User ID: Password:

May 8, 2013

Interception returns headlined spring game

By: Jimmy Robertson

Der’Woun Greene and Donovan Riley returned interceptions for touchdowns to lead the White team
past the Orange

Like several other former Tech players now working in the NFL, Kam Chancellor, Jayron Hosley and Brandon Flowers returned to Blacksburg for the annual spring game, walked the sidelines and caught up with old coaches, and received recognition at halftime for being Hokies.

They had to have liked what they saw from the players at their old spots.

Defensive backs made the big plays, returning two interceptions for touchdowns and recording three interceptions overall to highlight the spring game played April 20 at Lane Stadium. The White team defeated the Orange team 27-9 even though the White team was comprised mostly of projected backup players.

The White team was spotted 13 points at the onset, as head coach Frank Beamer wanted to make the game competitive. But the White squad didn’t need the points, returning the two interceptions and playing well defensively on a day in which the Orange team offense – with mostly projected first-teamers – struggled.

“I thought it was going to be cake work,” Orange defensive end James Gayle said when he saw the format of the spring game. “But they came out and played well. We weren’t able to overcome that. Even if they don’t score those two touchdowns, we still would have lost. It was one of those days.”

“In the end, you’re trying to get things to be close in the fourth quarter because you find out things about your football team in the fourth quarter,” Beamer said of the logic behind spotting the White team 13 points. “But what I found out is that maybe some of those second-team guys ought to be first-team guys.”

Most of the talk afterward centered on the Hokies’ new-look offense under coordinator Scot Loeffler. Early on, the Orange team looked good, with Thomas hooking up with Joshua Stanford for a 57-yard gain that gave the Orange a first-and-goal at the White 4 on the Orange’s first possession.

But three straight running plays lost 2 yards. On fourth-and-goal from the 6, the Orange team went for it, and Thomas tried to throw a quick slant to Demitri Knowles. Safety Der’Woun Greene stepped in front of Knowles, caught it and outran Thomas 98 yards to the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. Brooks Abbott’s extra point gave the White team a 20-0 lead.

That play was a continuation of what Greene did this spring – make big plays – since moving from corner to safety at the start of spring practice.

“It was different, but I played safety in high school, so it was just a matter of getting back into it,” Greene said. “It was just a matter of working hard and grinding this spring, and Coach (Torrian Gray) kept telling me to play my game. That’s what I did.

“At the start of spring, I was kind of slow. But toward the end, I think I played kind of good. I think they’ve (the coaches) got a good idea of what I can do.”

Thomas threw his second interception on the next possession. On that one, backup cornerback Donovan Riley stepped in front of a pass intended for Stanford and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Abbott’s extra point gave the White team a 27-0 bulge.

“That was my fault,” Stanford said of the interception. “I was supposed to go underneath the cornerback, but the cornerback squatted because he knew it was coming, and I went over the top. But by then, Logan had already thrown the ball because he’s expecting me to go underneath.”

The game contradicted the progress Thomas made this spring. He completed 16 of 29 for 214 yards and was accurate for the most part, but he threw three interceptions. In looking at the entire 15-practice spring, though, Thomas progressed nicely, according to the coaches.

“I think he’s further along,” Beamer said. “He had a couple there early that probably weren’t such good throws. But I think Logan always gives you the ability that he’s going to be right back. He’s not a guy that’s up and down. I think even good golfers have bad shots sometimes, but how you react and what you do after those shots is important. In my opinion, Logan will always be right back. Every play might not be perfect, but I’ve got a strong belief in Logan. When it’s fourth-quarter time, I think he’ll be good.”

The Orange team got on the board when defensive tackle Kris Harley stripped walk-on tailback Maurice Taylor of the ball deep in the White team’s territory. Taylor recovered the ball, but was in the end zone, and the Orange team received a safety as a result.

The Orange team’s lone touchdown came in the third quarter when quarterback Mark Leal threw a 30-yard scoring strike to tight end Ryan Malleck. The play highlighted a big game for Tech’s tight ends, as Malleck caught three passes for 45 yards and Zack McCray hauled in four passes for 65 yards.

Stanford caught three passes for 86 yards, including the 57-yarder, while J.C. Coleman caught three passes and Knowles hauled in two.

For the game, the Orange offense finished with 297 yards. The White team, behind walk-on quarterbacks Brian Rody and Connor Jessop, amassed just 87 yards. Rody completed 5 of 11 for 62 yards, while Jessop completed 4 of 7 for 25 yards.

Neither team mounted much of a rushing attack. Michael Holmes led all rushers with 24 yards on seven carries.

“I think we’ve played better football this spring,” Stanford said. “Some days, we’d have good offensive days. Some days, we’d have bad offensive days. Some days, we’d have all right offensive days.

“I feel, as an offense, that we have to work on our stuff every day this summer to get comfortable so that we can consistently do the things we want to do. We can do it sometimes, but not all the time, and when you play a team like Alabama (in the season opener), you may only get one chance. You may only get this coverage once, or this play is only going to work once. I feel like we need to work hard to get the consistency we want.”

Beamer agreed.

“Defensively, we’ve got a chance to be very good,” Beamer said. “We’ve got to keep working and keep improving. I think that showed today. Kicking wise, I think we’ll be very good. We’ve got good kickers and good return guys. We didn’t see much in returns today, but I think that can be a big part of our game.

“Offensively, we’ve got to get more consistent. We’ve heard that before, but in catching the balls … you drop a ball and it kills a drive, and then blocking up front. I can tell you there’s more to our offense than we showed today, but we also started out trying to get a good foundation, and I think we’ve done that. I thought there would be more running plays that would pop for more yardage today.

“It’s going to be interesting to go back and look at this video and see who did what and how they did it, and so forth. We’ve got to function more, and part of that is evaluating. We played a lot of guys, but there aren’t going to be a lot of guys that line up against Alabama. We’ve got to determine who those guys are, let’s play better and be more consistent. I think that’s where our football team is.”

Tech now will spend the summer preparing for its season opener against Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 31. Kickoff is slated for 5:30 p.m.