By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Logan Thomas was asked on Tuesday what it would be like for Virginia Tech not to play in a bowl game.
He wasted little time answering that question.
“I told him, ‘You don’t have to worry about that, we will be in a bowl game,’” Thomas said. “That is a just a mindset that we all have.”
There is reason for concern in Blacksburg, where the Hokies are 3-3, the first time Virginia Tech has been at the .500 mark this late in the season since 1992.
Virginia Tech started a run of 19 straight seasons playing in a bowl game the following year, and can’t afford many most losses to keep that streak — and especially its eight-year run of 10-win seasons — intact.
“That is something we pride ourselves on is 10-win seasons and bowl games,” Thomas said. “We still have a chance to do that this year, we have to come out every week starting this week and get one win and get us back on track, and that is how we have been approaching it already this week.
“Obviously it will be a letdown if we didn’t do it, but we don’t even have that in our mind right now.”
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer reminds followers of the Hokies (3-3, 1-2) that the season isn’t over yet. Six games remain on the regular season slate, including home games with Duke, Florida State and Virginia and road trips to Clemson, Miami and Boston College.
“We are only halfway through the season, we have a lot of football to play,” Beamer said. “I always believed it is how you finish. It is not how you start, how you start matters, but how you finish is what really matters so that is what we are going to try to do.”
Waiting for Virginia Tech is Duke (5-1, 2-0), which is usually a perfect tonic for a team in desperate need of a win. Not this season. The Blue Devils are 5-1, including last week’s 42-17 beating of Virginia for a fourth win in a row. They need just one more victory to become bowl-eligible, which is big news in Durham where basketball is usually the sport of choice.
Virginia Tech hasn’t lost to Duke in eight decisions since joining the ACC, but there have been some close games, including last year’s 14-10 victory in Durham.
“I think with Duke you have got a team that is playing very well, they are coming in here trying to get bowl-eligible,” said Beamer, who has been impressed by an offense led by quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Anthony Boone that is averaging 37.8 points per game. “They are an extremely well-coached football team, a team that plays very hard, got most of their offensive line back...
“(The quarterbacks) bring different things to the game and they fly around on defense. They are an impressive football team. We have got to have a great week of practice and get ready to go.”
Virginia Tech, which is 3-0 at Lane Stadium this season, was beaten soundly 48-34 at North Carolina last week. The defense allowed 533 yards on offense, including 262 yards rushing from Gio Bernard, while Thomas threw for 354 yards, but the Hokies managed just 40 yards on the ground.
Putting all three phases of the game on display for homecoming on Saturday could be the key to preventing the Hokies’ first three-game losing skid since 2003. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m.
“I think we want to get it right, we realize we haven’t put a complete game together,” Beamer said. “You look at every area of our football team and we play well at times, but we just need to put it together.
“We have got the capabilities. It is taking each play and taking care of the details of each play. There is no question in my mind that our kids want to be good, they want to play good football and we have got to help them and get it going. There is a lot of football to be played.”
Virginia Tech has struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense is 60th in the nation with 29.0 points a game, but just 91st on the ground, with Michael Holmes leading the Hokies with 230 yards in six games.
“We just have got to keep playing well, we just have to keep playing hard, we can only control how we play,” Thomas said. “I think offensively if we come out there and play like we did in the second half on Saturday we will be just fine.
“On the other side of the ball we still have complete faith in the defense. Everybody has a bad day and we have had plenty of them in the first few weeks, we have their backs and they are going to have our backs.
“We have to continue to play our type of game. If we control our side and they control their side, we should be able to get back on track and be the type of football team everybody expects us to be and we will get to back to where we want to be.”
The Hokies’ defense, which was expected to be the strong point when the season began, has been gashed at times, ranking 98th in rushing defense (196.7), 64th in total defense (390.0) and 42nd in scoring (22.3).
“Everybody has got to take care of their assignments. It is a team deal, defense, offense, it is a team, everyone has got to do their job and do it full speed and do it correctly,” Beamer said. “We just got to take care of the details, make sure you are in your right gap and taking care of your responsibilities and things will be fine.
“We have done it before and we can do it again.”
Virginia Tech still has hopes of a Coastal Division title, but the wins had better come soon. Thomas admits to being surprised to be 3-3 at this point in the season, but the attitude is such that a turnaround could come soon.
The Hokies have won four of eight titles since joining the ACC in 2004, and have played in the ACC Championship Game five times, winning three of them. There was no title game in ‘04.
“I am extremely surprised, I will always think we have got a really good team, we just haven’t done enough to win games,” Thomas said. “Offensively, we have had too many slow starts and too many drives sputter out so we take the credit as much as anybody else.
“With our mindset, everybody is still feeling pretty good. We all know that we are a lot better team than 3-3 right now, and yesterday we had a good practice. We had a very upbeat practice like we have been having and everybody is ready to go.
“Nobody is hanging their heads. We are just continuing to go out there and compete every day.”
First comes Duke.
“I worry about Duke, we are putting all our attention towards Duke,” Beamer said. “That is the only thing we can control right now is how we play against Duke, how we prepare for Duke. That is the only thing we can control.”
—Contact Brian Woodson