Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech’s offense will never be confused with that of the West Virginia Mountaineers.
While Dana Holgorsen wants a wide-open attack that puts lots of points on the board, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer has always been known more for defense.
His philosophy appears to be score just enough points and then limit the opposition to less points and the win goes to the Hokies.
He knew the Virginia Tech offense was going to be a work in progress this season, with only quarterback Logan Thomas returning with much experience. It had struggled through three games, especially on the ground, ranking 96th in the nation in rushing offense.
Hey, the leading rusher through three games for the Hokies was redshirt freshman Michael Holmes with 100 yards, a paltry 33.3 yards per contest.
Beamer was looking for more, and instead of depending on a single back like Ryan Williams or David Wilson, or a duo as the Hokies have done in the past, he could be depending on a quartet this season. At least he did on Saturday when Virginia Tech ran for 246 yards in a 37-0 win over Bowling Green.
Not bad considering they had just 25 yards in the opening quarter and 14 of those came on the last play of the period by quarterback Logan Thomas.
“We needed a day where we had some plays,” Beamer said. “I thought the offense was very efficient and came right out in the second half against the wind and we stalled a couple of times, but I was proud overall of how we came back.
“There early we were kind of screwing things up, but nobody panicked, we hung in there and I thought our offense started rolling pretty good.”
That was a good sign for Virginia Tech, which finished with 396 total yards, including 144 through the air by Thomas. What Beamer really liked was seeing a few big plays from the running backs, led by Tony Gregory (11-68), Holmes (4-51), J.C. Coleman (4-45) and Martin Scales (3-15). Thomas also ran for 65 yards.
“I am really pleased with the explosive plays we had,” Beamer said. “Tony Gregory showed some speed out there. J.C. Coleman showed some stuff and we had a couple more little run plays. So we are getting there. It’s a work in progress and we have a ways to go, but I think we took a step forward today.”
Some players might complain about not having a set starter, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue to any of the Hokies, including Coleman, the lone true freshman among the four.
“I think it kind of keeps all the backs fresh,” Coleman said. “All of us go out there with fresh legs and it kind of works in our favor.”
Gregory is a redshirt junior who had combined to carry the ball 24 times in two seasons, but started on this day after not carrying the ball at all in last week’s 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh.
“We have all been practicing all through the week. We talked in practice like I would be the starter, but it could be any one of us,” Gregory said. “Our offense did a great job on the front and our receivers are working hard with one-on-one matters and we were just hitting the holes.”
Virginia Tech was also working with a banged-up offensive line, with Matt Arkema getting his first collegiate start at left guard. The blocking received positive reviews from the running backs.
“I feel like the O-Line really stepped up today,” Coleman said. “There were a lot of open holes out there, and in the backfield we finally hit the holes. Today I feel like the offensive line did step up and opened up holes for us.
“I think the speed we played in the backfield was also better and that helps,” added Beamer. “It is one of those things where we have to tie all that together. We have to block better and we have to hit the holes and go and I thought we did both those things better today.”
It wasn’t just the tailback quartet that got the run game on track. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Thomas played the role of battering rams several times, running around, over and through defenders, even scoring one of the Hokies’ five touchdowns on the ground.
“We needed it to move the football. (Offensive coordinator Bryan) Stinespring has been saying all week we need to be aggressive and we need to play with an attitude and we came out there and did that,” Thomas said. “We needed to set a tone right from the get-go that we weren’t going to back up and we were going to push and that is what we did the entire time.”
The defense did the same.
While the offense started showing signs of life, the defense was stingy, allowing just 266 yards, forcing two turnovers and the Hokies got help for the shutout with a missed field goal. Bowling Green also drove the ball deep in Virginia Tech territory three times in the second half, but didn’t try another kick and were stopped each time on fourth down.
“The defense getting the shutout was great and we got a couple of plays in special teams today, which was great,” Beamer said. “So I am really pleased with the win.”
As for who will get the nod to play Saturday at Cincinnati, Beamer expects it could be a weekly decision, much like it was with the Falcons.
Now if only the Hokies can get the same results. Production and a win.
“We are going to see. We are going to look at the video and see how we practice this week,” Beamer said. “I do think Tony gave us a spark out there today and I do think Holmes had a nice run and all them had their moments.
“They all have their place, but we are going to figure it out.”
Brian Woodson is the sports editor at the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson @ bdtonline.com.