BLACKSBURG, Va. – Six field goals and solid defensive play highlighted the Virginia Tech football team’s second full intrasquad scrimmage of the fall, which was held in Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon in front of several thousand fans and the Marching Virginians.
“I thought the hitting and the effort was excellent,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “I think there were some good things both offensively and defensively, but part of it looked ragged, and that’s where you are with two weeks to go. We want to improve as a football team and I think there was plenty out there that we can improve upon.”
Each of the offensive units struggled to get things going early on, but Tech’s place-kickers took care of the scoring. Redshirt senior Matt Waldron, who drilled all four of his field-goal attempts last weekend, once again hit all four of his chances (from 31, 32, 43 and 30 yards) to account for the scrimmage’s first 12 points. Junior Chris Hazley (28 yards) and freshman Cody Journell (37 yards) each nailed their lone attempts.
Although starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was a solid 8-for-11 for 78 yards, the defense made things hard to come by early on, with standout performances coming from tackle Cordarrow Thompson (seven tackles, four for a loss, one sack) and whip linebacker Cody Grimm (six tackles). The two teamed up on one of the scrimmage’s three turnovers when Thompson jarred the ball loose from tailback Zac Evans and Grimm scooped it up for a 14-yard return.
Mike linebacker Barquell Rivers returned an interception 38 yards after free safety Kam Chancellor hit receiver Jarrett Boykin right as Ju-Ju Clayton’s pass arrived, popping the ball into the air. Rivers, Demetrius Taylor and Matt Reidy each recorded five tackles apiece, with Reidy blocking a punt by Brian Saunders. Cornerback Cris Hill picked off a pass thrown by Logan Thomas and returned it 21 yards.
Clayton and Thomas continued their battle for the No. 2 quarterback job, though Beamer confirmed afterward that the staff prefers to redshirt Thomas and that he wouldn’t play unless he is needed.
“We think he’s got a chance to be a real talent, and that’s the reason we’d want to redshirt him,” Beamer said of Thomas. “As it stands right now, we’re not planning on playing him, but we’ll see where this goes over the next few weeks.”
Thomas completed 2-of-10 for 16 yards and the interception, while Clayton hit 6-of-10 for 61 yards and a pick.
“We’re going to let them both continue to work and we’ll evaluate this one,” Beamer added. “We thought both of them had played well enough that they deserved to go forward. We’re only trying to get one guy ready, but we felt like both of them deserved an opportunity.”
Aside from finding a backup for Tyrod Taylor, Tech’s other concern is to get its tailback contingent healthy. Josh Oglesby (hamstring) and David Wilson (shoulder) were both held out of this one, though.
“I think Wilson could have played,” Beamer said. “He wanted to, but we want to get him completely well and then get him some full-speed reps. We’re hoping to get Oglesby back next week, too. Those are two pretty good tailbacks who didn’t play today.”
Of the backs who did play, it was Tony Gregory who was the most productive. The freshman rushed 18 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, with one of the scores coming on a 15-yard jaunt and the other coming from two yards out in a goal-line situation.
“I think he’s legit,” Beamer said of Gregory. “A couple of times, I wish he’d gone up inside instead of bouncing it out, but he’s got real speed and I like the way he runs. He’s got my attention.”
Redshirt freshman Ryan Williams rushed just five times for 22 yards before spraining his ankle and sitting out the rest of the scrimmage. He did score on a 4-yard run and he returned several punts before calling it a day.
Fullback Kenny Jefferson accounted for the scrimmage’s only other touchdown, scoring on a 1-yard plunge in another goal-line situation.
The Hokies will hold another full scrimmage this Wednesday, but it will be closed to both the public and the media as Tech tries to hunker down for its Sept. 5th showdown with Alabama.
“We feel like we need to [close Wednesday’s scrimmage to the public],” Beamer concluded. “We need to work on some things for Alabama. I think it’s in our best interest to close it up.”
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