By Rakin Hamad (@RakkAttackk)
#1 Alabama (1-0): 35 – Virginia Tech (0-1): 10
A 25-point loss should be disappointing for a team with the prestige of Virginia Tech, but the Hokies and their fans are leaving Atlanta with some optimism. Below are three good and three bad observations we can make about the Hokies.
1) Virginia Tech has the best defense in the ACC.
The Hokies’ defense looked like a legit SEC defense on Saturday. They dominated Alabama’s offensive line and were able to hold Alabama to 206 total yards. Alabama averaged 445 yards last season and their offense couldn’t be stopped by great defenses like LSU and Georgia. Virginia Tech DT Luther Maddy was outstanding on Saturday, whether it was knifing his way into the backfield or taking up blockers for LB Jack Tyler and the gang. While DE James Gayle didn’t have any sacks, he was a consistent force in the backfield and helped ruin the Crimson Tide’s rhythm. In the secondary the Fullers, freshman Kendall and senior Kyle, both shut down Alabama’s talented skill players. The secondary was another question mark due to Antone Exum’s injury, but Kendall looks like a star as a freshman and Kyle looks healed from his injuries last year and back to his playmaking ways.
2) The Hokies have a running back and his name is Trey Edmunds.
With RB J.C. Coleman sidelined due to two sprained ankles, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Hokies would struggle to run the ball. Well Virginia Tech actually out-rushed Alabama 153 to 96, and Trey Edmunds exploded on to the scene with his 77-yard touchdown sprint at the end of the first quarter. In addition, he showed a lot of strength and toughness through pushing the pile on almost all of his runs. Averaging 6.6 yards a carry on 20 carries versus this Alabama defense and outplaying Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon is a huge accomplishment, look for Edmunds to be the offensive playmaker the rest of the way.
3) We now have answers on the Offensive Line
This offensive line was very suspect going into Saturday, but they answered all of the questions. Nick Saban said after the game that the Hokies’ offensive line outplayed his front seven, a thought that seemed impossible before the game. True freshman LT Jonathon McLaughlin and RG Andrew Miller were two of the standouts on Saturday, and if they can standout versus this front seven then the rest of the ACC needs to be on the lookout.
1) Beamer Ball
A punt-return touchdown by Alabama WR Christion Jones on their first possession was bad, but giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown by Jones after the Hokies had gained some momentum and had cut the lead to 11 in the second quarter was worse. This can’t be a trend that continues and Frank Beamer said after the game that he will play veterans instead of freshman on special teams in the future. Giving up those 14 points cost the Hokies a chance in this game.
2) Logan Thomas
As a talented senior entering his third season as a starter, expectations are deservedly high for QB Logan Thomas. Not only did he fall short of those expectations, but he wasn’t anywhere near the vicinity of them. The offensive line was great and he did not face much pressure, but even without pressure he missed throws and made bad decisions. His worst decision came in the second quarter, when the Hokies had cut the lead to seven and got the ball back. Thomas telegraphed his pass right over the middle of the field to Alabama S Vinnie Sunseri who took it back for a touchdown and killed the Hokies momentum. Stats don’t tell the whole story, but there’s really no way around 5/26 for 59 yards and an interception.
3) The Wide Receivers
As bad as Logan Thomas was, his wide receivers might have been worse. Their hands were atrocious all game, especially Demitri Knowles, and on the aforementioned pick-6 D.J. Coles looked like he ran a half-effort slant route. The slant route has to be a sharp cut and full speed, and Coles rounded out his route, which, in addition to Logan Thomas’ awful decision, led to Sunseri’s interception.
Key Matchup Rewind: QB Logan Thomas vs LB CJ Mosley
LB C.J. Mosley was pretty quiet this game due to the outstanding effort of Edmunds and the offensive line, but he wins this match up solely based on Logan Thomas’s awful performance.
For Alabama a matchup with Johnny Football and Texas A&M will be their next game two weeks from Saturday. They will need to play a lot better, but the Crimson Tide are still the most talented team in college football. Look for the Alabama offensive line to respond and get back to their usual dominance on September 14th. The Hokies will face Western Carolina next Saturday, and while the score showed a blowout, there is plenty room for optimism that the Hokies can compete in the ACC.