September 25, 2012

By mikebarber

BLACKSBURG, Va. – David Wang limped through Monday’s practice, but the Virginia Tech starting left guard said he had a much easier time working out Tuesday. And Wang, who sprained his left ankle in the loss to Pittsburgh and sat out the Bowling Green game, expects to play this weekend against Cincinnati at FedEx Field.

“I plan on playing this week,” Wang said after practice Tuesday. “I think the coaches respect me enough to trust my judgment, at least a little bit. As long as I can perform in practice, I feel like they’ll let me play.”

Offensive line coach Curt Newsome said no decision has been made yet on Wang’s status.

“We’ll see where he is,” Newsome said.

Wang said he spent plenty of time around the football facility last week getting treatment on his injured ankle. But Friday, he and the rest of the players not dressing for the game, enjoyed a day off.

Wang spent it hanging out at his apartment. And despite his well-publicized love of video games, Wang said he used his day off to study for an exam in his market research class on Tuesday. Wang took the exam before Tuesday’s practice.

“I hope it went well,” Wang said.

Wang tried to study his replacement at left guard during Saturday’s win over Bowling Green. Wang tried to keep a watchful eye on sophomore Matt Arkema from his seat in the stands at Lane Stadium, near the 35-yard line by the Hokies’ offensive bench.

“I tried to pay attention as much as I could,” Wang said. “It’s hard because you want to follow the football when you’re in the stands.”

Wang knows. He sat in the stands last year for a game after breaking his foot.

 “It’s fun to be able to watch a game and not worry, but you still worry because you want to be on the field,” Wang said. “It’s hard to sit there. I was right behind the bench.  I could hear what the coaches were telling them. I kind of felt like I wanted to get up and go to the sideline.”

Arkema played most of the game at left guard, with starting right guard Michael Via sliding over to the left spot every three series. When Via, a senior, moved to left guard, sophomore Brent Benedict played right guard.

Newsome said he started Arkema because he believed Arkema had put in the work and was prepared to play.

“I trust Matt,” Newsome said. “I think Matt has put a lot of time and effort in it. He’s a guy that cares and he’s a guy that competes. He’s been the left guard backup and we lost the left guard. That called his number and he handled it.”

The blues: Junior tailback Tony Gregory (knee) joined Wang in the limited contact blue jerseys Tuesday. About 15 minutes into practice, Gregory – who has suffered three ACL tears in the past five years – jogged off the field and headed to the trainers room. But Gregory said after practice he was just getting a protective sleeve for his knee because rain had made the grass slick.

“He’s got a history of some knee injuries,” Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “So it’s a long season. We’re just trying to rest him a little bit, just rest that knee. No major issues. Plus with the wet grass, today wasn’t a great day to be running around for him.”

Seeing red: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said the program is looking into getting redshirt years for true freshmen Deon Clarke (a linebacker from L.C. Bird High School) and Joshua Stanford (wide receiver). Both have seen limited action in the first four ballgames.

Stanford has dealt with a minor knee injury in the past week. Clarke doesn’t have any injuries that I’m aware of. Not sure what grounds there would be to redshirt guys who have played, if they’re healthy.

Tags: Mike Barber

September 24, 2012

By mikebarber

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Tariq Edwards may have gotten back on the field for the Virginia Tech football team Saturday, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster said the linebacker is still a week or two away from really being ready to contribute and challenge for a starting roll.

“He’s probably 85 percent I’m guessing right now,” Foster said of Edwards, who underwent two surgeries this offseason to fix a stress fracture in his left leg. “Hopefully he just continues to improve and get better. Where he is right now, I’d say it’s hard for him. He can give us good solid depth right now. I still think he’s a couple weeks away form being where we’d like him to be and where he’d like to be.”

Edwards made one tackle in his 12 plays against Bowling Green, during the Hokies’ 37-0 shutout on Saturday.

It was Edwards’s first action of the year.

“It’s getting better, a lot better,” Edwards said. “It’s not 100 percent yet, but it feels 100 percent better without that screw. It’s getting there. It’s not there yet, but it’s getting there.”

Better effort from D-line: Defensive line coach Charley Wiles said he still saw a few “loafs” from Luther Maddy and Derek Hopkins in Saturday’s win, but overall, was happy with the way his group performed.

“I talked to them this morning and I thought it was just a solid performance,” Wiles said. “The effort was better, played with more emotion. I think we had two loafs, Luther had two. And Derek had one. Two times when they threw these little dink passes that we could be running to the football, kind of looked and then run. Just pointing that out to them. But I’d give it a solid performance. I think we can play a lot better, a lot faster and we’re going to have to continue to get better.”

The play of the line impressed Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, whose team faces Tech on Saturday at FedEx Field.

“Obviously Virginia Tech comes in with one of the best defensive lines in the country,” Jones said Monday during the Big East’s weekly teleconference. “I think they got back to playing Virginia Tech football this week.”

Tags: Mike Barber

September 23, 2012

By mikebarber

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Saturday’s win over Bowling Green was an impressive bounce-back effort by the Virginia Tech football team, but the bevy of emails and tweets I received last night handing the Hokies  a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s championship game after Georgia Tech’s loss to Miami, may be a bit premature.

