BLACKSBURG, Va. — The passing game continues to struggle with drops and inconsistent progressions. The running game refuses to come into focus. The defense, despite overall strong play, continues to give up the occasional big gain.
Virginia Tech’s warts were in plain view once again Saturday during its rain-soaked 29-21 triple-overtime victory against Marshall. But, incrementally, the Hokies are getting back to what fans and players zealously label “Beamer Ball.”
“There’s a lot of things to work [on] but I tell you, when kids hang in there together and find a way to get it done, that builds your football team,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “That builds chemistry. That builds trust. That builds togetherness.”
Distilled to its essence, Beamer Ball consists of making big plays in all three facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams. When the great Virginia Tech teams were doing just that, it was a confirmation of what Beamer spoke of Saturday: the presence of chemistry, trust and togetherness.
Hints of its re-emergence were apparent in victories against Western Carolina and East Carolina, but it readily came into focus amid Saturday’s monsoon conditions. Consider these five instances:
• Virginia Tech’s first points came on a blocked punt by Kyle Fuller that Derek DiNardo returned 11 yards for a touchdown.
• The Hokies tied the game at 21-21 with 3:09 to play when receiver Willie Byrn stayed focused, hauled in a tipped pass and got his foot down in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.
• On Marshall’s ensuing possession, receiver Devon Smith burned Tech cornerback Brandon Facyson but safety Kyshoen Jarrett rolled over and slammed into Smith in the end zone to wrestle away a touchdown for a game-saving interception
• In the first overtime, 311-pound defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins blocked Marshall’s field goal attempt.
• In the second overtime, defensive end J.R. Collins sacked Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and force a fumble that Hopkins nearly returned for a score.
There were plenty of hiccups as well, such as backup kicker Ethan Keyserling’s three missed field goals in relief of suspended starter Cody Journell and quarterback Logan Thomas’ momentum-killing interception, thrown into double coverage when two other receivers were open on the play.
In victory, the Hokies can relish the defense’s second half and overtime performance (156 total yards allowed after permitting 205 in the first half), the offense’s gritty 14-play, 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game and the two blocked kicks by the special teams.
Marshall may not rate among the nation’s elite programs, let alone compare to Virginia Tech’s next foe, Georgia Tech, which led to questions about whether the Hokies (3-1) truly are on a rebound from last year’s 7-6 campaign.
But when asked what his takeaway was from Saturday’s game, Jarrett had a ready reply.
“Everybody had a mentality like we were giving them too much,” he said. “As a [team] we didn’t like how we were playing and we just had to step it up, play with more emotion and, you know, have some fun. We had some slip-ups and that hurt our pride. You want to show it’s hard to get through us, so we kept striving and we played better.”