After quarterback Logan Thomas completed passes of 32 and 25 yards on back-to-back plays early in the fourth quarter to move Tech to Rutgers’ 13-yard line, Tech came back with Martin Scales running the ball three consecutive times for a total of five yards. The drive stalled and Tech settled for a 22-yard field goal from Cody Journell, who would later miss a 51-yard attempt in the quarter, to cut Rutgers lead to 10-3 with 12:14 left.

Prior to Scales’ three consecutive runs, Tech had gained minus-five yards rushing in the game. Tech running backs J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory, Michael Holmes and Scales combined to have 21 carries for 20 yards in the game. So, I asked Beamer why there were three consecutive runs called at a juncture in the game when Tech finally started moving the ball through the air.

****************************************************************************

Click here to follow Norm Wood on Twitter. Thanks.

****************************************************************************

“It’s always easy to look back after the play and determine what should have happened, but we wanted to be unpredictable ourselves and throw off tendencies that we’ve had ourselves," Beamer said. “Then, really, we felt like particularly on second down and third down that they might be more aligned for a pass, and we wanted to try to get running it. We wanted some success running it.  So, we didn’t quite make it, but the thought process is good.  Now that we didn’t make it, I wish Logan had overruled us and called his own play...He should’ve turned it into a pass play.”

Beamer made the last portion of his comment on the play-calling in jest, laughing as he looked at a sheepishly grinning Thomas on the postgame interview podium with him.

In keeping with a general theme that spanned the season, Thomas was far from sharp, completing 15 of 39 passes (38.5 percent) for 193 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He finished with 18 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions this season.

“Everything they did made it tough,” said Thomas regarding Rutgers’ defense, which sacked him four times, held Tech to three yards rushing (fewest in a win in Beamer’s 26-year tenure at Tech) and 5 of 19 on third down conversions.

“They would show us one thing, drop out and show us another (defensive look), stay there when we were expecting them to drop out. We finally got into a groove of what we were expecting them to do, and we started picking up things time after time. It was just feeling them out just like a boxer.”

No Tech quarterback in the last 40 years had more interceptions in a season than Thomas did this season. Will Furrer also had 16 in both the ’88 and ’91 seasons.

Thomas did finish the season with 3,500 yards of total offense, surpassing his own school record of 3,482 yards he had last season in one more game. With 524 rushing yards, he also became the first quarterback to lead Tech in rushing for the season since the ’65 season, when Bobby Owens had 526 yards.

Was it the kind of season that could inspire Thomas to forgo his final season of college eligibility and head to the National Football League? Though it wouldn’t seem like his final game of the season helped his draft stock much, he still wasn’t ready to announce a decision after the game.

“I can’t tell you now,” said Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound who joined teammates Antone Exum and James Gayle in submitting paperwork to an NFL draft advisory committee to see where they might fit into the draft, but none of which has received feedback yet from the committee. “I have a big decision in front of me either way it goes.”

As dreadful as Tech’s offense was against Rutgers, the Hokies’ defense saved its most dominating performance of the season for the finale. In its last two bowl appearances, Tech has held opponents to 196 yards (Rutgers) and 184 yards (Michigan in last season’s Sugar Bowl) – and emerged with a 1-1 record.

For Tech’s defense, led by coordinator Bud Foster, saving the team this season simply became routine.

“That’s a position we’ve been in multiple times throughout the year,” said linebacker Bruce Taylor, who led Tech with 11 tackles. “We knew how it was. We knew how it was going to be. Our offense – they start slow, and then they kind of pick it up in the second half, which they did (against Rutgers). We just knew we had to control our part of it (on defense), and that’s keeping them from moving the ball.”

Taylor’s only slip-up of the week? He said he and about seven teammates, including Gayle, were five minutes late Thursday to a team dinner. Taylor and Gayle, a defensive end who graduated from Bethel High, were held out of Tech’s starting lineup for the bowl.

“I understand,” Taylor said. “We were late, so coach had to do what he had to do.”

Rutgers had 67 yards rushing, marking the third time in the last four games Tech held an opponent to 67 yards rushing or fewer. Rutgers also converted just 3 of 21 third downs.

Quarterback Gary Nova had to deal with a ton of pressure. He was sacked three times (Tech had 27 of its 35 sacks this season in the final seven games) and threw a critical interception to Exum, the game’s Most Valuable Player, early in the fourth quarter that led to Tech’s only touchdown.

“Quarterbacks don’t like to get hit,” Taylor said. “If you put a few good hits on them, and cause them to throw a few bad balls, it changes who they are as a quarterback.”

Exum, who returned the interception to Rutgers’ 21 with 11:11 left, displayed a great knack for making big plays down the stretch this season. He also picked off Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco in Tech’s season finale and returned it 12 yards to U.Va.’s 24 to set up Tech’s game-winning field goal drive in a 17-14 victory.

“Me and (Tech cornerback) Kyle (Fuller) knew we were going to be isolated a lot out there (against Rutgers) and targeted,” said Exum, who led the team this season with five interceptions. “The more we can hold up out there on an island [in man-to-man coverage], the more we can do with blitz packages and stopping the run.”

Exum, Taylor and backup defensive end Dadi Nicolas were among Tech players that got into a jawing session with Rutgers players as the team exited the field at halftime with Tech trailing 10-0. Taylor said a few plays prior to halftime he’d taken a cheap shot to a particularly sensitive area below the waist.

Tech’s players wanted to make sure they let Rutgers know they didn’t approve of such tactics – a kind of tone-setter for a second half in which Rutgers gained just 67 yards on 44 plays.

“There was some dirty play going on right there at the half,” Taylor said. “We weren’t going to stand for it. We were just over there making sure that stuff like that doesn’t go on.”

****************************************************************************

Click here to follow Norm Wood on Twitter. Thanks.