Cincinnati targeted Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum repeatedly Saturday. Officials flagged him four times, twice each for pass interference and grabbing the facemask. The stripes missed a third, blatant, facemask.
So after the Hokies’ 27-24 loss at FedEx Field, I asked coach Frank Beamer is he is sold on Exum, a converted safety, playing corner.
“I think Exum did a good job most of the night,” Beamer said. “We had him isolated out there, and he hung in there pretty good.”
Wow. Tech’s future Hall of Fame coach saw a different game than most of us knotheads in the press box. Why, even former Hokies offensive lineman Jaymes Brooks tweeted during the fourth quarter that he hoped Exum had safety help over the top.
Add a whiffed tackle on Ralph Abernathy IV’s 76-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter and you have a bleak afternoon.
Not to pile on. Exum led Tech in tackles last season with 89 and shared the team lead with Jayron Hosley in forced fumbles (two). His 10 pass break-ups trailed only Hosley’s 12. Exum also had a potentially critical interception two weeks ago at Pitt, an opportunity the offense squandered.
But Saturday, the Bearcats exploited Exum, often with senior Kenbrell Thompkins. He had five catches for 70 yards in Cincinnati’s first two games, seven for a career-high 134 Saturday.
Other notes, numbers and observations that didn’t make the print column:
* Exum wasn’t the only Tech defensive back to struggle. Cincinnati passed for 392 yards, 376 by quarterback Munchie Legaux and 16 by holder Brendon Kay on a fake field goal.
That’s the most passing yards against Tech since Cal’s Aaron Rodgers threw for 394 in the 2003 Insight Bowl. Impressive athlete, Legaux. But even at 6-foot-5, he’s a side-armed slinger with minimal touch, and his previous career-high was 217 yards.
That said, Legaux, under duress, threw a strike to Damon Julian for the game-winning, 39-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining.
“Virginia Tech was challenging us on every single snap, Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said, “playing all cover zero man and trying to get after us. I thought Munchie (had) a gritty performance.”
“We played with pretty good effort throughout the whole game, except for a few big plays we gave up,” Hokies linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “That is still unacceptable.”
Indeed, for all of Tech’s offensive issues, and there are myriad, there’s no denying that in losses to Pitt and Cincinnati, the Hokies allowed 537 and 495 yards, respectively.
Saturday Tech yielded 214 in the fourth quarter alone.
* Freshman tailbacks Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman combined for 92 yards on 18 carries, and given the caliber of Cincinnati’s defense, that’s the best they’ve looked.
“I thought (Holmes) came into his own tonight,” Beamer said.
* Very interested to see how Cincinnati (3-0) fares the remainder of the season. With upcoming games against Miami of Ohio, Fordham and Toledo, the Bearcats could well be 6-0 and nationally ranked headed to preseason Big East favorite Louisville on Oct. 26.
As poorly as Tech played Saturday, this loss may not be quite the blight in hindsight.
* The Hokies (3-2, 1-0 ACC) have seven regular-season games remaining. Today I’m guessing they’d be underdogs in four: at North Carolina, at Clemson, at Miami and home against Florida State.
How many of those four Tech can steal likely will determine whether 2012 is remembered as a marked decline for a program spoiled by eight consecutive 10-win seasons.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one on Saturday’s game.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times