I still contend last week’s road loss at Pittsburgh won’t look like such a bad loss by the time the season ends. The Panthers, under a new coach, are rounding into a very respectable team.

By the same token, Bowling Green is, well, Bowling Green.

So what should you take from Saturday’s 37-0 win over the Falcons? That the Hokies, if nothing else, have rekindled their passion for competing this season.

First down: The defense bounced back.

Tech’s defensive players and coaches made no secret of their displeasure with their play and effort in the loss at Pittsburgh. So Saturday it was little surprise the Hokies came out amped and ready to play. Still, they were either go to rebound or play poorly again. So rebounding was the better choice.

“Just going back and watching the film form the Pittsburgh game and seeing how much we really did get pushed around, we thought it was bad after the game still up there,” senior linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “But once we got back and watched the film on Monday we saw how bad it actually was. That was just motivation because that’s not us. That’s not how we play defense.”

The players said that, with the advancement of offenses, shutouts aren’t easy to come by and that they never discussed posting a donut as a goal. Still, cornerback Antone Exum admitted he was a bit anxious in the fourth quarter when the backups were in, hoping they’d be able to finish off the job, especially after they gave up a 47-yard run.

“I was like, ‘Oh man here it comes. They might get a field or something,’” Exum said. “But we were able to get it together.”

Second down: The Hokies pounded the ball on the ground.

Who knew Tony Gregory would be the answer? Virginia Tech opened with redshirt freshman Michael Holmes at tailback but quickly went to, and got a spark from, Gregory, the junior who is coming off an ACL injury last season.

“We’ve been cycling all of us at practice all through the week,” Gregory said. “We’re taught to practice like you’re a starter so it could be any one of us.”

And while Tech coach Frank Beamer had praise for Gregory’s play, he wasn’t ready to anoint him the team’s new featured back. Instead, it appears the Hokies will continue to use Holmes, Gregory, J.C. Coleman and Martin Scales in a rotation.

“We’re going to see,” Beamer said. “Look at the video, see how we practice this week. But I did think Tony gave us a spark in there. And Michael Holmes had a nice run. All of them had their moments. Martin Scales had a tough run there. They all have a place, we have to keep on figuring it out.”

Third down: Virginia Tech still can’t seem to get going offensively right from kickoff.

Quarterback Logan Thomas and right tackle Vinston Painter attributed the Hokies’ latest slow offensive start to some changes in the Bowling Green defense that the team hadn’t prepared for during the week.

Wide receiver Dyrell Roberts said it was just “jitters.”

“When you come out, you kind of have some jitters and things like that, you really want to settle in,” Roberts said. “I know, from my standpoint, the game really don’t feel it gets started until I touch the ball one time. You get banged around a little bit and are able to go out there and settle down.”

Cornerback Antone Exum? He said the defense wasn’t surprised to see the offense struggle in the first quarter or play well after that.

“That’s really nothing new,” Exum said. “They’ve kind of been starting slow since the beginning of the season here. But we never lose confidence in those guys. We know they’ll get it together and they did today and put a lot of points on the board.”

Fourth down: The rebuilt (again) offensive line was effective.

Granted, it came against a MAC opponent, but for a week at least, Tech made it through without injured left guard David Wang (ankle). It’s unclear when Wang will return. Sophomore Matt Arkema took Wang’s spot Saturday.

“I feel like the o-line really stepped up today,” Coleman said. “There were a lot of open holes out there.”

Senior Michael Via started at right guard, where sophomore Brent Benedict also worked in.

Right tackle Vinston Painter said the line was dedicated to playing better than it did in Saturday’s loss at Pittsburgh.

“We pretty much hated the way that film looked,” Painter said. “Coach didn’t like it and it doesn’t feel good sitting there having your coaches tell you, ‘You guys got pushed around.’ We’re a bunch of 300 pound men up there. For someone to say, ‘This guy is slapping you around,’ it doesn’t feel very good in your stomach. Coming into this game, we told ourselves we’re going to be the most physical team, today. And we went out and did that.”

Extra points: Tech played an eighth true freshman when it used Brooks Abbott as its kickoff man Saturday. … Cornerback Kyle Fuller played with his bruised right shoulder heavily wrapped but said he’s getting closer to being 100 percent. “It’s still not where I want it o be but I was able to go,” Fuller said. … Game-time for Saturday’s meeting with Cincinnati at FedEx Field has been set for 3:30 p.m. … Tech’s romp over Bowling Green wasn’t enough to get back into the AP Top 25, but did the Hokies did return to the Top 25 in the coaches poll, tying for 25th with Rutgers (my alma mater).

Tags: Mike Barber

September 21, 2012

By mikebarber
Game Day: Bowling Green at Virginia Tech


Who: Bowling Green at Virginia Tech

What: The Hokies’ annual military appreciation game.

When: Noon

Where: Lane Stadium

Why: The Hokies look to bounce back from an embarrassing 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh, that saw their vaunted defense pushed around by the Panthers.

