Blacksburg, VA -- Coaches will rarely, if ever, admit to moral victories in a loss. Especially heartbreaking losses like the Virginia Tech Hokies suffered Thursday night at home against No. 8 ranked Florida State. But head coach Frank Beamer has to be relieved to some degree to know that his team can put it all together and take a top 10 team down to the wire.
The Hokies (2-4, 4-6), 13-point underdogs to the 9-1 Seminoles, used a stifling defense to smother the high-powered FSU offense, to fight and scrap to take a 22-20 lead with less than three minutes to play in the game.
The Noles, however, managed to put together an impressive scoring drive, getting into the end zone with :40 left in the game. FSU fifth-year quarterback EJ Manuel completed a pass over the middle to a wide open Rashad Greene for a 39-yard touchdown pass to put the Noles up 26-22 lead. A two-point conversion pushed the lead to 28-22.
Virginia Tech redshirt junior quarterback Logan Thomas, who has struggled this season, looked like he might pull off a miracle when he completed a 35-yard pass to Dimitri Knowles at the FSU 40 yard line, but his next pass was intercepted and FSU's offense took the field and took a knee to seal the comeback win.
While the Noles did indeed win, they got outplayed in many aspects. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has constantly had to readjust his game plan this season to compensate for lack of depth and talent, drew up one of his best game plans in recent memory. Add to that the newfound aggressiveness and nastiness, for lack of a better term, shown by the defensive line, and Florida State was under the gun all night.
The Hokies recorded 12 tackles for loss against FSU, the most allowed by the Noles all season. Tech sacked Manuel five times, another season-high allowed by FSU. In fact, prior to Thursday night's game, the Noles had only allowed 13 sacks in the previous nine games.
The most telling stat of the night was Florida State's total rushing yards; negative 15 yards. (-15). That's the fewest rushing yards by a Florida State team since at least 1973, but the record books only go back that far, so who knows, it could be a record. We do know that the -15 yards is tied for third under Beamer's tenure.
Here are some stats that Hokie coaches and fans can look to as signs that this team has the potential to turn things around starting Nov. 17 at Boston College:
- FSU averages an ACC-best 524 yards per game; VT held them to 385
- FSU averages an ACC-best 44.8 points per game; VT held them to 28
- FSU averages 235 rushing yards per game; VT held them to -15
- VT's offense had 298 passing yards, the most allowed by FSU's defense all season
- Cory Fuller's 124 yards receiving are the most allowed by FSU to a receiver all season
- VT forced three Seminole turnovers; tied for the most turnovers in a game by FSU this season
- VT recorded 12 tackles for a loss, the most allowed by FSU all season
- VT recorded 5 sacks, the most allowed by FSU all season
It should also be pointed out that Antone Exum, who is playing out of position at corner, played hurt last night with a bad left arm/shoulder. He was clearly favoring it for much of the second half, but couldn't come out because of the lack of depth. Detrick Bonner was also playing banged up.
So, while a loss is a loss, there are some definite positives to take away from last night's game for both fans and coaches. That being said, the pressure is now even great for the Hokies to win their final two games. At 4-6, Tech needs to win those games to qualify for a 20th straight bowl game.
Assuming the Hokies can beat a lowly Boston College team (1-5, 2-7) at Chestnut Hill and then come home to beat in-state rival Virginia (1-4, 3-6) for the ninth straight year, Frank Beamer and his team are looking at either the Belk Bowl or the Music City Bowl, according to various bowl projections.
And while some fans and critics dismiss going to a lesser bowl game, it's a great opportunity to give players more practice time and experience. And with Tech's lack of depth, particularly in the secondary, any post-season play will surely help this team as it looks to rebound in 2013.