Perhaps it was fitting the football team wore #allmarooneverything with a sweet Hokies Stone helmet design. The defense was a rock while the offense was hard place. Everything that was in between were just mortar. The stones which grace the buildings on the sprawling campus of Virginia Tech were laid upon foundation of solid ground, and have stood ever since.
When Beamer said "toughest team," he wasn't making a recruiting pitch for future Hokies, but as a mantra for his current team to accept the challenge, and embrace the challenge they did. Led by the "Big Three," Logan Thomas, James Gayle and the injured Antone Exum, the tone was set when they all spurned the siren song of the NFL draft for one more go as seniors. The dividends have come in slow spurts, but what we witnessed last night as Virginia Tech invaded Atlanta shook Bobby Dodd Stadium to its foundation with rock solid performance for the ages.
The defense, led by the anchor of a deep defensive line, Derrick Hopkins, did something very few teams have accomplished - limiting the Georgia Tech's option offense to a measly 129 yards rushing and harassing Vad Lee into three turnovers. The secondary, led by ball hawking corners Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller came away with an interception apiece. For the defense to pull this performance after surviving a grueling game against Marshall's spread attack in the rain and triple overtime, and then to turn around and smack Georgia Tech back into the corner is a performance that will be remembered for a long, long time.
I have tweeted this thought before, but the defense may be playing at a level not seen since the magical 1999 season, and that is not to disregard the vaunted defenses of 2005 and 2006, which led the country in almost all defensive categories.
The offense has also done something remarkable. While they may not have been able to score points, for the most part, they held their own. Logan Thomas had a game that almost mirrored his signature game against Miami in 2011. He went over 60% completion percentage and carried the offense on all of his 6'6" and 250 pound frame. While the offensive line had some ugly busted assignments, they held Thomas upright, surrendering only two sacks against an improved and active defense of Georgia Tech. Also, Thomas snapped a streak of throwing an interception in a game, a remarkable turnaround.
Just for good measure, it was revealed after the game that Logan Thomas had an abdominal strain, did not practice much all last week and still had this type of performance. He gritted his teeth and went in this game, knowing full and well that Georgia Tech was determined to stop the run at all costs.
Toughness was on full display last night. ESPN was gushing that this defense was the best they have seen. What is even more remarkable is how so many freshmen are seeing action now, and the confidence the coaches are displaying in playing them. Those players have laid the foundation for future Hokies to build upon.
Like the stones adoring the helmets last night, the foundation has been laid, and the first layer of stones have been laid.
The challenge for the team now is not to rest on their laurels. They need to stay hungry. They need to stay in the hunt. It is irrelevant if they earn the top 25 ranking this weekend. UNC and Pittsburgh loom in the next two weekends. Those games are not going to be easy. Yet, given how the defense has gone to work, and the offense beginning to click, this team could make some serious noise.