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JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Sunday, October 13, 2013
BLACKSBURG — With James Gayle and J.R. Collins locking down Virginia Tech’s defensive end positions, sophomore Dadi Nicolas doesn’t get as many reps as the Hokies would prefer.
They found a way for him to make a big impact Saturday.
Nicolas played as a specialized whip linebacker, starting in a stand-up position off the edge and crashing hard toward the line, either after the quarterback or the running back on every play.
The defensive wrinkle, which the Hokies saw Virginia do two weeks ago against Pitt, worked well. Nicolas had career highs with seven tackles and three sacks.
“He’s a real talented guy and we wanted to use him to get a pass rush from different positions,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “He’s a real force back there.”
Nicolas was the first Hokie to register three sacks in a game since Cam Martin against North Carolina in 2007. He doubled his career sack total in the process.
A rangy, 6-foot-3, 224-pound end, Nicolas, who was unavailable to the media afterward, played only one year of high school football for Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Fla. He’s slowly come along at Tech, however, and his playing time has increased accordingly.
“When he started, you couldn’t get him lined up, you couldn’t get him to do anything, because he’s only been playing for so long,” said linebacker Jack Tyler, whose duty it was to get him lined up properly Saturday. “And now he’s kind of found his niche. You can see that he’s a heck of a player.”
It figures to be a one-week deal. Tech saw a matchup to exploit against Pitt, and Nicolas lacks the pass coverage skills to be a full-time whip linebacker. But Tyler sees tons of potential.
“Down the road, I can’t even imagine what he’s going to turn into,” Tyler said. “Because once he gets everything going mentally, physically he’s there.”
Just enough offense
The Hokies didn’t have a great offensive day, finishing with 315 total yards and running for only 76 yards, the fourth time they’ve failed to hit the 100-yard mark on the ground this season.
But Tech had some positives. The Hokies had a 34:11 to 25:49 advantage in time of possession, were 8 for 19 on third downs and didn’t turn the ball over for a third straight game, the first time since 2005 they’ve done that.
“With the way the defense is playing, it kind of changes the way we play on offense a little bit,” quarterback Logan Thomas said.
“We know if we take care of the football, and do what we’ve got to do, the defense is going to do a great job as always. Put a couple points on the board and watch them do their thing.”
Getting their kicks
Kicker Cody Journell shook off his recent struggles to make four of five field goals Saturday, hitting from a career-long 48 yards in the first quarter.
The senior had missed three of his previous four attempts going to back to the East Carolina game. He was good from 48, 37, 42 and 23 yards Saturday, missing a 33-yarder.
“He only had one bad game,” Beamer said. “In practice, he’s been back and very steady. We have our field goal kicking contest and he’s always the one that’s blasting them through.”
Punter A.J. Hughes averaged a career-high 52.8 yards on four punts. That’s the highest single-game average under Beamer, passing Jimmy Kibble’s 51.3-yard mark against UAB in 1997.
A welcome break
After playing the first seven weeks of the season, the only ACC team to do so, the Hokies finally get their bye week. They have two weeks to rest up and prepare for Duke at home Oct. 26.
“It’s definitely helpful,” Tyler said. “I don’t think we have too many big injuries that we need to come back from, but it’s always nice to just kind of get away for a week and mentally get recharged and physically get recharged.”
Tight end Kalvin Cline had a career-high 65 receiving yards to go with his first career touchdown catch. … At 6-1, Virginia Tech is bowl eligible for the 21st straight season. The Hokies didn’t accomplish that until the final week of the regular season last year.
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