.”

That is the task ahead for the Hokies (6-2, 3-1), who still have hopes of a Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game, probably against Florida State.

“We’re still in the running,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “If Duke wins out, it’s in their hands, but if they don’t win out, it’s up to us. That’s the way I look at it.”

Virginia Tech is still in second place in the Coastal Division, one game behind No. 7 Miami (4-0), which has a tall task ahead this week at No. 3 Florida State. Meanwhile, the Hokies have to forget about Duke, which hadn’t beaten the Hokies since 1981, and focus on Boston College, which took the Hokies to overtime last season.

“There’s a lesson there, we’ve got to come together,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “If we win out we win our division. That’s the bottom line. We control our own destiny.”

That will be followed by a visit to Miami, a home game with Maryland, and another road trip to Virginia.

“It is going to be a hard one to shallow, but the season goes on,” Knowles said. “We have got to go ahead and get ready for the next one.”

What Virginia Tech must do is figure out its offense, which was nothing short of dreadful for most of Saturday’s game with Duke, letting down a defense that did its job, allowing less than 200 yards, picking off four passes and giving up just 13 points.

“The defense played lights out today,” Virginia Tech running back J.C. Coleman said. “You have got to give a lot of credit to those guys, they fought hard, as an offense we have to go out there  and do better than that.

“We have to score more points than them. That is what we have got to do.”

What Virginia Tech must do is find some playmakers besides quarterback Logan Thomas, who ran for 101 yards and threw for another 214, but also threw four interceptions.

“We worked hard in the offseason on running the football,” first-year offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler said. “We improved in running, but with turnovers it is tough to win games.”

The problem is Thomas appears to be the offense right now. The only play that consistently worked was Thomas running left, right or through the middle, which is sometimes better than throwing the ball since he continues overthrow or miss wide open receivers, throwing four picks against Duke, two of which were on tipped balls.

Beamer was asked about it after the game, and his response could be the answer to just about any game for the Hokies in the last two years.

“Well, that was kind of our best play,” said Beamer, of Thomas taking the role of running back and quarterback for the Hokies. “He’s a load running the football and he’s tough, so that’s what it got to.”

How bad as the Hokies’ offense been? They are 102nd in the nation in points scored, 105th in rushing yards, and 88th through the air, which often leaves the avid Virginia Tech fan base trying to find something to cheer about at Lane Stadium.

“It was a tough game, a tough loss, games like that we have got to win,” Virginia Tech running back J.C. Coleman said. “We win time of possession and get more yards than them and that is what we try to go out there and do, but at the end of the day you have got to put the ball in the end zone and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Virginia Tech entered the game having won six in a row, and the last five of those had come by 10 points or less. That means the Hokies have had little room for error, and that puts extra pressure on that defense, which is one of the nation’s best, ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed.

Still, the Hokies defense wasn’t casting blame elsewhere.

“If you had said we would have held them to 13 before the game, I would have thought we would have been good, our offense has really getting a lot better lately,” Tyler said. “But it is on us too, if we don’t let them score, we win. If we block a field goal or force them into longer field goals, we win. If we do a little bit better on special teams, return better, it is just a little bit of everywhere.

“We just didn’t execute well, we didn’t make enough plays, that is kind of what contributes to a loss.”

Winning close games is nice, but Duke isn’t a team that Virginia Tech should lose too. Even Foster seemed to say the same thing during postgame interviews, ‘saying that sometimes the best team doesn’t win, and I think today was one of those days.’

“It is very frustrating because we had ample opportunities to go out there and score and put points on the board,” Coleman said. “We had a few turnovers and we missed a couple of field goals, it is just tough to win games when you do those things and that is kind of what happened tonight.”

Give Duke credit, the Blue Devils made key plays when it mattered most, but the Virginia Tech faithful — which used to chant ‘Fire Stinespring’ — could soon turn on Loeffler, and possibly even Beamer too.

Tyler isn’t ready to panic just yet.

“I think everybody will be fine, it is hard right now right after the game, but we are a close-knit group,” Tyler said. “Tomorrow (Sunday) everybody will maybe not be as high as we have been the last couple of weeks, but everyone will still be fine, everybody will be excited to go to practice and get back up.

“We still all enjoy playing this sport. We love coming every out day, that is not going to change. We just have to get better at our craft and make sure we win out and get back in it.”

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

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