Virginia Tech vs. Miami: 10 Things We Learned in Hokies' Win

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistNovember 10, 2013

Virginia Tech vs. Miami: 10 Things We Learned in Hokies' Win

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Who would've thought the Virginia Tech Hokies would have their highest-scoring ACC game in Week 11 against Miami?

    That's precisely what happened on Saturday when the Hokies defeated the 14th-ranked Hurricanes 42-24 in Miami. After the first quarter, the game was truly never close as VT dominated the 'Canes on both sides of the ball. 

    The Hokies finished the game with 549 total yards of offense, almost 200 more than Miami. It was Tech's best performance of the season on offense.

    For as good as VT was on offense, the defense wasn't too shabby, either. They held the Hurricanes to just 28 yards rushing for the game.

    Here are 10 things we learned about the Hokies in Saturday's big win at Miami. 

Logan Thomas Was Terrific

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    The senior quarterback had eight turnovers in the past two games, almost single-handedly sinking the Hokies' chances in each of those games. The entire Virginia Tech fanbase was seemingly against Thomas.

    He answered the bell in a big way against Miami. Thomas finished 25-of-31 for 366 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. This was the way Thomas was playing before the Duke debacle.

    He was outstanding in every way on Saturday. He hung in the pocket when facing pressure and made several perfect throws to his receivers. On third down, the Hokies were 8-of-14, most of that because of Thomas and several big-time passes. 

    For one week at least, Thomas is back in the good graces of Virginia Tech fans everywhere. It's important to note, this is truly the first time all season Thomas has had help from his offensive line, running backs and receivers. It makes a big difference.

    It's nice to see Thomas bounce back the way he did. So much is expected of him, and he handles everything with grace and class. 

Scot Loeffler Called His Best Game Yet

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Yes, the headline is correct. First-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler called a terrific game. 

    Things always look better when the offensive line plays well, but the running game was clicking against Miami. Loeffler didn't give up on it as he had done in recent weeks when things were scarce early. 

    Another important element in Saturday's win was the confidence Loeffler showed in his senior quarterback. He wasn't gun-shy because of Thomas' struggles the past two weeks. He stuck with him, allowing him to take several chances down the field. 

    If the Hokies continue showing the type of balance they did against Miami, this team will improve by leaps and bounds. Give credit to Loeffler for his best performance yet. 

The Hokies' Offensive Line Dominated

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Outside of Thomas, this unit has gotten the most criticism all season and for good reason.

    However, on Saturday, this group dominated the entire football game. Considering the porous conditions, it was vital to get something going on the ground, and thanks to this much-maligned group, the Hokies did just that.

    Laurence Gibson was back in the fold at right tackle, and this unit seems to function much better with the athletic Gibson on the field. He is athletic enough to zone block and can get out and pull. That is especially important in the running game.

    True freshman Jonathan McLaughlin played another outstanding game protecting Thomas' blind side. 

    Is this what we should expect from this group going forward, or was this performance an anomaly?

Trey Edmunds Had His Breakout Game

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    Yes, Edmunds ran over for 100 yards against the No. 1 team in the country in his first career game. But much of that was due to one run.

    Against Miami, Edmunds showed he has what it takes to be a consistent and successful running back at the college level. There is no denying Edmunds' talent; however, he sometimes misses the hole or dances too much in the backfield. 

    Not on Saturday.

    Edmunds ran it right at Miami, showing impressive power, and ran over several Hurricanes' defensive players. Edmunds was also elusive and, on a third-down reception in the second half, made a really nifty move in the open field to get a first down.

    He ran for just 74 yards, but that was at over five yards per carry. And, of course, he finished with four touchdowns. 

J.C. Coleman Finally Appears Healthy

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    J.C. Coleman
    J.C. ColemanRobert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    For the first time all season, sophomore running back J.C. Coleman finally looked healthy. We all saw how explosive of a runner Coleman was in 2012. But with a pair of ankle injuries in fall camp, the 2013 season has been a disappointment.

    In this game, Coleman ran the ball 22 times for 68 yards. That may not be an impressive number as it pertains to yards per carry, but the coaches felt confident enough in Coleman to give him the ball when they were trying to bleed the clock. He was getting the ball with consistent eight-man fronts and grinding out tough yards.

