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November 3, 2012

Final Grades: Miami Loss

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Special teams was the biggest culprit, as miscues and mistakes again led to a Virginia Tech loss, 30-12 last night at Miami. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of the Hokies' loss:

When you think of junior Logan Thomas' performance at Miami, sadly, you don't think about his success rushing up the middle, the career-high 124 yards rushing. It's the mistakes that stick and they were quite costly. Thomas threw a first quarter interception in the red zone, fumbled the snap at the one-yard line in the third quarter, overthrew a wide open Joey Phillips on fourth down in the fourth quarter and ended Virginia Tech's last drive with another interception. Add to that his refusal to speak with the media and it wasn't a good night at all for Thomas, aside from rushing the ball.


It's hard to know what's going here. Freshman J.C. Coleman seems to be the most talented of the group, but got only five carries, for 23 yards. Junior Tony Gregory got the lion's share of the carries, with 10, but fumbled and picked up only 50 yards. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, thought to be buried behind the other two after a season of shortcomings, had eight carries for just 23 yards. Thomas can't be the answer for every running woe. One of the running backs, particularly Coleman if he can get more touches, has to be more efficient with the ball.


It's close to the same story as the running backs. It looked like redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles and senior Corey Fuller would make more of an impact after being named co-No. 1 receivers earlier in the week. But instead, the main target all night was junior Dyrell Roberts, who certainly had mixed results. He had a few drops or incompletions he should have made, including one in the end zone that would have been a tough catch, but that he should have pulled in. Then, the one consistent target in the first half, sophomore tight end Ryan Malleck, goes without a catch in the second half. Maybe more time needs to be spent with Thomas outside of practice, but another spot where someone has to be consistent.


They had a bye week to heal and mend their wounds, but it's tough to tell if it made a difference. Junior David Wang looked good during the week, but appeared to be injured again in the first half. Sophomore Caleb Farris looked better and got the start at center after getting healthy during the bye week. It's tough to tell that the line did much in getting Thomas his 124 yards rushing. Thomas bulled ahead and bruised his way to most of it. Even the 73-yard touchdown run was a complete lapse by Miami. The line doesn't look on the same page with the running backs, as has been the case all season and that's always a problem.


The push that was the highlight of the defense the past two games wasn't gone, but it was a fraction of what was shown against Clemson and Duke. Sophomore Luther Maddy didn't even register a tackle and the freedom to get the job done for the rest of the defense was gone. The bright spot is that sophomore Dadi Nicolas continues to show signs of improvement. But the ferocity and intensity just wasn't what it was leading into the game.


The consistent highlight all season has been junior Jack Tyler and again, his play stood out with eight tackles and two tackles for loss. Senior Bruce Taylor wasn't nearly the counterpart Tyler needed though, with just two tackles on the day. Redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke also had just two tackles. Tyler is what keeps the position above a D.


There were big plays, but what was more unnerving was that the defensive backs seemed to get turned around on short passes or runs, resulting in big gains. On one instance, two defensive backs, then Tyler, got turned around and Nicolas made the tackle five yards down-field on the right sideline. That can't happen. Junior Antone Exum has his moments, like four pass breakups, but he still can't get everything together to be completely effective.


In the past, the offense made the majority of the mistakes. The offense made its share of miscues, but more glaring were those on special teams, which directly led to Miami's first two touchdowns. Freshman A.J. Hughes had a punt blocked and freshman Duke Johnson returned a kick 81 yards and nearly broke loose into the end zone. Junior kicker Cody Journell connected on two field goals but missed a 40-yard field goal wide left and botched his lone extra point attempt. His made field goals are the only thing keeping the grade above an F.


Some of the coaches have to be at their wit's end, like defensive coordinator Bud Foster. But as calls for consistency from the players has been made, it needs to come through the team as a whole. It's not the lone reason, but it doesn't help that the running back carry distribution is never the same. The real showing of how good these coaches are will come if they can get the players to keep fighting, play for pride and salvage the season by at the very least getting to a bowl game.


Just an example that 'The U' is nothing like it used to be. The reported, official attendance was over 37,000, but there's no way the nearly 75,000-seat Sun Life Stadium was even one-third full. The fans did have plenty to cheer about, but when you think of 'The U' you think of a better environment than that.





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