Four things to watch for

First down: Will the defense shrug off Saturday’s pitiful performance against Pitt?

It’s not often that a Virginia Tech defense gets pushed around, but that’s what happened Saturday at Heinz Field. The Panthers racked up over 500 yards of total offense, freshman tailback Rushel Shell ran for 154 yards and Ray Graham added 94 rushing yards and a pair of scores. Shell became the second straight back to hit the century mark against a Hokies’ defense that had aspirations of being the top unit in the nation.

Bowling Green should be a team that Tech’s defensive line can dominate. Now, will it be?

Second down: Can Tech get its running game going?

The duo of redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and true freshman J.C. Coleman have done some good things early this season, but haven’t been able to consistently churn out yards or break any long runs.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said this week the team is considering changing up the tailback rotation, which could mean more carries for junior Tony Gregory and senior Martin Scales.

Third down: How will the offensive line perform with guard David Wang out of the lineup?

The problem for whoever plays tailback, and for quarterback Logan Thomas, is that the already questionable offensive line, which struggled mightily at Pittsburgh, will be without starting left guard David Wang, who suffered a sprained ankle in the loss to the Panthers. Beamer said Friday that sophomore Matt Arkema will start in Wang’s place. Sophomore Brent Benedict will start at right guard and senior Michael Via, who had been rotating with Benedict, will be the backup at both spots and should team at both.

Fourth down: Will the Hokies’ injured defenders be able to contribute?

Junior cornerback Kyle Fuller, who suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Pittsburgh, practiced this week and was listed as probable for today’s game. But Fuller said the pain in his shoulder made it hard for him to get his shoulder pads over his head on Saturday. It remains to be seen how healthy he is.

And linebacker Tariq Edwards, who will dress for the first time this season after two offseason leg surgeries to correct a stress fracture, took part in some contact drills this week. Beamer said it hasn’t been decided if Edwards will play any against Bowling Green.

Tags: Mike Barber

September 17, 2012

By mikebarber

BLACKSBURG, Va. – There’s plenty of blame to go around for Saturday’s offensive ineptitude in a road loss at previously-winless Pittsburgh. But Virginia Tech’s players and coaches spent Monday saying not to put too much of it on junior quarterback Logan Thomas.

“It wasn’t all Logan,” said senior right tackle Vinston Painter, instead pointing a finger at himself and his fellow offensive linemen. “I take the blame for the unit. We should have protected him a bit better. Let him feel more comfortable, more confident in the pocket. Definitely that wasn’t his fault at all.”

Thomas finished 14 for 31 for 265 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown in the Hokies’ 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh, a defeat that dropped No. 13 Tech from the AP Top 25 for the first time in 24 games.

Senior wide receiver Marcus Davis, who defended Thomas to reporters outside the visiting lockerroom at Heinz Field immediately after the loss, continued that way Monday.

“I would never blame the game on the quarterback because it’s more than that,” Davis said Monday. “It’s a team game. I still think Logan handled his job. A few bad passes, a few bad balls here and there. But you can’t really put that on him.”

Davis said he blames himself for the first of three Thomas interceptions in the first half. The ball hit Davis in the hands and was tipped to a Pittsburgh defensive back.

Davis said after the game and repeated Monday that the play should have drawn a pass interference call, but still said he needed to do more to make sure the ball wasn’t picked off.

“It’s my job to either knock the ball down or catch it,” Davis said. “I put that on me. I told Logan I don’t blame him at all for that. I have to make a better effort to either knock the ball down or catch it.”

Virginia Tech quarterback coach Mike O’Cain said only one of the three interceptions was a bad decision by Thomas. That was the second pick, a ball he floated deep over the middle of the field.

“He made one bonehead play,” O’Cain said. “The second interception was just a ball he shouldn’t have thrown. Shouldn’t have thrown it in the first place and where he threw it was even worse. Can’t throw a ball away down the middle of the field. So that was a bad play.”

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said Thomas was looking to get the ball to one of two receivers heading to the deep middle, but both were jammed at the line of scrimmage and never got to their spot.

On the other two interceptions, a strong Pittsburgh pass rush prevented Thomas from following through on his throws, causing the ball to sail high.

“He made one poor decision,” Stinespring said. “The other two he threw it where he wanted it, he knew where he was going with the ball. He just wasn’t able to follow through because he got hit.”

Wang to miss Bowling Green game: Left guard David Wang (ankle) won’t play Saturday against Bowling Green, Stinespring said. Wang injured his left ankle in the second half of the loss at Pittsburgh. X-rays were negative but Wang did not practice Monday.

Stinespring said Matt Arkema and Michael Via would compete for the starting spot in Wang’s absence. Arkema filled in for Wang on Saturday while Via, a senior, has been rotating at right guard with sophomore Brent Benedict.

Sitting in the fourth: Davis said he doesn’t know why he didn’t play much in the fourth quarter, but said he experienced pain in his knee and had told trainers that. He speculated that could have been the reason.

Stinespring said Davis didn’t get many plays in the fourth quarter because he was fatigued from running the no-huddle package Tech used in the second and third quarter.

Tags: Mike Barber


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