The Virginia Tech football team concluded its spring practice with one of the most anticipated spring games in Tech history.
In front of about 30,000 fans, the White squad defeated the favored Orange team 27-9. While the White team was spotted 13 points at the beginning of the game, Logan Thomas and the Orange team could not muster a comeback.
“In the end, you’re trying to get to where the game is close in the fourth quarter, so you can find out things about your football team in the fourth quarter,” said Frank Beamer. “And what we found out, maybe some of the second-team guys need to be first-team guys. And that’s what happens a lot of the time.”
Coming off their worst season in 20 years, the Hokies are hoping their new offensive coaches can spark a transformation leading into the Hokies’ Aug. 31 opener against Alabama.
“Offensively, we’ve got to get more consistent,” Beamer said. “I can tell you there’s more to our offense than we showed today. But we also started out trying to get a good foundation and I think we’ve done that.”
Under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Thomas and the offense did not unveil much of their new offense. Thomas finished 16-of-29 for just 214 yards including three interceptions.
In the first quarter, Thomas was intercepted by Der’Woun Greene and Donovan Riley, both which were returned for touchdowns.
“Me and coach (Loeffler) saw things differently,” Thomas said. “The ball felt like it was coming out of my hand great all day.”
On the ground, the Hokies were led by Michael Holmes (seven carries, 24 yards) and Trey Edmunds (eight carries, 11 yards).
The lack of production from the backs wasn’t disappointing to Edmunds, who realizes there is a lot of time left before the season opener.
“Of course I was hoping to break a run or get more yards, that’s any running back. I know what I can do, and I know with our work in the offseason, my progress will just increase.”
With 3:43 left in the second quarter, the Orange team got on the board via a safety. James Gayle, a leader for Bud Foster’s defense, felt the 13 points was a deficit the Orange team should have overcome.
“I thought (today) was going to be cake work,” Gayle said. “They came out there and played well and we weren’t able to overcome it.”
Beamer was impressed with how his defense came to play on Saturday.
“Defensively, we’ve got a chance to be very good,” Beamer said. “We’ve got to keep working, keep improving.
The lone Orange team touchdown came in the third quarter, when backup quarterback Mark Leal found tight end Ryan Malleck for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Hokies welcomed a large group of former players back to Blacksburg, including Tyrod Taylor, David Wilson and numerous other Tech alumni.
Loeffler has only installed a small part of the offensive playbook, which limited Thomas and the offense on Saturday.
“Offensively, we only have a little bit in,” Thomas said. “People are going to say I had a bad day, but I think playing how I played, I threw the ball where I wanted to, I hit my spots and I was accurate. My mechanics have gotten better, my accuracy has gotten better and that’s all I could ask for learning the playbook. I’m excited to go into this summer and work with these guys and get them better.”
Thomas found his cousin and tight end Zack McCray several times on the day. After moving from defensive end to tight end at the end of last season, McCray finished the spring strong, finishing Saturday with four catches for 65 yards.
“I thought he did a great job today, I was proud of him,” Thomas said. “He had a couple good catches, a great catch and run. Obviously, I’d love to see him on the field with me and be able to throw him a couple passes. It’s nice to have family out there with you.”
On defense, Deon Clarke led the Hokies with nine tackles.
The Hokies gave action to a number of young players, including Greene and freshman left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin.
“Football is important to him,” Beamer said about McLaughlin. “He’s got some toughness, and again we’re going to evaluate all those guys, but right now we’ve got about eight guys (on the offensive line) we’ve got to depend on.”
For Greene, the spring represented a chance to seize an opportunity in the secondary. With cornerback Antone Exum out with injury, Greene is hoping to impress the coaches with his play.
“I think (the coaches) have a good idea of what I can do,” Greene said. “(The spring) was very competitive and the coaches pushed toughness. You have to be tough, or you’ll be standing on the sideline.”
Tech has nearly fourth and a half months before its season opener against Alabama. With their core intact, Beamer will be looking to iron out the details entering the fall.
One thing the Hokies have is confidence in their quarterback, even after a pedestrian day like Thomas had Saturday.
“Even good golfers have bad shots sometimes, but it’s the way you react to those shots,” Beamer said. “I’ve got a strong belief in Logan. When it’s fourth quarter time, I think he’ll be there.”
The Hokies also received a commitment from Class of 2014 safety C.J. Reavis (Thomas Dale High School, Chester, Va.) prior to the Spring Game.
Reavis, a 6’0, 199-pound safety, holds offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Oklahoma among others.