« Lamar Thomas, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis headline 2014 UM Sports Hall of Fame inductees | Main | Homecoming helmet and jersey surprise tonight for Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech »

A view from the other side: five questions with Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter (The Roanoke Times and Virginian-Pilot)

Thanks to Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times for giving his perspective on Saturday's game. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyBitterVT. For Andy's sake and all the fans coming to UM's Homecoming game Saturday, hope the weather forecasters are wrong about rain for tomorrow night.

The questions and answers:

SMD: Logan Thomas has had eight turnovers the last two games, both VT losses. Is there any undercurrent for change by the Hokies?

 AB: There’s a growing sentiment among a minority of the fans that it’s time to move on from Logan Thomas, but you won’t hear that from his teammates or the coaching staff, who have backed the senior quarterback 100 percent. And probably rightfully so. Lost in the cries for change is the fact that Thomas still shoulders most of the offensive load, passing, obviously, but also rushing. He threw for 391 yards against Boston College and ran for a team-high 38. He accounted for 96 percent of the Hokies’ yards in that game. Earlier this year against Georgia Tech, he actually had more yards than the team had (other players accounted for negative yardage). His backup, Mark Leal, has never played meaningful minutes and doesn’t present a rushing threat, so thoughts of putting him in the game are more a fan’s fantasy than anything.

 Thomas can still be an effective quarterback if he doesn’t turn the ball over. When Tech won its first three ACC games, he didn’t have a turnover. In the two games the Hokies have lost, he’s had eight. It’s pretty black and white. It’s unrealistic to think that a guy who has 33 turnovers since the start of last season is all of a sudden going to completely eliminate them, but if he can eliminate them at key moments -- like last week’s pick six on a terrible throw off his back foot across the middle when the game was tied at 20-20 -- then the Hokies have a good enough defense to carry the team. He just needs to be smart with the ball, or at least smarter than he’s shown the last few weeks.

 

SMD: Does anything change for Virginia Tech’s defensive approach now that Duke Johnson is out (broken ankle) and Dallas Crawford is in at running back for Miami?

  AB: Talking to the coaches, they have a high respect for Crawford,too, so it doesn’t sound like the Hokies will do much different schematically from what they had intended on doing. Honestly, I don’t think they’ll change too much of what they’ve been doing all year, either. BC’s Andre Williams ran for 166 yards last week, but 62 of that came on one busted run at the end. His other 32 carries produced 102 yards, a 3.18 average, which is a number defensive coordinator Bud Foster would take in a second against the ACC’s leading rusher.

 Stopping the run has still been Virginia Tech’s forte. It ranks ninth nationally, allowing only 102.7 yards per game. Only three teams have topped the 100-yard mark against the Hokies this year, and one was Georgia Tech, which only ran for 129 yards, less than half its season average. There has to be at least some relief on the Hokies that they won’t have to face Johnson, who ran for 100 yards against them last year, although it might be a bigger deal on special teams, where he’s a huge factor and reeled off an 81-yard kick return in last year’s matchup. Tech’s players and coaches talk about Miami as though it’s an assembly of great running backs (which it is), so they’re not taking things lightly simply because the established star is out. “It seems like the next running back down there is just waiting to be star,” head coach Frank Beamer said.

 

SMD: Stephen Morris hasn’t been too careful with the ball. Will the Hokies, who specialize in pressuring the quarterback and intercepting passes, be licking their chops?

AB: It’s been mentioned this week that Morris can be rattled. And rattling QBs is Virginia Tech’s specialty. The Hokies have 28 sacks, which are ninth-most nationally, and 17 interceptions, which is second. So they’ll no doubt come after Morris with all they’ve got, especially considering how important it is to get the ball in favorable field position for its struggling offense.

