BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech's Demitri Knowles looked at the stats and said he felt like his team should have won. Jack Tyler and others noted that almost all of the Hokies' preseason goals are still very attainable.
But the Hokies have questions to answer, and Saturday's 13-10 loss to Duke highlighted several.
Most of them center around an offense that clearly is still unreliable.
"There's a lot of things we could have done better and I'm going to make sure from now on I'm doing my fair part and setting a good example," quarterback Logan Thomas said after struggling all day.
Thomas was 21 for 38 for 214 yards, ran for 104 yards on 24 carries and threw four interceptions, the last with about 4½ minutes to play, essentially killing the Hokies' hopes for a dramatic comeback.
"Looking at the stats, looking at the personnel, I really feel like we were supposed to win the game," Knowles said after the Blue Devils prevailed in the series for the first time in the last 13 meetings.
Knowles had plenty of company.
Placekicker Cody Journell is still struggling. He missed field goals of 45 and 40 yards and has missed 6 of 14 attempts this season. His backup, Ethan Keyserling, has tried three and missed them all.
Coach Frank Beamer says he's concerned about Journell, who made 20 of 25 tries last season.
"I'm always concerned when a guy as steady as Cody misses two," Beamer said, adding that he thought the Blue Devils applied significant pressure on a potential tying kick with 6 minutes remaining.
Journell's issues might not be such a concern if the Hokies' offense was more consistent.
They rolled up 387 yards against the Blue Devils, but had one touchdown nullified by a motion penalty, and Thomas threw one of his four interceptions on the next play, killing a great scoring opportunity.
Duke led 13-0 until the Hokies finally broke through with 0:11 left in the third quarter.
Thomas has been banged up all season, and coach Frank Beamer said he ran so much because "that was kind of our best play," a reality not helped at all by the interceptions, Thomas' first in four games.
Still, the Hokies could benefit from the loss, first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said.
"This group will come together. We're going to finish this thing the right way," he said. "It was a tough lesson, but sometimes you have to take a step back before a step forward."
The defense would surely appreciate it. The nation's third-stingiest unit limited the Blue Devils to 199 yards and intercepted Anthony Boone four times, but none of the turnovers were converted into points.
It all rendered another stellar defensive game meaningless, and frustrating.
Freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller had three of the Hokies' four interceptions, but said he felt like the defense "didn't make a couple (plays) that we could have stopped, and that was big."
Tyler and defensive coordinator Bud Foster were among those looking for a silver lining.
"All our goals are still in front of us," Tyler said. The Hokes play at Boston College this week, and their game at No. 7 Miami on Nov. 9 will make one of them the ACC Coastal Division favorite.
"If we win out, we win our division," Foster said. "That's the bottom line."
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