Virginia Tech's 4-0 start this football season was virtually preordained. But was it a mirage?
That was the overarching issue entering the Hokies' ACC opener Saturday against Clemson.
The answer was emphatic. No.
Clemson 23, Virginia Tech 3.
Special teams: inept.
Defense: worn down.
"This thing's not over," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said of the ACC race, declining to recite all of John Belushi's speech to his "Animal House" frat brothers.
Beamer is right, of course. All Tech (4-1, 0-1) need do to win the Coastal Division and return to the ACC title game is run the table.
That would require exponential improvement in the passing game and special teams.
Already last in the ACC in net punting, the Hokies averaged 29.4 yards on eight kicks Saturday, which certainly should jeopardize Scott Demler's job.
Here's how poor the passing offense was: Clemson's Tajh Boyd, a sophomore from Phoebus High, completed 40.6 percent of his attempts (13-of-32) and threw a pick, but was the best quarterback on the field.
Yes, it was that kind of night for the Hokies' Logan Thomas, one that was inevitable for a first-time starter. He went a credible 15-for-27, and the pick he threw bounced off receiver Jarrett Boykin's hands, but Thomas looked a step slow throughout, with his movements and decisions.
"I thought overall he played well," quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O'Cain said of Thomas.
That seems a charitable evaluation, and it came with Thomas sitting next to O'Cain in the interview. So take it for what it's worth.
O'Cain was harder on himself for not calling more downfield passes, and here he may have a point.
"It may be me, it may be the play-calling," O'Cain said. "I'll go back and assess. … I never felt like I got into a very good rhythm."
Problem is, downfield passes require solid protection, and once the 11th-ranked Hokies fell behind by two scores, the 13th-ranked Tigers were free to rush at will.