Game Preview: Virginia Tech, Part 1

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Chris Gould and UVa’s special teams must avoid mistakes in Blacksburg this weekend.

In Virginia’s last road game at Florida State, the Hoos had a punt blocked that helped start a 33-0 blowout by the Seminoles. If the Cavaliers have a similar disaster on special teams this week, you can probably expect a blowout in Blacksburg. The scariest part about that fact? Virginia Tech is better on special teams than FSU – in fact, the Hokies are among the best in the business.

Special Teams

Beamerball may be a catch phrase but the Hokies believe in it and after a couple of sub-par seasons by Virginia Tech standards in the special teams rankings, the Hokies are arguably one of the best special teams units in the ACC in 2006.

It starts with the Hokies’ habit of blocking kicks. This season Tech has blocked three punts and two field goals. Nothing changes the dynamic of a game like a blocked kick or big play on special teams. The Hokies have also produced two punt returns in excess of 40 yards and a 55-yard kickoff return.

Tech ranks 8th in the conference in kickoff returns and will be facing the ACC’s third best kickoff coverage unit. On the other side, Virginia is fourth in the conference returning kicks and will match-up against the league’s top coverage unit in the Hokies.

At 6-2, 276 pounds, Nic Schmitt isn’t your prototypical punter. The left-footed specialist gets excellent loft and is decent at nailing opponents inside the 20 if needed. Last year, he was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award. He is averaging 41.3 yards on 52 punts this year with a long of 58 yards and 12 downed inside the 20. Surprisingly Tech’s net punting numbers are down this season as the Hokies are 8th (34.4) in the ACC just behind Virginia (34.7 net).

Virginia’s punting duo of short-range specialist Chris Gould and Ryan Weigand

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