 Granted, most teams know that that’s how Virginia Tech approaches things. Boston College was smart about it, putting its quarterback in max protect situations, rolling him away from pressure and rarely asking him to make any kind of throws downfield. The Eagles played that offense to a T and didn’t turn the ball over or allow a sack, which lessened the impact the Hokies’ defense could have on the game. I’d imagine Miami might try something similar, considering how turnover-prone Morris is. The Canes have a running game they can rely on. That’ll be key. The Hokies’ stated goal every week is to make teams one-dimensional by stopping the run, then go after the quarterback and force mistakes. Miami has to run it and throw it, or it will play into Tech’s hands.

 

SMD: Kicker Cody Journell has missed several field goals this year. Does Virginia Tech still have faith in him?

 AB: Somewhat surprisingly. Journell has had a strange year. He’s just 10-for-16 on field goals and had a stretch where he couldn’t hit anything. Yet he’s also won ACC Specialist of the Week honors twice in the last four weeks, first for going 4-for-5 with a career-long 48-yarder against Pittsburgh and last week for hitting from 56 and 47 against Boston College. But in between those games, he missed two 40-plus field goals against Duke that ultimately was the difference in the game.

 I don’t know if Hokies fans still trust him when he goes out there, but Beamer does. He’s showed a steadfast faith in the kicker throughout his struggles, against popular opinion, and was vindicated to a degree last week. Still, I think Journell is going to be a guy who could go back to his missing ways just as quickly as he regained his form. He just hasn’t been steady this year.

 He’ll continue to kick, though. Tech doesn’t have many other options. Ethan Keyserling stepped in during the Marshall game when Journell was serving a one-game suspension and went 0-for-3 (admittedly in a driving rain). Journell’s made big kicks before -- he had three game-winners last year -- and Beamer, the one who counts, thinks he can do it again. So he’ll be the guy.

 

SMD: The Hokies were 7-6 last year and are coming off losses to Duke and Boston College this year. Is there any hope Frank Beamer can get this team back to what it once was, winning 10 games a year?

 AB: It’ll be a process. When the Hokies were 6-1, everyone thought this team was back on its way to being the old Virginia Tech, which won 10 games for eight straight years prior to last season. Back-to-back losses to Duke and Boston College have brought fans back to reality. And the reality is, this is very much a work in progress. Even when the Hokies were building that 6-1 record, they did it without a ton of offense. They just weren’t turning the ball over, getting by on a very small margin of error. Not too much has changed the last few weeks, except the turnovers. And for a team that was just getting by, those were enough to put it on the wrong side of the final score.

 I think, given time, the overhaul to the offensive coaching staff the Hokies did last offseason, bringing in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, will be a positive. But he’s not exactly working with a stacked deck this year. Yes, Thomas is a senior, but his oldest running back is a sophomore, three of his top four receivers are a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a former walk-on, the tight end is a true freshman, as is the fullback, and the offensive line is inexperienced, with a true freshman starting at left tackle. So it’s a transition year, even with the headliner -- Thomas -- being a fifth-year senior.

 Until these new coaches can replenish the ranks through recruiting and build some experience, I don’t think Tech will get back to that 10-win plateau that became the norm for it for so long. But Foster’s defense is going to be a constant. It has been for nearly 20 years. If the offense can just show minimal improvement in its efficiency, the Hokies will continue to be a player in the ACC.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Man my typing sucks.

they did lose*

I have been trying to explain to morons like zook why
d'o is a friggin moron. But I see my error. children
these days need a picture to understand anything, maybe even a lap top or a smart phone.

Anyway, here is why a D'O's and goldie's three down linemen NO defense does not stop a run.
....o........ running back on Cane's opp. team.
.oooOooo..... blockers on Cane's opponents' team
..x x x ..... Cane NO def linemen
. . five yards of empty space
...x.x....... Cane LBs
----------------------------
.....8........ big people running over Canes with just 3 down defensive linemen set plus no pass rush

Why do you think scores are so high and hundreds of yards run off with this bend and break prevent-the-win, NO defense.

