Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hokies Need Strong Play in Baton Rouge

By EhhTee

In the recent years, the Hokies have been known, at times, to play to the level of an opponent. Whether it was playing up to the USC Trojans in the opener at FedEx Field in 2004 or Florida State in the BCS Championship in 2000, the Hokies have traditionally been able to play up to teams that were as high or higher caliber. [Both games were losses which could have gone either way late.]

The same could be said about the Hokies when they are playing teams of lesser caliber. The Hokies struggled against NC State in 2005. They were, in fact, losing that game until deep into the third quarter when Marcus Vick hit David Clowney in the endzone.

Going into last Saturday, Virginia Tech, on paper, was clearly the better team. The Hokies were favored by several touchdowns by that little town in the middle of the desert. However, once the teams took the field, it was clear that East Carolina was playing better football.

Some have tried to lay out excuses for the effort put out by the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer shrugged off the notion that “It was so emotional that I forgot to go here and block this defensive end that’s about to hit my quarterback right in the back.” [It is possible he was indirectly referring to Brandon Ore who missed an assignment that led to a sack and fumble.]

Others, including ours truly, MadJay, have speculated that the team might have been drained by the emotion leading up to the game. This is also potentially true.

Yet others would call it first game jitters, bugs, kinks, etc. They would say that these are to be expected. It certainly was true in that NC State game. It is notable to say that the Hokies went on to beat their next three opponents, albeit Duke and Ohio were two of them, 141-7 including two shutouts.

We can hope one of these is true. For the Hokies to come back from Baton Rouge on Saturday with a win, the Hokies will have to play up to a team that many say is a higher caliber team. The Louisiana State University Tigers are hungry. They are a huge force on both sides of the ball. They are number two in the country and many think that they should be number one. Their offense struggled some in their opening game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs and they will be looking to prove to the voters that they are for real.

Quarterback Matt Flynn had a mediocre game against Mississippi State last week and yet still managed 149-yards of passing and two touchdowns. Early Doucet is his favorite target for a reason. At 6-1, 210 lbs, the boy is fast and wily. The Hokies will most likely have Victor “Macho” Harris stick to him like white on rice. Harris will need to shut him down if the Hokies want to minimize the damage this offense can produce.

On the other side, we’ll see wide receiver Brandon LaFell. LaFell will probably match up with Brandon Flowers. However, at 6-3, LaFell will tower over the 5-10 Flowers. Flowers will have to play clean and tight as the Tigers will probably try to use this height differential to their advantage.

Behind Flynn, there’s Jacob Hester. Hester had a decent game against the Bulldogs. He ran for 69-yards and caught a 10-yard pass.

Flynn himself can be a scrambler and this may be the most dangerous aspect for the Hokies. Against ECU, the Hokies were struggling to read the different play-action options that quarterback Patrick Pinkney was running. Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster needs to find a way to defend this, or Flynn will have another field day against the Hokie front.

Overall, the Tigers had a mediocre game offensively last Friday. They will be looking to prove that they deserve the number one ranking. Many expect them to come out firing. They will be very aggressive on defense and this may prove to be advantageous to the Hokies. Aggressive plays can lead to mistakes and the Hokie defense is well known to capitalize on offensive mistakes.

Conversely, the Tiger defense is down right scary. In the last two years the Hokies might have had the number one defense in the country but the Tigers held the number three spot in both those years. Many say that they have cranked it up a notch and will challenge the Hokies for that number one spot this year.

This defense caused a record-tying six interceptions last Friday. Safety Craig Steltz made three of them. Glennon will have to play mistake free and not let Steltz have the ball as easily as Bulldogs quarterback Michael Henig did. In fact, Glennon will have to do one thing all season: not lose the game. Glennon has good ability and can play well, if he plays within his means. The time he tries to make a play that’s just not there for him is when he gets into trouble.

Others to look out for in the backfield are the other safety Curtis Taylor and Jonathon Zennon. Both had an interception and were all over the field in the MSU game.

In the box, we have the scariest man of all: left tackle Glenn Dorsey. Easily a first round pick this man will be a wake-up-screaming nightmare if the Hokie offensive line doesn’t pick things up. He’s fast. He’s strong. And he knows how to get through an o-line. Right next to him at left end is Tyson Jackson. These two will be attacking our right side which is known to be our weakest side. Right tackle Nick Marshman had a terrible game against ECU. He came to practice heavy and out of shape and it looks like he’s still working on it. Ore will have to come to this side to help on passing plays but he was obviously not in football shape on Saturday as well.

LSU’s linebackers, led by Ali Highsmith, are arguably as good as the Hokies’ linebackers. The offensive line will struggle to push through the line and these guys make sure Ore doesn’t have an easy day running.

The Hokies have two options in terms of game-plans against this defense: be just as aggressive as we expect the Tigers to be or play the conservative field position game. No one really knows what Beamer and Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring will concoct but one can only hope it’s not the standard old hat. TSF believes that the Hokies will need to be aggressive to open the game. If they can be successful on a few big plays, the Hokies will be able to keep the Tigers a bit off balance. This may be the key to walking away with the upset.

  • Game time is set for 9:22 PM EDT.
  • The game will be broadcast on ESPN-HD.
  • The ESPN GameDay crew will be present for the second straight game for the Hokies.
  • This is the second ever meeting between the two schools.
  • The Hokies defeated the Tigers 26-8 in 2002.

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