By Justin Cates
Call me a broken record if you like, bu Marshall will be another tough test for the Hokies.
That's not even coach speak. Frank Beamer has made a habit over the years of making even the most average teams seem like world-beaters, but in this case he's entirely correct.
East Carolina proved to be just as difficult as I expected. Tech's 15-10 win in Greenville was in doubt most of the day but it could have been a lot easier with some made field goals—more on that later.
The biggest thing to come out of that game is that the Hokie defense is real, and they're spectacular.
Currently ranked the number two overall defense in the nation, Tech gave talnted Pirate quarterback Shane Carden all kinds of trouble. Carden was sacked seven times and intercepted on three passes, two from true freshman corner Brandon Facyson.
As good as the secondary is, the line is playing outstanding football too.
Defensive tackle J.R. Collins is playing at a very high level. Saturday he had five tackles including two sacks and a QB hurry.
Fellow lineman defensive end James Gayle (pictured up top) also had an interesting day.
Early in the game, his left shoulder popped out and the trainers popped it back in. He kept playing and finished the day with two sacks—one of which stripped the ball in the endzone and forced a safety—and two more quarterback hurries en route to being named the ACC's defensive lineman of the week.
That's some extreme toughness, something the entire team seems to have in abundance this season likely thanks to a very tough summer camp. It's a stark contrast to last year's campaign already in that department.
|Freshman Brandon Facyson is proving to be a terror in the defensive backfield.|
The Hokie offense struggled but took some steps forward. ECU stacked the line and sold out all day to stop the run with great success allowing just 53 yards on 34 carries.
That's what teams will do the rest of the season until Logan Thomas shows he can beat teams through the air, and there were positive signs there.
Logan still missed a couple of easy passes but made much better reads throwing the football and was very good on third downs. The receivers are also starting to step up.
Demtri Knowles had a big day with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Willie Byrn—nicknamed 'The Paperboy' by Scot Loeffler because he always delivers and looks like the coordinators paperboy—is becoming a reliable target after seven catches for 67 yards and a lot of nice yards after the catch.
D.J. Coles caught a touchdown for the second straight game but his snaps will be limited going forward due to the health of his knee.
For the second game in a row, the Tech defense will be tested by a strong passing attack.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato was the leading passer in the FBS last year and is off to a fast start this season. Through three games so far, Cato is 68-of-108 for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Thundering Herd passing offense currently ranks 21st in the nation and they're 12th in scoring with the 5th ranked total defense. Those numbers are certainly inflated based on competition, but the offense played well against a good Ohio team, nearly leading the comeback.
|Rakeem Cato and the Herd hope to pull an upset in Blacksburg.|
The defense just needs to keep doing what it's doing and the offense needs continue taking steps forward. Running the ball won't get any easier as J.C. Coleman has once again been ruled out against Marshall.
The good news is that Chris Mangus has shown some nice things as the backup to Trey Edmunds. Tech will need to find some creative ways to run the ball facing another defense that will likely load the box with eight guys almost every play.
I'd like to see a couple of reverses and some outside runs that utilize Edmunds' speed.
As for the Hokie kicker Cody Journell, well he had a miserable day in Greenville.
He missed an extra point, then overcompensated and missed a field goal and then another field goal. He missed one more but it was negated by a roughing the kicker penalty.
Kicking is a bizarre mental game as much as it is the physical striking of the ball. The last thing you want a kicker doing is thinking. Hopefully, Tech can get him a field goal attempt early and he can make it and put everything behind him.
Over his career, Journell has proven to be very reliable—on the field at least—and there's no reason to start doubting him now. I felt much better after hearing he received a phone call from Shayne Graham after the game. I'm sure the Hokies' greatest kicker had some good advice for a reeling protégé.
For fun, here's the biggest kick in school history. Few things make me happier than seeing ery very sad West Virginia Mountaineers.
So as the air turns crisp and the Hokies don yet another "interesting" uniform for military appreciation day, Tech sits at 2-1 and in good position for a home victory. It will be tough, but there won't be a single easy game the rest of the way.
The Hokies take on Marshall Saturday at NOON on ESPNU.