Thursday, August 30, 2007

VT vs. ECU Game Preview

The most emotional game in Virginia Tech history will be played this Saturday. I plan on partially adopting the recommendations of athletic director Jim Weaver when he recommends we don't boo the opposing team. I will cheer for ECU when they take the field as I will cheer all of Tech's opponents when they take the field this year. But after the coin toss, the opponents and their fans are fair game until the game ends.

The Hokies are facing the perfect opponent in Lane Stadium - the East Carolina Pirates. Perfect because this team has a very struggling offense which gives an already emotional Hokie defense the chance to make a few mental lapses and still not give up the farm. Perfect because the strength of the Pirates is their defense and the Virginia Tech offense needs a solid opponent to work against to begin to develop confidence. Frankly if the Hokies were playing a cream puff of a defense, they would have little confidence heading into Baton Rouge next weekend and if they were playing an elite defense, the VT offense might struggle.

I will be paying PARTICULAR attention to the Tech offensive line. I want to see properly called assignments and well executed blocks and when there are breakdowns I want to see who's screwing up. The entire season probably hinges on the offensive line now that the coaches have thrown their lot in with QB Sean Glennon.

Another reason the Pirates are perfect is because they are not a traditional rival so there shouldn't be a lot of chippy play between the teams, which should help minimize injuries. The coaching staffs respect one another. All in all the game shapes up to be just the right seasoning for an emotional stew.

As a team that has played a tough schedule the past two seasons including several ACC opponents, ECU isn't just going to curl up and forfeit. They will play very hard. But I love the opportunity that the VT defense has against a new QB (who was just named the starter this week when the previous starter was suspended for an alcohol offense). I love that ECU has a punter that has never taken a snap in college football. I love ECU linebacker Quintin Cotton and I hope he lights up a few Hokie RB's and TE's just to keep them honest and from getting too big for their britches.

The first game of the season should always be your worst game and a big jump should be expected going to the second game. Playing an opponent that presents a challenge to the weakest area of your team while being vastly overmatched in the other facets of the game, is the best way to collect great film to teach with while still having a good chance of winning the game. ECU is talented enough to force the Hokies to concentrate and execute. They aren't just a Div I-AA (I REFUSE to call it the Bowl Championship Subdivision as the NCAA wants it called) school that the Hokies can sleepwalk past. If Virginia Tech is able to harness and channel the emotion or set it aside during the game itself, they should come out of Saturday's game with a very impressive victory. If they aren't able to handle the emotions of the moment and let that affect their play they are certainly capable of losing the game as well. But I like what I'm seeing and hearing out of Beamer, Glennon and the rest of the team right now.

Make no mistake, when the teams take the field on Saturday it will be about much more than a football game. But after kickoff the fact is that there is a football game to be played and the team has to realize that there are still two goals - 1) Help bring the community together at a time when we want to move forward from the tragedy in April and 2) Win the game. I'm betting that they will accomplish both and that this will be a weekend that I'll be proud to tell my daughter that she was at when she grows up.

Let's make this the loudest that Lane Stadium has ever been! GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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