ATLANTA – The formula produced another win Thursday night. Virginia Tech’s offense did just enough and its defense stood on its head again as the Hokies notched a crucial 17-10 win over Georgia Tech in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
I’m flying back today so this installment of Upon Further Review is done without the benefit of re-watching the game. That said, here are four things worth noting from Thursday night’s game.
First down: Virginia Tech’s true freshmen cornerbacks aren’t rookies anymore.
Going into Thursday night’s game at Georgia Tech, there was reason for concern regarding the Hokies’ two true freshmen corners, Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller. With the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense, young corners can be tempted to cheat up to play the run, which can lead to getting beat for big plays in the passing game.
The inexperienced duo were involved in a number of big plays Thursday night, but they were the ones making them.
Facyson, who grew up about 30 minutes from Atlanta, came up with turnovers on the Jackets’ first two possessions, recovering a fumble on Georgia Tech’s first drive and ending the second with a diving interception, his nation’s best fourth of the season.
Fuller sealed the win intercepting Vad Lee’s final deep pass over the middle.
“Both of them are smart kids, tough kids, understand the game,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “They’re legit. They’re for real.”
Second down: Where were the yards for the running backs?
Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds was limited in practice this week after injuring his hip in the win over Marshall, but sophomore J.C. Coleman (ankle) was supposed to be close to full speed. But when the dust settled in Atlanta, none of Tech’s running backs had much of an impact on the game.
Coleman didn’t get a carry or catch, Edmunds finished with 1 yard on six rushes and had 3-yard reception and fellow redshirt freshman Chris Mangus carried the ball twice and lost two yards.
When the Hokies moved the ball on the ground, they did it courtesy of senior quarterback Logan Thomas. Playing with a strained abdomen, Thomas ran the ball 14 times for 76 yards and a 5-yard touchdown, not counting the 18 yards he lost on a pair of sacks.
“He’s mentally tough and physically tough the way he runs the football and bangs around people,” Beamer said. “I’m proud of that guy.”
Third down: Tech is consistently spreading the ball around in the passing game now.
Against Alabama, 20 of Thomas’ 26 pass attempts were targeted to either senior D.J. Coles or sophomore Demitri Knowles. But since that game, the Hokies have spread it around. That was the case again Thursday night, when Thomas completed passes to eight Hokies, finishing 19 for 25 for 221 yards and a 27-yard touchdown to Coles.
Former Hermitage High School standout Duan Perez-Means, the starting tight end, left the Hokies’ team this week for personal reasons and true freshman Kalvin Cline got the start Thursday in his place. Cline finished with three catches for 28 yards.
“I thought our throwing and catching was really good,” Beamer said. “That keeps coming along. And we’re going to be who we are and do what we’re best suited to do. I think the offensive staff did a good job, saying ‘OK. What are we capable of doing? What are our strengths right and let’s play to those.’”
Knowles led the way catching five passes for 67 yards. Walk-on Willie Byrn had four receptions for 44 yards. Byrn injured his knee during the game but said afterward he thought it was a sprain that wouldn’t force him to miss time.
Fourth down: The Hokies have a real problem on their hands with kicker Cody Journell.
Forget his off-the-field issues, which could keep him from playing at any point. Senior kicker Cody Journell hasn’t been good so far this season. He missed two field goals and an extra point against East Carolina two weeks ago, was suspended for the Marshall game, and then missed a critical 25-yarder in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Beamer downplayed the miss.
“It was close,” Beamer said. “What you worry about is when it’s a bad miss. Cody said he thought he had it. So I guess it was just left of the bar. I thought it was good when I saw it. But I’ve got bad sight.”