Thursday, September 13, 2007

Game Preview - vs. Ohio

Game Preview - vs. Ohio
by Brian "Where's the Ice?"

This Saturday, the Virginia Tech Hokies host the Bobcats of Ohio. Virginia Tech will try to recover from the most devastating loss in Frank Beamer's coaching history at Virginia Tech. The most notable, but not surprising, news from the Hokie clubhouse comes in the announcement that Tyrod Taylor get's the starting nod at the quarterback position from coach Frank Beamer this week. This will sideline Sean Glennon who previously had the starting spot until Beamer made the bold move of un-red shirting Taylor in the midst of a twenty-seven point deficit against LSU last week.

The Hokies will, with certainty, seek some kind of redemption from last week's beating on both sides of the ball. (Side note: I would hate to have been a Hokie on the defensive squad after the LSU game in the same locker room as what I can only imagine to have been an absolutely livid Bud Foster.) And redemption is anything but far from out of hand. The Hokies will need to refocus their sights on the next game with their heads held high knowing that a loss to who is arguably the best team in College Football right now is no reason to consider the season lost. Virginia Tech has all of their conference games ahead of them and some very beatable opponents in the next few games to jump start their optimism for getting their season back on track.

The last meeting between these two teams in 2005 resulted in a 45-0 Virginia Tech victory. But to avoid overconfidence, the Fighting Gobblers (Lane Staduim may be too good for that phrase,
but not for TSF! [Editor's note: Where's the Ice does not speak for all of us. I, for one, am glad to see it go.]) need to take away lessons learned from Michigan's loss to Appalachian State and their subsequent failure to rebound against Oregon. The Bobcats have two wins under their belt and would love nothing more than to march into Blacksburg and add another page to the history of upsets in College Football. Let's not forget how one Miami of Ohio of the same conference shattered a Hokie season with a single, monumental upset just a handful of seasons ago.

So what exactly do the Hokies face in Saturday's contest? What does the Hokie defense have on their plate? 5'11' and 208 lb running back Kalvin McRae returns as a starter this season after accumulating 1252 yards in 2006. He also finished second in receiving last season with 280 yards, only surpassed by wide receiver Scott Mayle. Brad Bower heads the team up at quarterback and has a 60% completion rate in passing for the first two games of his season. 444 yards of passing in just the first two games is not bad at all. He also has some mobility that he'll most certainly need to use with the likes of linebackers Xavier Adi and Vince Hall attempting to penetrate the Bobcat offensive line. The Bobcat offense line brings an element where the Hokies have felt a bit of a void since the departures of Jared Mazzeta and Jeff King. Tight end David Carter averages 22 yards per catch. A good tight end can serve as the key factor in clutch plays where an offense needs only a few yards to keep a struggling drive alive.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bobcats lack a little size on their line, but all are returning starters. This could give the Hokie offensive line some trouble; most critics, pundits and fans agree this is Virginia Tech's weakest area. Linebackers Taj Henley, Michael Brown, and Jordan Meyers, however, are all young and replacing graduating starters, so they will likely make mistakes due to inexperience upon which the Hokie offense should seek to capitalize.

And on special teams, the Bobcat squad has a streak of Beamberball in their game. Josh Abrams blocked a whopping three punts last week against the Runnin' Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb. Place kicker Michael Braustein seems to be the real deal drilling a forty-three yard field goal against Gardner-Webb last week as well and showing all-around consistency in his attempts.

Coming back to a topic already introduced, the biggest question in the Hokie performance lies in how the offense will react to one Tyrod Taylor making the signal calls. Virginia Tech's offense really isn't built for a drop-back passing quarterback. Such a player may have the most accurate throwing ability in all of the NCAA, but if he consistently has to throw with two to three opposing jerseys coming at him nearly at full speed, he's not going to play the position successfully. Sean Glennon has the ability to throw long and accurate, but Virgina Tech's offensive makeup needs the additional threat of a quarterback who can scramble. Grant Noel found himself in quite a similar situation back in his day. Tyrod Taylor has the ability to scramble, run, and most importantly throw with some level of accuracy while running. He displayed all of those assets against LSU, not necessarily the easiest of circumstances in which to introduce oneself to the game of football at the Division I-A level. Just as importantly, his ability to scramble means the opposing defensive line cannot focus their attempts to the thwart the rushing game on Branden Ore alone. Ore's sub-par performance in this season's first two games may attribute to that to some extent.

Some other notes about the game, should the Hokies walk away with the win, this will make for Frank Beamer's 200th win as head coach. This would make the forty-seventh coach in NCAA history to achieve this milestone.

Ohio Bobcats (2-0, 0-0 MAC) at #17/#18 (AP) Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1, 0-0 ACC) Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007 • 1:30 p.m.
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field (66,233), Blacksburg, Va.
Series: VT leads, 3-0

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