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September 5, 2012

What We Expected, Saw & Can Expect

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Monday's season-opening 20-17 win by Virginia Tech saw a highly entertaining fourth quarter and overtime. The first three quarters, not quite so much. While both the Hokies and Yellow Jackets picked it up in the final stanza, the first three were a bit spotty.

We've broken down the overall performance for Virginia Tech, in three parts.

What We Thought

There were plenty of question marks going into the season-opener for Virginia Tech, ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll.

The big one centered around Georgia Tech's vaunted triple option offense. An improved Tevin Washington at quarterback also added to that.

A few injuries raised a few other questions. Linebacker Tariq Edwards would sit out against Georgia Tech, while defensive end James Gayle wouldn't start, instead ceding the spot to Tyrel Wilson.

A huge downpour was also expected, from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. In sloppy, wet conditions, could the GT option still have success? For the Hokies' offense, would running back Michael Holmes have any stagefright in his debut? Who would quarterback Logan Thomas throw to, especially with senior D.J. Coles still recovering from injury.


What We Saw

The Yellow Jackets' triple option picked up a few yards, but was far from stellar. Rushing the ball 55 times will bring some yards, but even with that many carries, Georgia Tech had 192 yards, just 3.5 per carry.

The Yellow Jackets had one rushing touchdown, a 12-yard scamper by Robert Godhigh in the second quarter, but the crucial touchdown with 44 seconds left came through the air, a 10-yard catch by Deon Hill.

Defensively for the Hokies, linebacker Jack Tyler had a huge game. He was in on seemingly every play and picked up an impressive 17 tackles, one for a loss.

The Virginia Tech defense wasn't spectacular overall, but made plays when it counted, most notably cornerback Kyle Fuller's interception in overtime. The defense also showed its depth, being on the field 34:56 as a result of Georgia Tech's constant run-scheme.

Offensively, the Hokies have found a dependable target in senior wide receiver Corey Fuller, who made five catches for 82 yards. He also made a smart play by recovering a fumble by Marcus Davis after his big fourth quarter reception.

Virginia Tech has also found a potential, budding receiver in redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles. We already knew Knowles would be returning kicks, but after Davis was injured on the fumble, Knowles jumped in and on the next play, caught a 42-yard touchdown, while having his left arm grabbed and interfered with.

The running game wasn't spectacular, but Holmes got the job done, with 13 carries for 54 yards. True freshman J.C. Coleman also had a nice debut, with four carries for 25 yards.

The leg and resiliency of kicker Cody Journell also proved big. After missing a 38-yarder wide left early in the fourth quarter, he nailed a 41-yard field goal at the end of regulation and a deciding 17-yard field goal in overtime.

And the rain never came.


What We Can Look For

Coleman will almost certainly keep climbing and will have a steady and bigger impact as the season progresses. Holmes will also continue to improve, but will be battling Coleman for touches.

Offensively, we'll have to see the severity of Davis' shoulder injury. It popped out a few times during the game. Fuller did well on crossing patterns and will be a steady target of Thomas'. Knowles has the potential, the speed and athleticism to be a home run deep threat. That would be much needed to keep the defense honest and not crowd the box as much.

If there were any worries about Gayle, he shed them early on with a key sack of Washington. He might not still be 100%, but he's not far away.

The jury's out if Tyler can consistently be a stopper or if this was just one big game. If he can, the defense will be much better off.

The fumble by true freshman punter A.J. Hughes can't be taken too lightly, but give him a break. He was playing in a big situation and aside from that punt, did well. He should continue to improve as the nerves continue to calm.

This weekend should be a chance for the key players like Thomas to get some action, but also rest against FCS Austin Peay. The Governors were soundly defeated 49-10 at Western Kentucky Saturday.


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