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Tech falls short of championship game

SoVaNow.com / December 02, 2013
Virginia Tech will not earn a berth in Saturday’s ACC championship game - it’s upstart Duke against that raging, powerful Florida State operation - but the Hokies have a realistic shot at nine wins and another mid-level bowl game victory.

The Hokies’ postseason destination remains unclear, although the New Year’s Eve Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas seems the most likely reward after this inconsistent season.

Tech rebounded from three losses in its last four games to subdue Virginia, 16-6, Saturday in Charlottesville. Tech’s kicking game - specifically, freshman walk-on kicker Eric Kristensen - and the generally reliable Hokie defense emerged as the prime positives for the Hokies in the latest renewal of the Commonwealth Cup.

Virginia Tech finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the ACC Coastal Division, tied for second. The Hokies certainly had higher aspirations, but there’s also no question this campaign represents a positive step forward from last year’s result.

Virginia Tech announced some bad news on the injury front immediately after its tenth consecutive win over Virginia.

The Hokies’ medical team said that red-shirt freshman tailback Trey Edmunds, who rushed for 93 yards and also hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass for what eventually stood as the final touchdown in the game, is out for the rest of the season.

Edmunds sustained a broken fibula. He was projected for surgery on his right leg, and he’s out for the rest of the season. The recovery period is 12-16 weeks, and perhaps 18, depending on how he recovers. Edmunds is expected back in about four and a half to five months.

That was the only bad news on an afternoon when the Hokies followed a traditional, albeit unspectacular, path to another win over the Cavaliers.

Tech contained Virginia quarterbacks David Watford and Greyson Lambert.

Neither showed game-changing ability, and Lambert was picked off once and sacked three times. Jake McGee was Virginia’s prime receiving threat, with four catches for 65 yards, but the Tech defense only surrendered one pass longer than 16 yards. The Cavalier rush attack was largely held in check, as Virginia had 109 yards on 27 attempts.

Tech won the total yardage battle, 364-285, and held Virginia to four yards per rush and 10.4 yards per completion. Tech dominated time of possession (34:09-25:51) and held Virginia in check when it mattered most, holding the Cavaliers to five of 16 on third down conversions and 0-of-2 on fourth down conversions.

Meanwhile, Kristensen, whose Ann Arbor, Mich., residency prompted Tech coach Frank Beamer to refer to the specialist as ‘Michigan’, delivered big-time in a pressure situation, connecting on field goals of 22, 30 and 38 yards.

Kristensen has an accurate, consistent swing. He also has strong confidence in his kicking skills, despite his inexperience.

Coupled with Edmunds’ 26-yard touchdown run-and-gun play from Thomas with 21 seconds left on the clock before halftime, Tech’s overall effort proved enough to get by the Cavaliers.

Virginia Tech certainly did not overpower Virginia, but, in the end, the Hokies did enough to hold serve in the rivalry and continue their dominance. Virginia, which now faces a tough schedule in 2014, will have to go to Blacksburg for its next shot at the Commonwealth Cup.

Tech coach Frank Beamer praised his kicker, even though the specialist lacks experience. “He handles things about as well as you possibly could hope for and got us nine points up there.”

Without question, the Tech fan base will want to see a stronger, more consistent offense under coordinator Scot Loeffler in 2014, and Thomas will be gone, presumably to the NFL.

The Hokies entered the latest showdown with Virginia 97th in total offense and 90th in scoring offense.

With the reemergence of Florida State as a national power - the unbeaten ‘Noles buried Florida and are prohibitive favorites to overwhelm Duke in the title game, there’s no question Virginia Tech needs more imagination and firepower to keep pace.

Clemson also has rebounded, although the Tigers were overwhelmed by South Carolina Saturday night in the massive Palmetto state rivalry game. Still, the Tigers finished 10-2 and clearly appear to have forged ahead of Virginia Tech at the moment, although Dabo Swinney’s operation will also face some off-season question marks.

Tech did show some new wrinkles - Thomas appeared to have scored on some early trickery, although the officials gave the Tech quarterback nine yards on the throw from fullback Sam Rogers en route to Kristensen’s first field goal. Tech also won an onside kick, but, collectively, the Hokies only got three points from those attempts to create surprise.

Tech also showed some new formations. Some of the new stuff did work, including a reverse on one kick return that gave Tech stronger field position.

Ultimately, the often-maligned Thomas finished well enough, at least, completing 13-of-29 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown. Thomas had one pass picked off, and was sacked five times, but Virginia could not capitalize on the lone pick. Thomas also had one fumble, but Virginia did not capitalize, either. In the end, Thomas, now 5-0 including his earliest season in Blacksburg, did enough for Tech, which basically held a young, very inconsistent Virginia offense in check.

“We came out the second half and had a couple of good drives. “We just didn’t do enough to completely put them away, but thankfully, our defense played a great game and shut them down,” Thomas said.

Kendall Fuller also had a special game for a depleted Hokie secondary, with eight tackles, half a sack, an interception and four pass breakups.

In the end, Beamer took note of major injury issues that impacted this Tech team. “We could have had a couple more wins, but we could have lost a couple more too. I’m proud of this football team.

“I think we played hard throughout,” said Beamer, relishing the ten-win streak over Virginia. He also expressed doubt that kind of ten-year streak will ever happen again in the series.

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