And that is only half the bad news. With zone NO pass coverage, there is also no stopping of any passing game. Every QB Canes play against looks like a heisman hopeful.

The conclusion is goldie and d'o and their supporters are so stupid they can not count.

Mommies and Daddies, don't let you football stars go to Miami. Send them to FSU or LSU or ALA, Stanford, OSU or anywhere there is a great coach who knows football.

Below please find a small sampling of subject lines from Gators Rivals.com…win or lose this is why you want to be humble, unlike the arrogant Gators…off to watch the Canes take on Virginia Tech…Go Canes!!

Recruits jumping ship.....

Does Muschamp Get Fired Tonight?

We have become Kentucky

Florida will lose to Georgia Southern....

Goodbye bowl eligibility!

Why the hell does Chump get credit for being a "good recruiter"?

Vandy Dominates the Gators!

POLL: who would you rather fire first?

just wait until NEXT YEAR! it's gonna be WORSE!

The players have tuned the coaching staff out/given up

FIRE THIS MORON TONIGHT!!

We've lost to a freshman backup QB in 2 of the last 3 games

First Vandy Win in Gainesville Since 1942

Where is everyone at, our fan base has quit too?


PS: Gatorfan72...errr...I mean Canefan72...if only the Gators had used 4 down linemen today they would have slammed Vandy...or did they??!!

Vandy wins by 17 this weekend, book it dano.

Posted by: D | November 06, 2013 at 08:06 PM

^^^^^^^^^ If you really believe that you should definitely jump on the Vandy money line at +315

Posted by: Jesse Simonton | November 06, 2013 at 09:24 PM

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gator_clause/2013/11/decimated-injury-bug-strikes-again.html#storylink=cpy

Posted by: Canefan72 | November 09, 2013 at 05:24 PM

//////////////////////////

The drawing the picture was funny.

Nobody cares what Florida fans think or don't think about their coach here little Jimmy. Take it over to the relevant blog and stop bragging about Miami beating a crappy team about to not go to a bowl in more than 20 years or have a winning season in more than 30. FSU owned UM last week and they will again unless there's a change of brains in the coaching room between now and the time the trip to Charlotte is booked.

Canefan72. Your image is false.

1. you are saying the opposing team has only 2 wide receivers? When that happens, miami has a 4-3, not a 3-2.

2. If the rb is blocking, where is the fb? Oh, it is a 1 back offense. With seven linemen. Sure.

3. If we have only five on the line and there are 2 WRs, each one is being TRIPLE covered? Sure.

To all the homers,

Can you tell us again how Wake was all hyped up to play a Top 10 team and how good they are? A top 10 team does to a bottom feeder team what FSU did Wake this afternoon.

Your Miami, Florida Hurricanes are wearing bloody GREY uniform top's tonight ( White pants. ). Get outta' here.

What the Freak' is up with that dullness and what not.

Name changing fellow, no vandy did not allow the SHELL of the offense we solved for everyone to get 400 yards. Still, you lost. Yards matter less than points. And the fact that you're here whining about it shows you care more about us than about your own team. You can post 41-14, but we can't post 34-17, first home loss to Vandy since 1945? Try to stop us, in person.

Another idiot little Jimmy post from one of his many names, as usual, nothing to see here, go to the Gator blog to brag about the 2nd week of September to fans of the worst team they've seen in over three decades.

D, it's homecoming, horrible field fashion sells horrible merchandise. The t-shirt printed with ties must not be flying off the shelves after that FSU blowout loss and no show in the second half.

In the battle of Larry Coker vs. his assistant Curtis Johnson, the old head coach beats his assistant by a field goal, 10-7. Curtis still looks like he'll be ready for a better job as soon as next year. Wouldn't mind seeing him replace Alverage and given a chance to show what he can do again at UM.

GO CANES! LET'S SEE FIRE OUT OF THE GATE!

« 1 2 3 4

The comments to this entry are closed.