October 8, 2011
Hokies' offense answers call
By Marc Mullen

BLACKSBURG - Though the game came down to the final minute of action, what Virginia Tech did on its first offensive possession almost three hours before put to rest any of the doubts that might have lingered about the team’s offense and whether the Hokies could rebound after last week’s Clemson loss.

For the rest of the afternoon, the offense showed just how far it had come in one short week. In the 38-35 victory over Miami on Saturday at Lane Stadium, every time the Hurricanes put the ball in the end zone – sans one – the offense answered with points of its own, including on that game-winning drive.

“I thought our offense came back and answered every call. Every time they (the ’Canes) closed, our offense came back,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “The execution, the operation, the leadership, the toughness and being relentless – I thought it was all there.

“This was a great win for Virginia Tech. A great win. And the way it came about – I think it says a lot about our people and this football team.”

On Miami’s opening drive, Tech’s defense stopped the Hurricanes, not once, not twice, but three times in the red zone, the last on fake field-goal attempt from the 25-yard line on the ’Canes first drive – linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow stopped Hurricane holder Spencer Whipple for a two-yard loss – and the Hokies took over.

What followed was the longest drive – by yardage – allowed by Miami all season, lasting six minutes and 22 seconds and covering 84 yards. It wasn’t just that, though, as the offense overcame some of the mistakes that haunted it last week against Clemson.

The Hokies converted three third-down plays – they were just 4 of 16 last week against Clemson – and that included one after a false start penalty that turned a short third-and-1 into third-and-6. They committed five penalties in this game for just 35 yards as opposed to six for 60 against the Tigers.

Later in the drive, the Hokies faced a third-and-14 from the Miami 33, and quarterback Logan Thomas found tight end Chris Drager virtually alone in the left flat for a 22-yard gain. Drager would catch another pass – for 14 yards – giving him a career-high two receptions in the contest.

Two plays later, Thomas faked an inside hand-off and ran up the middle untouched for the Tech’s first score of the day. He was 5 of 6 passing on the drive for 77 yards, finding three different receivers, and his only miss was a pass to David Wilson that was dropped, his only incomplete pass of the first half.

“When we picked up that first third down, my feet were comfortable. I wasn’t patting the ball or anything like that,” Thomas said. “I was comfortable from there on out through the game. And once a quarterback gets comfortable, it makes the game a whole lot easier and slows the game down.”

That statement would prove accurate as Thomas guided Tech on three other scoring drives of 70 or more yards. The second, an 11-play, 77-yard drive, ended with a Wilson 3-yard touchdown reception with just four seconds left in the half that put the Hokies up 21-7 at the break.

Cody Journell capped a 12-play, 70-yard drive with a 28-yard field goal to make it 24-14 late in the third quarter. The last was the final drive – 77 yards in eight plays – with Thomas’ 19-yard run on a fourth-and-1 providing the exclamation point.

The four drives of over 70 yards almost doubled the number the Hokies put up in their first five games (five) and are four of the nine longest drives surrendered by the Miami defense this season.

“We showed resilience the whole game and nobody held their heads down low, and we just kept playing the whole way through and we came out with the victory,” said Jarrett Boykin, who caught a season-high seven passes for 120 yards, eclipsing his season total of 103 yards coming into the game.

And those drives don’t include a 60-yarder that took all of 10 seconds when Thomas found Boykin for a touchdown on the first play of that drive, putting the Hokies back up 10, 31-21, with 12:05 left in the contest.

“When they called that play, by myself, I just wanted to go out there and make a play,” Boykin said. “They (Miami) had just scored, but helped us with that penalty (the kickoff went out of bounds).

“They said that the coaches noticed that they were in Cover One [defense], and Logan just delivered a beautiful pass and the rest is just history from there.”

However, with all of the offensive weapons clicking – Thomas’ performance, Boykin’s resurgence, Wilson’s rushing (he finished with 128 yards) – the offense needed that one last drive to make the night’s turning point meaningful.

The winning drive resembled the final drive of the first half, which was only the second time Tech scored a touchdown with under a minute left in either half this season – against Appalachian State to end the first half. The only difference was the scoring play, which was reminiscent of the first Tech touchdown of the evening.

“I thought Mike O’Cain called a great game with input from Bryan (Stinespring). I thought Mike O’Cain kept them off balance. But good plays are always good when they work,” Beamer said.

Former Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor – in town thanks to the Baltimore Ravens’ bye week and on the sidelines for the game – may have summed up the last drive the best. Thomas recalled afterward what his former mentor said before Thomas took the field on that last drive.

“This is where legends are made. This is where you start your legacy,” Thomas said.

Only time will tell if last week’s performance by Thomas and the offense was an aberration and this week’s is the norm. Hokie fans are only hoping it isn’t vice versa.

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