EL PASO, Texas — As college career-ending performances go, Virginia Tech’s 42-12 loss Tuesday to No. 17 UCLA in the Sun Bowl was one Logan Thomas will delete from memory long before he begins preparing for the next stage of his career.
Of course, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt’s helmet and shoulder pad served to make it hard for Thomas to recall how his day came to an early conclusion. On the other hand, if UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley’s college career wraps up with 226 passing yards and 161 rushing yards against Tech, he’ll take it.
Thomas, who completed 3 of 11 passes for 46 yards and ran for 49 yards, saw his game cut short on a big hit by Zumwalt with 12:13 left in the second quarter and the score tied at 7. Standing on the sideline the rest of the day, Thomas could only watch as Tech (8-5) suffered its second-most lopsided margin of defeat ever in a bowl, surpassed only by a 42-3 loss to North Carolina 16 years ago in the Gator Bowl.
“I kind of pride myself on being healthy, but this was one of those things you couldn’t really prevent,” Thomas said of Zumwalt’s hit, which drew a 15-yard personal foul. “I guess (Zumwalt) got a 15-yarder, but it wasn’t what I thought it should’ve been. I really wish I could’ve hung in there and been able to play, but things happen for a reason. Hopefully, it helps me down the road.”
Thomas initially was diagnosed with a stinger after absorbing the blow under the chin from Zumwalt’s shoulder and helmet at the tail end of a 3-yard completion to wide receiver Joshua Stanford, but after the game Thomas said he briefly lost consciousness on the play.
After being looked at by trainers and Hokies coach Frank Beamer on the field for a few minutes, Thomas was helped off the field with assistance from a trainer. With Thomas out and backup Mark Leal in the game, Tech entered the fourth quarter down 14-10, despite Hundley slicing up Tech’s defense on the ground in the first half.
Hundley, a redshirt sophomore who might consider turning pro, ran 10 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including a 59-yard touchdown to wide receiver Shaquelle Evans in the fourth quarter, on his way to sharing Sun Bowl Most Valuable Player honors with Zumwalt.
UCLA (10-3) finished the game with 447 yards, including 197 rushing. Tech had 319 yards. Leal was 12-of-25 passing for 130 yards and two interceptions, including an interception that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Myles Jack with 13:22 left in the game and put UCLA ahead 28-10.
Coming into the game, North Carolina’s 376 total yards and Boston College’s 196 rushing yards were the most surrendered by Tech this season in those respective categories.
Hundley did all of his damage on the ground in the first half, leading UCLA to 202 rushing yards in the half. His rushing yards were the most by a quarterback against Tech in a bowl. His highlight-reel play came on an 86-yard touchdown run with 9:17 left in the second quarter that put UCLA up 14-7.
“He’s a guy that — we couldn’t corral him,” Beamer said. “He broke out of there a couple of times, and I think we did better against him in the second half, but he hurt us there on the long, long touchdown. Communication — part of us is in one defense, and part of us is in another. That just doesn’t usually happen to us — disappointing.”
Hundley also had runs of 25, 20, 18 and 12 yards in the first half. He had a 7-yard touchdown run on UCLA’s opening drive of the game on which he escaped a tackle attempt by defensive end Dadi Nicolas.
“He was good,” Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins said. “We gave him more than he should’ve had. … People were in the wrong position. He was good, but we gave him more than he deserved, kind of.”
With UCLA clinging to a 14-7 lead in the third quarter, Tech long snapper Eddie D'Antuono recovered a muffed punt by Evans at the Bruins’ 12. Tech advanced to UCLA’s 4 before facing third-and-2. Leal lofted a third-down pass on a fade route to receiver D.J. Coles in the right corner of the end zone, but Coles couldn’t come up with the pass.
Tech had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Michael Branthover, cutting UCLA’s lead to 14-10 with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
“It was a long 3 (yards),” Beamer said regarding thoughts of going for the end zone on fourth down. “I wanted to go for it. I wanted to get it tied up. It was just a little bit long, and let’s take the points. We got the points, but then they go back down the field on us.”
UCLA, which reached 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2005, capitalized on Tech’s poor tackling on its next drive to help build a two-score cushion. UCLA was looking at third-and-10 from its own 25 when Hundley found receiver Devin Lucien, who slipped out of a tackle attempt by Tech safety Kyshoen Jarrett and ran 32 yards to the Hokies’ 43.
Hundley completed all six of his pass attempts on the drive for 77 yards. Running back Paul Perkins capped the drive with a 4-yard run to push UCLA’s lead to 21-10 with 14:20 left in the game. Leal’s interception that was returned for a touchdown signaled the beginning of the end for Tech, which surrendered 28 points in a span of 8 minutes, 31 seconds in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to learn from this,” Beamer said. “It’s not one of those where we’re just going to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to look at it.’ I’m going to look at it and talk about communication on defense and talk about execution on offense and what needs to happen to play better in a big ballgame to finish the year. We’re going to learn from this.”
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun