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Edmunds gives Hokies’ offense hope for future
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Alabama’s Deion Belue (13) breaks up a pass intended for Virginia Tech’s Ryan Malleck (88) on Saturday. Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas completed just five passes for 59 yards in Saturday’s loss.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
ATLANTA — Virginia Tech has a tailback now. Of all the things to come out of Saturday night — the strong defense, the dropped balls, the special teams disasters — nothing was more important than that.
Most teams build their offenses around quarterbacks. But for the better part of Frank Beamer’s tenure in Blacksburg, Tech’s offense has centered around the tailback, for better or worse.
Tech’s 35-10 loss to Alabama at the Georgia Dome was a predictable outcome, but Trey Edmunds’ performance was not. It was better than anything that could have been anticipated.
In his first college game, the former Parade All-American ran for 132 yards on 20 carries — an average of 6.6 yards per tote. He did it against what is likely the best linebacking corps in the nation. He did it with no healthy bodies to spell him. He did it with no passing game to alleviate the pressure.
The biggest thing? Just that he did it. A year after their quarterback led the Hokies in rushing, Edmunds had the first 100-yard debut by a Tech running back since Shyrone Stith in 1996, providing hope for an offense that desperately needs it.
“I think Trey’s going to be a terrific back,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “I thought he stuck it up in there, he showed speed. He’s a powerful guy. Each and every week, I think he’ll get better and better. That’s the first time he ever stepped on a college football field tonight, and that’s a pretty good crowd he stepped out against.”
Oh, yes. The crowd. Edmunds noticed it the minute he stepped out on the turf for warm-ups. So much noise. So many seats.
There weren’t any games like this at Dan River High.
Edmunds had learned he’d be starting after Thursday’s walk-through, when J.C. Coleman was ruled out of the game with multiple ankle injuries.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, man,’ ” Edmunds said. “I gotta do this thing? I gotta start this thing off?”
But then he talked with Coleman, who advised him to relax and let the game develop naturally. Tech went the first two series without handing the ball to Edmunds, and it was easy to remember last season, when no tailback distinguished himself all year.
Then Edmunds took his first hand-off and gained four. Then he gained two. Then, on his third carry, he broke free down the left sideline, outrunning the Alabama secondary for a 77-yard touchdown.
“The offensive line had blocked the defensive line and the linebackers, and at that point, it was just me, the cornerback and the safety,” Edmunds said. “In my mind, I just felt like it had to be a footrace.”
He won it handily. That didn’t surprise Beamer but it did stun many who’d only seen the scrimmages, where Edmunds often had struggled to find running room.
Edmunds said he wasn’t holding anything back during those preseason scrums. Tech’s defense had just beaten Tech’s offense.
But that one 77-yard run put so much doubt to rest. About the line. About Edmunds. About the possibilities. The sideline erupted watching Edmunds make the kind of explosive play Tech’s tailbacks couldn’t muster all of last year.
“Tell you the truth, I was in a zone,” Edmunds said. “I really couldn’t hear what people were saying. I just know a lot of people were excited. It was one of the most exciting feelings ever.”
Edmunds had 106 rushing yards by halftime against a defense that allowed just 76 yards per game last year. The going got tougher for him in the second half, but he still fell forward on all of his runs and spun out of a tackle during one 7-yard gain.
He also caught one pass — something he might have to do often if this receiving corps continues to struggle. In a rare miscue for him on this night, Edmunds contributed one of the many drops in the passing game.
“For anybody to be a target for Logan, I feel that takes pressure off him and it relieves him,” Edmunds said. “When you’re open, he expects you to catch it. We’ve just got to get better as a team … and catch the open balls.”
They also have to tackle somebody on special teams. Two monster returns by Christion Jones crushed any realistic chance Tech had of staying in this one to the end.
Beamer hopes Coleman can be ready by next week. Either way, he now knows for sure what he has in Edmunds — something to build around.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve got it all down pat now,” Edmunds said. “But I would say that I kind of got a grasp of college football, and I got my first game out of the way. Now it’s just correcting the mistakes and keep on playing.”
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