    Coleman also caught two passes out of the backfield. He needs to be more involved in the passing game because he has game-breaking ability.

    Twenty-four touches were the most Coleman received all season. Expect that trend to continue the rest of 2013.

Virginia Tech's Receivers Stepped Up

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    Thomas had to feel good on Saturday night. The combination of D.J. Coles, Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford finished with 16 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown. Keep in mind that Demitri Knowles is the Hokies' leading receiver. 

    All three receivers caught everything in their vicinity and fought for extra yards after the catch. Stanford's 32-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. Coles, the big, physical senior, had another impressive catch where it took several Miami defenders to bring him down.

    Knowles wasn't terrible—he caught two passes on the evening and recovered a Byrn fumble in the end zone for one of the Hokies' touchdowns—but the Hokies didn't need him. Everyone else stepped up.

    This is two straight weeks for Stanford with over 100 receiving yards. His breakout performance last week made this group much more dangerous. 

    What's most impressive about Tech's receivers is their youth. Only Coles is a senior. Stanford and Knowles, in particular, will be stars in Blacksburg. 

Luther Maddy Made Sure Everyone Remembers Him

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    Senior defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins is having an All-American type season. He is a dominant force both against the run and the pass. However, some people may forget the player lining up beside Hopkins, junior Luther Maddy, is a pretty special player himself.

    Maddy finished with three tackles for a loss against Miami, including two sacks. He was instrumental in holding the 'Canes to just 28 yards rushing. Miami had no answer for Maddy with their much bigger offensive line.

    It is easy to see why VT is so good at stopping the run with Maddy and Hopkins manning the middle.

It Was an Off-Night for the Hokies' Stellar Secondary

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Coming into Saturday's game, Virginia Tech was No. 2 in the country in interceptions. The Hokies didn't add to that against Miami and gave up their two longest plays of the season in Saturday's win.

    In the game's first score, Stacy Coley took a short Stephen Morris pass and ran 81 yards for an easy score. It was made possible by sloppy tackling in VT's secondary. That rarely ever happens.

    Later in the game, Morris went deep to Allen Hurns for an 84-yard score. Freshman Brandon Facyson took a bad angle on the play and made it easy for the 'Canes.

    Several things factored into the secondary's performance, though. The conditions were terrible. Defensive back is the hardest position to play when the field is that wet. 

    Also, Kyle Fuller was in his first game back after missing the previous two weeks. Senior Antone Exum, in his third game back from offseason knee surgery, had to leave the game in the first half due to a leg injury. The severity of that injury remains unknown.

    The Hokies have to feel good about winning so easily despite the secondary having an off-night. Future opponents shouldn't expect that to happen very often. 

The Hokies Won the Battle on Special Teams

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    On too many occasions this season, special teams' miscues have hurt the Hokies. Against Miami, that trend changed.

    The Hokies forced the Hurricanes to fumble twice in the first half, one on a punt return, the other on a kickoff return. Each time, VT got the ball in Miami territory. The Hokies would score touchdowns on both plays.

    Also in the first half, a bizarre turnover went in favor of Virginia Tech when the Miami punter's knee was down when he fielded the snap, giving the Hokies the ball at Miami's 17-yard line. It was truly a bizarre play. The Hokies scored on that one, too.

    Punter A.J. Hughes actually forced the second Miami fumble when he put his helmet on the ball. 

    For a team that has struggled on special teams this season, Saturday's performance was something special. 

Virginia Tech Dominated the Money Down

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    They say that third down is the money down in football. If you execute third downs 50, or more, percent of the time, then you stand a good chance of winning. 

    Virginia Tech finished 8-of-14 on third down in the win over Miami. Thomas completed over 65 percent of his passes on third down. On the play above, the Hokies were in a 3rd-and-17, just looking to create some room for a field goal, when Stanford took it in from 32 yards out. 

    VT was even better on defense, holding Miami to just 3-of-12 on third down. The Hokies forced several three-and-outs during the course of the game.

    It was truly an impressive all-around performance for Virginia Tech.