Improvement is necessary for Virginia Tech this season and this may just be the game to take a step toward doing so.
The Hokies are coming off a thrilling 20-17 come-from-behind victory over Georgia Tech on Monday night in Lane Stadium. The game was a back and forth affair in which the Yellow Jackets took a 17-14 lead with just 44 seconds remaining in the game.
However, after Logan Thomas drove them down the field, kicker Cody Journell booted a game-tying field goal as regulation ended and followed it with a game-winner in the overtime period.
It went in the win column, but most of the attention following the game was on the offense's struggles. Thomas was particularly unhappy with his performance and is looking to rebound this week vs. Austin Peay.
“It was just bad footwork by me,” Thomas said. “I was getting off balance. I would step away from the target or I would step to the target and stay high and not drop my waist to throw an accurate ball. It was a little bit of everything.”
Despite Thomas’ urgency to get back on the field and prepare for the next opponent, most of this week leading up to the matchup with the Governors will be spent restingafter such a physical matchup Monday night.
“I think they gave us the full day off (Tuesday), and I think we had a mini practice two years ago,” Thomas said. “I think that we need get our bodies refreshed because it was a very physical game Monday night."
Another unit that will look to continue to make improvements this week is the offensive line. With four new starters this season, and offensive line coach Curt Newsome says he is mostly trying to build depth.
“They were going in and out of a three and four down front, a lot more four down going in than we expected," he said. "I didn’t know how Brent (Benedict) would deal with it; that won’t be the case this week.
"I mean he’s going to play, we’re going to play more guys this week and just need to, we need to get some depth up there.”
While the offensive unit faced some scrutiny for its struggles on Monday night, the defense has earned high praise after holding the triple option offense of Georgia Tech to just 192 yards on the ground.
Linebacker Jack Tyler was especially impressive as he registered 17 tackles on the night and was named ACC linebacker of the week.
“Just having those extra couple weeks, Coach Foster and I really looked at the film hard and tried to get my reads down and I felt really comfortable out there,” Tyler said. “I felt like I could anticipate what they were doing on some plays. I felt like I knew exactly what they were going to do. I just felt prepared and confident and it goes back to Coach Foster for putting me in a good spot to play hard and play well and just make plays.”
Despite Tyler’s success, a question now remains what the Hokies linebacking corps will look like when the injured Tariq Edwards returns. Edwards' status remains up in the air for this weekend’s game, but Tyler said he is just approaching every day the exact same way.
“I come to practice every day, work hard, keep trying to improve and just be a leader for this defense," he said. "If coach wants to put Tariq back in there, I’m all for it — whatever is best for this team. But for now, I’m the starter and that’s how I’m preparing.”
The defense as a whole didn’t allow many big plays at all on Monday night and look to continue that trend this weekend. That is owed in large part to the adjustments defensive coordinator Bud Foster is able to make on the fly each game.