Final Thoughts: Sun Bowl Edition

Rudy Gutierrez-El Paso Times UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, 17, runs for a touchdown during a quarterback keeper play Tuesday in the Sun Bowl.

UCLA beat the Hokies 42-12 in the Sun Bowl. It wasn’t a good final chapter to the seniors’ for their last game as Hokies, especially for Logan Thomas. Tech was able to hang in for much of the game, but eventually the Bruins were able to pull away. The outcome of this game was unfortunately what I was afraid was going to happen going in.

The most disappointing part about Tech’s performance, to me, was the defense. The Hokies knew going into the game that Brett Hundley was the guy they had to stop in order to win this game, but they failed to do that. The truth is that this game could have been even worse than the final score was. Hundley ran for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also, threw for 2 touchdowns and had 226 yards passing. The defense allowed him to consistently make plays, especially with his feet; much like CJ Brown did against us too. I just thought they would have defended Hundley a little better after we had already had Brown run all over us earlier in the season. I realize Hundley is a way better athlete than Brown, but with all the preparation time our defense had I just expected better.

Now the offense didn’t do anything to make things easier for the defense. The lone touchdown came on a drive early in the game before Thomas went down. Once Thomas went down with the concussion, I knew this game was over. The only reason Tech even scored again was because of a muffed punt by UCLA. The one positive about the offense was how Scott Loeffler was able to generate some type of running game. Using Carlis Parker like Tech did was a creative way to help get some type of ground attack going. Other than that it was just another lack luster day for the offense. I think our offense will be improved next year, but not because Thomas will be gone. They will only be improved, because I think the offense line play will be much improved. Also it will be year two in Loeffler’s system, then both the receivers and running backs return.

Let me be the first to say I absolutely did not want to see Logan Thomas’s career at Virginia Tech end this way. I know a lot of fans hate him, due to the fact that he didn’t live up to their expectations (even though I feel he did the best with what he had around him), but I still hope none of them wanted him going out this way. I think Logan would have had a much better career if not for the pieces around him, because in his first season (when he had decent pieces) he tore it up. In regards to his performance before his injury, I thought he was about to explode. After that amazing run where he just ran over Myles Jack and then carried multiple Bruin defenders with him, I thought that would be the spark the offense needed to get going. Not only had he inspired the whole offense, but the whole entire sideline was going insane. I really felt that could have been the turning point. At that time it was still a tie ball game at seven a piece, so you never know what would have happened had he not got hurt. Tech gained all the momentum on Logan’s run, but only a couple plays later it was all taken away on one hit. On the play where he was knocked out, I do believe it was somewhat controversial, but plays like this happen in a contact sport. I’m not saying whether or not it was targeting or any of that, because that is a matter of people’s opinions, but I honestly do believe this could have been a different ball game if Thomas could have played the entire game. I know he was only 3 for 11 at that point, but I think that run was the play they all needed to get going. I’m not saying we would have won, but I don’t believe it would have been a blowout.

When Logan had his rough stretch against Duke and Boston College a lot of Hokie nation was calling for Thomas to be benched and for Mark Leal to be put in. Well after his performance in the Sun Bowl once Thomas went down I’m glad that didn’t happen. Leal, to me, didn’t show great arm strength. He also cannot evade pressure, nor make good decisions under pressure. Both of the interceptions he threw should have been returned for touchdowns (instead of just the first one, the second was returned to the ten yard line). I know he lacks the experience compared to Logan, but I was evident that Thomas is not the problem with the offense; because once Leal came in we saw more of the same (but worse). It doesn’t matter who Tech was starting at quarterback, because the offense line is the issue and until they get that where it needs to be we are going to see much more of the same. I just hope Loeffler lets the freshman and other guys on the current roster battle it out for the starting job, because I wasn’t impressed with Leal at all.

The offense will probably be improved next year, even if Leal is starting, just because I believe the offensive line will improve. Whether some of the young guys take over or it being year two with the new coaches, I think our line will play better. The running game is going to have to get better too, because it’s obvious is Leal is starting that he is not the running threat that Thomas is. Another thing that will help the offense next season is the backs and receivers are all coming back. So they should do nothing but improve going forward.

The defense should be fine like they always are, but I have to admit I am concerned about the defensive line. I think the starters upfront will be solid, but the depth could be an issue. The secondary should be the strength of the entire defense. At linebacker I have some concerns, but we do have talent there it will just depend on health and how fast they grasp the concept. I think we fix our special teams coverages and we find a solid returner. The kicking game is something to keep an eye on also.

I think all in all the Hokies finished where they should have. Yes, there were a couple of games that we should have won and if we did this season could have been a lot different. What it boiled down to was we just don’t quite have all the pieces in the right places yet to be a serious contender. Once we get the offense line issues settled, I really think that is when we will take off. I love the new coaches we hired last offseason and I think they are going to get the offense back on track. I also think our current class (assuming we get Nnadi, Minor, and Ford) is one that can get us back where we need to be. I also think the 2015 class is setting up nicely if we can just land those top in state guys. The Hokies are headed in the right direction, but I still think it may take another year or so before we see that, because the coaching staff needs time to get their guys here and then develop them. I think we have a bright future ahead of us. I just hope we can put it all together, both offensively and defensively, at the same time and make a national title run in a year or two. Thanks to all the seniors for everything they put in. They worked their butts off and for their hard work I am grateful. I wish them all the best going forward in whatever they are going to do. Good luck, God bless, and you will always be a part of Hokie Nation.