Frank Beamer has found a way to win this year. After being blown out in Week 1 at the hands of Alabama, Virginia Tech has bounced back and reeled off five straight victories. The Hokies won a key division road game a couple of weeks ago at Georgia Tech, and followed that up with a 27-17 victory over a struggling North Carolina team last week.
The main reason for Virginia Tech’s resurgence has been the play of the defense. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is orchestrating a fabulous unit that ranks fifth in the country in total defense, giving up only 264 yards per game. This defense has yet to give up 400 yards in a game this year and even played well against Alabama, although special teams let them down.
The wins have not been pretty this season, but a win is still a win. The Hokies are 5-1 (2-0 ACC) with a five-point win over East Carolina, a triple-overtime win against Marshall, and a seven-point road win at Georgia Tech. It is not a thing of beauty to watch, mainly because the offense has been sub-par, but Beamer has gotten his team to buy into the system, which has worked thus far.
Quarterback Logan Thomas has struggled in the past couple of years, but has played well in the last two ball games. In the past two games, Thomas has thrown for 514 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Turnovers have been Thomas’ biggest concern in his career, so if he can continue to take care of the ball, then the Hokies could be heading down to Miami on November 9 undefeated in ACC play.
This weekend, the Hokies will play Pittsburgh in Blacksburg, Va. Pittsburgh comes into the game sitting at 3-1 (2-1 ACC), and the Panthers are no strangers when it comes to upsetting the Hokies.
In 2003, Virginia Tech came into the game ranked fifth in the nation behind their elusive running back, Kevin Jones. Jones was the best running back in the Big East that season, and he lived up to the billing, rushing for 241 yards and four touchdowns against Pitt.
The Panthers could not stop him, but luckily for Panther fans, they had a pretty good weapon of their own: Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald hauled in eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown to spark his team.
However, Virginia Tech was up late in the fourth quarter when the Panthers started to put together a drive. With 47 seconds left in the game, Pitt running back Lousaka Polite plowed into the end zone from two yards out to give his team a 31-28 lead and the win. It was a huge win for the Pittsburgh program, and the loss shattered the hearts of Hokies fans everywhere.
This season, Pittsburgh has a real shot of upsetting the No. 24 Hokies, in large part because they have the best wide receiver duo in the ACC. Devin Street has 445 yards with three touchdowns, and Tyler Boyd has 425 yards with four touchdowns. Quarterback Tom Savage has been up-and-down this season, but his job becomes a lot easier when his two favorite targets can get loose and cause problems for opposing secondaries.
This game has all the makings of a low-scoring, grind-it-out type of game. Virginia Tech wants to keep the scoring low and the big plays to a minimum since their offense does not usually light up the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will look to test the Virginia Tech secondary, because it will be very difficult to run the ball with any consistency against the front seven.
Virginia Tech has a chance to further distance itself from the coastal division pack with a win on Saturday, while Pitt can get right back in the thick of things if they were to pull out a victory. These two teams were old Big East rivals, and it is good to see them playing as conference opponents once again.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20