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Coach Frank Beamer vows to upgrade the personnel on the units after they were torched by Alabama.
Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones (22) runs past Virginia Tech defensive end Matt Roth on a touchdown run on a punt return Saturday in Atlanta.
Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones (22) catches a pass for a touchdown as Virginia Tech safety Desmond Frye (26) defends Saturday in Atlanta.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Head coach Frank Beamer bows his head with just over 4 minutes to go in the Virginia Tech–Alabama football game in Atlanta on Saturday.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Frank Beamer looks on as his punt team goes into the game in the first half. Virginia Tech – Alabama football game in Atlanta Georgia Saturday.
Monday, September 2, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Frank Beamer has long held the belief that a football game can turn in an instant on special teams. Virginia Tech’s season-opening 35-10 loss to Alabama couldn’t have been a better example.
Crimson Tide junior Christion Jones returned a punt and a kick for touchdowns, making what was an otherwise even game into a blowout. It’s caused Beamer to go back to the drawing board with his beloved special teams units.
“We’re going to make a few changes there and make sure we’ve got absolutely our best possible people on the field,” he said Monday, a day after the Hokies did extra work at practice on punt and kick coverage.
Finding the right balance of experience and youth is a constant dilemma on special teams. Many coaches use it as a training ground for inexperienced players.
Years ago, Beamer and the Hokies helped establish the program by having their stars play major roles on punt and kick coverage. He’s gotten away from that in recent years, partly due to the increased injury risk and fatigue on special teams, a major concern with this year’s thin roster.
“If you can take a veteran guy off the field, you’d like to do that,” Beamer said.
But Saturday’s opener exposed Tech’s special teams units as being too inexperienced, something Beamer said the Hokies will remedy by getting more veterans on the field, although he declined to get into specifics.
Four plays into the Alabama game, Jones fielded a punt and weaved 72 yards through would-be Tech tacklers a touchdown. Part of that was due to inexperience. Tech used several freshman on that unit, replacing injured veterans like Ryan Malleck and Ronny Vandyke, who are out for the year.
“Had a couple guys too wide with their lanes,” Beamer said. “Our lane distribution was not correct. There’s also a hole in our coverage.”
On the kick return later in the first half, Daniel Dyer, Sam Rogers and Josh Trimble all missed tackles on Jones. A few Hokies stopped on the play, thinking it was over. And a safety on the unit was out of position. All of that led Jones to burst free up the sideline for a 94-yard touchdown.
“It’s just a matter of doing it correctly,” Beamer said.
If Beamer is looking for sound tacklers, he need not look any further than on his defense, which turned in one of its best performances in recent memory.
The Hokies held Alabama to 206 yards of offense. Only seven defenses in Week 1 fared better, and none of them were playing a ranked team, let alone the No. 1 team in the country.
Even on a per-play basis, the numbers were outstanding. Alabama averaged 3.32 yards per play on 62 offensive snaps. In that category, only eight teams did better than Virginia Tech in the opening week.
“We probably played one of the best defensive games we’ve ever played around here,” said Beamer, giving hope that Bud Foster’s crew can again hold down the fort until the offense and special teams come around.
That was especially true of the defensive front, which overwhelmed the Crimson Tide’s offensive line for most of the night.
“They out-played us up front, if you want to know the truth,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
“I thought we were very physical and flew to the football,” Beamer said. “A couple times we did miss that first tackle, but here comes two, three, four more. And that’s the way you like to watch it on the video is a lot of blurs going to the football.”
Now he’d like to see that relentlessness on his special teams.
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