Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Game Preview - Georgia Tech


Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech - 3:30 PM Saturday September 30,2006

"We went up there and the crowd got to the team was the biggest thing. We lost focus, lost concentration, and things just kind of went bad for us." - Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson after suffering a 51-7 blowout at the hands of Virginia Tech in 2005

“The fans are rabid about their team and are right on top of you when you come to the sidelines to meet with your position coach.....It’s the loudest crowd you’ll play in front of with the most enthusiastic fans. We had a player who played at Michigan before he transferred and he’d played in the Ohio State-Michigan game and he couldn’t believe how much louder the crowd was.” - a former Big East football player

"Playing at Ohio State, they have 105,000, which was pretty loud. But then you get here and the fans are right behind you and a little bit rowdier, I think. I thought it was a louder atmosphere today than it was at Ohio State, and just having that prior experience helped us out.” - Cincinnati defensive tackle Tony Carvitti

There have been games in the history of Virginia Tech football at Lane Stadium where the crowd was a key difference in the game. I'm talking about actual points-on-the-board difference. I'm reminded of the Hokies 31-7 defeat of Miami in 2003, the drubbing the Hokies handed LSU in the opener of the 2002 season and the bitter 26-24 loss to Miami in 2001. Specifically the 2001 loss, the Hokies were VASTLY and I mean DRAMATICALLY outmatched in terms of talent against that Miami team but the defense and the crowd helped them fight back and play Miami closer that season (10 points closer) than any other team. Just look at the quotes from the players above. Lane Stadium can be one of, if not, the toughest place in college football to come in and get a win.

Going into this game against Georgia Tech without two huge players for the Hokies (WR Josh Morgan and DE Chris Ellis) makes a tough game tougher. Fortunately those appear to be two positions where the Hokies have some of their best players and depth so the blow isn't as critical as it would be say at RB or LB. However, the Hokie offense matches up terribly against the Georgia Tech defense. Miserably to be honest. I don't think VT will score more than 17 points. Virginia Tech's defense matches up well against Georgia Tech as well, so this will likely be a defensive struggle. But make no mistake - there is a much better chance, because of Calvin Johnson, that the Yellow Jackets break out against the Hokies defense, than the Hokies have at breaking out against the Georgia Tech defense. And so I can boil this entire event at 3:30 PM down to a simple analysis - if the Hokie Nation rocks Lane Stadium as loudly or even louder than it has in the past, the crowd can be a difference maker in the outcome of this game. If Lane Stadium is NOT a rowdy, intrusive, impossible-to-audible type of environment there is a very good chance that Virginia Tech loses this game.

I have been in Lane when the walls have been shaking and I have been in it when the crowd has been dead. The reason the crowd is so critical in this game is that you can affect an opponent's offense far more than you can it's defense because, as an intelligent fan knows, when an opponent's defense is on the field, the Hokie offense is on the field and we had all best be staying quiet for that. Hokie QB Sean Glennon needs all the focus and concentration and effort he can muster and to be brutally honest, if he plays poorly, it will likely be too much for the crowd and the Hokie defense to overcome. But when Reggie Ball and that offense are trying to check out of plays and audible and focus on playing at the top of their game, it is CRITICAL that the fans be losing their marbles. Unfortunately, the MadJay family can't make it to this game, but we will be watching on (an insanely nice movie screen) TV and I had better see a place that is out of control.

Due to the level of importance of crowd assistance I will offer a few pointers:

1) When the Georgia Tech offense is on the field and they come to the line of scrimmage let loose your inhibitions (your barbaric YAWP, I believe Walt Whitman called it). All the noise you can make is what is needed here. Save just a little bit for third down. Third down is where home field advantage can shine. Get the Hokie defense off the field and keep it fresh by keeping Georgia Tech from audibling on third down.

2) Don't forget your keychain and wear shoes you feel comfortable stomping in.

3) Whenever the Hokies make a big play on either side of the ball go completely insane. This demoralizes the opponents very badly.

4) No matter what the score, follow the above three rules. College football is about momentum and if the Hokies are ahead, the crowd must keep the opponent demoralized. If the crowd gets quiet, the opponent can begin to focus and respond and swing the momentum their way. The hard part is if the Hokies are behind. I refer again to the best example I have ever seen - the 2001 Miami loss. The Hokies were down 20-3 and nearly came back and won the game because the crowd was so into the game the entire time. If the Hokies start to lose, you have to find a way to turn up the intensity knob another notch.

5) You're allowed to criticize the team in general, or playcalling specifically, but when the opponent offense comes to the line of scrimmage all is forgotten in the temporary psychosis.

If you follow these rules and if the crowd is truly incendiary (thanks to Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous for that word), then they can serve as the tipping point for an otherwise very balanced game. This is the first huge game of the 2006 Virginia Tech Hokies and can be part of the Next Step that Hokie Nation is looking for. It's Wednesday night and I'm so excited I've typed this entire thing standing up. I hope come Saturday 65,000 of you feel the same because the team needs you.



Brent said...

Could we make this column required reading for entrance to Lane on Saturday? Add one more. There is no booing your own team no matter how much better you think they should be playing.

Amanda said...

This game makes me nervous, but the Carbonellos will do their part and make as much noise as possible (Rob will probably have no voice after the game). I agree with Brent: no booing your own team, unless it happens to be "BOOOOOOONE!"

MadJay said...

Couldn't agree more about the booing Brent. Also, nice avatar. I pity the fool that think VT will lose to Boston College!!