You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know what to watch for when playing Virginia Tech: Defense and Special Teams aka Beamer Ball.
But recently, the Hokie offense deserves to be noticed as well. The past few weeks prove that Virginia Tech doesn’t just run the ball well, but it can know throw it effectively too. Since going to a two quarterback system, it wouldn’t prove wise to assume that the Hokies will only pass when Sean Glennon is at the helm and stick to just the run if Tyrod Taylor is under center.
Taylor was as impressive with his arm two weeks ago against Florida State, going 10 of 15 for 204 yards and two touchdowns. When facing Taylor, Virginia can revert back to a few of the adjustments it made in Week 6 against Dwight Dasher and Middle Tennessee State. After learning of Dasher’s abilities in the first half, Virginia made the necessary moves to keep MTSU out of the end zone (with the exception of touchdown set up by a Jameel Sewell interception) in the second half. The massive exception in this breakdown is that the Blue Raiders defense and special teams are more forgiving than Virginia Tech’s.
Both quarterbacks have utilized Justin Harper over the past three weeks as the senior wide out has a touchdown reception in as many games. Brandon Ore appears to be shaking off the rust of a disappointing season in the past three games, totaling 86 yards against Georgia Tech, 40 yards and a touchdown over Florida State, and 81 yards last week with two touchdowns against Miami.
Respect both quarterbacks and respect the VT offense or it could be a long day.
SUSTAIN THE FLURRY OF PUNCHES, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE LULL
Can Frank Beamer’s team land a knockout punch this week?
Virginia Tech reminds me of a middleweight boxer. Both are quick, decisive, and their attacks come in waves.
Generated by a +13 turnover ratio, Virginia Tech erupts against opponent mistakes. Two weeks ago, the Hokies exploded in the fourth quarter for 20 points. Last week it was 27 in the second half against the Hurricanes.
Also like a fighter, however, Virginia Tech can get winded for a few rounds. The Cavaliers need to sustain against the defensive attacks and counter on Virginia Tech’s lulls. In each of the past three Virginia Tech contests, the Hokies have gone stagnant for a period of time. Against Boston College, VT’s momentary lapse cost them the game. 15 unanswered points in the third quarter by Florida State allowed the Seminoles to take the lead and a second quarter falter last weekend allowed Miami back into the contest.
Whether the lull comes at the opening, middle, or down the stretch, the Hoos will have to pounce on Virginia Tech like they did on Miami’s mistakes. Both teams excel at making their opponents pay for their mistakes by taking advantage of them. Virginia may only get one shot if the Hokies slip up. The end result needs to generate points.
One notable trend over the past three Virginia Tech victories is the ability to produce in the interception column. The Hokies have forced nine interceptions in their past four games, including two off Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Ryan. The one common theme in all those takeaways? Pressure on the quarterback causing mistakes.
Macho Harris’ interception off Kyle Wright last weekend came not off just a great athletic play but also, Kam Chancellor blitzing to rush the throw. Just like Ryan, Taylor Bennett, and Christian Ponder, Wright was victimized by Bud Foster’s blitzing scheme.
This aspect is where we could see Virginia miss Cedric Peerman . The Cavaliers will need Mikell Simpson and Keith Payne to step up in the pass blocking department with Chancellor or Cam Martin able to come at a split moment’s notice. It would be convenient to ask a Jonathan Stupar , Tom Santi , or John Phillips to hang back and help with the protection. Yet after watching Sewell hit that trio in the Orange Bowl to the tune of 10 catches and 154 yards, you hope the tight ends will be more of an offensive weapon than just an added blocker.
A real for key for Virginia is how they respond when Virginia Tech makes it past the Cavaliers’ first line of protection. Jameel Sewell may need to make something happen without making a mistake for UVa to be successful this week.
CONTAIN EDDIE ROYAL (BATTLE OF FIELD POSITION)
Will Al Groh’s special teams be up to the task on Saturday?
You don’t become the ACC’s all time punt returner by getting lucky. Eddie Royal ‘s 488 yards and two touchdowns are tops in the conference despite missing one game this season.
Usually, a punting match-up doesn’t come off as interesting but anything applicable to special teams with Virginia Tech has to be intriguing. This season, Virginia has contained the likes of Darrell Blackmon at North Carolina State and Kevin Marion and Kenneth Moore of Wake Forest on kickoffs. Saturday, the Cavalier punt coverage unit will get their greatest test .
Containing Royal doesn’t just mean keeping him out of the end zone but rather controlling the field position element of the game. Royal averages near 16 yards per return. Week 6 at Clemson, Royal’s 82-yard punt return all but buried Clemson in Death Valley by boosting the Hokies to a 17-0 first quarter lead in a 41-23 drubbing of the Tigers.
On the flipside, Ryan Wiegand’s booming leg is near 46 yards a punt but I only can assume that Bob Diaco has been lecturing his units not to outkick the coverage this week. The less freedom the better for Royal.
Virginia can also ill afford to be continually backed up in its territory. Combining that deficit with the Hokies’ defense and Royal on returns, a short field could do in the Cavaliers on the day. Prediction – Virginia 24 Virginia Tech 23 … Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!!