Friday, December 28, 2007

Hokies Try to Cap a Victorious End to a Successful Season

G’Day Mates! It’s good to be back from the land down under. Having missed much of the regular season, it’s good to be back where the toilets flush in the correct direction. The bowl season’s well under way and we’ve already had some great games.

Along those lines, on January 3rd the Hokies will take on the Kansas Jayhawks in the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Despite what many may call a poor match-up, both the Hokies and the Jayhawks have a lot to prove and will come out playing hard on both sides of the ball.

The Jayhawks finished the season 11-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Missouri Tigers. The loss kept a then undefeated Jayhawks team out of the Big Twelve Championship Game and gave the honor to the Tigers. The Tigers then lost to the Oklahoma Sooners which in turn gave way to the Jayhawks to pick up an at large bid to the BCS bowl games. Some have cried foul over the choice, but Confusius say what has been decided shall be. The Jayhawks bring with them the desire to prove that their 11-1 season was not a product of poor schedule and circumstance but rather the result of a good team playing good games culminating in a successful season and big bowl victory.

The Hokies also have much riding on a BCS bowl victory as well. The Hokies finished the regular season at 11-2 including a victory in the ACC Championships giving them their second conference title and first conference title game victory (the first title was not decided by a championship game because Boston College had not joined the conference at that point.) This has been a great season – some could argue the greatest – which had many ups and downs both on the field and emotionally off the field.

The world united behind the Hokies earlier this year and throughout the season teams across the nation honored the Hokies in respect of the tragedy on April 16th. The thirty-two names symbolically honored in the mighty lunch pail carried around by the defense. The banners and car magnet ribbons emblazoned with “We are Virginia Tech” and “We will prevail.” [Here’s to you, Car-Magnet Ribbon Maker Guy!] Many took on the Hokies as the darling team; the team that could help heal the school of its many wounds. To a degree this was true.

However, the team would face adversity on the field as well. After an embarrassing loss to LSU early in the season, the team looked for a direction. With an offensive line faced with injuries and a quarterback who came under scrutiny, the loss would create, not a controversy, but questions at the point position. Sean Glennon started the year as the starting quarterback and lost the job to freshman Tyrod Taylor after the team’s loss to LSU. Understandably, Glennon was upset by the loss. His initial paroxysm at the media was in the heat of the moment. Even Chris Crocker showed up to scream at everyone to leave him alone. Ultimately Glennon, EhhTee’s new favorite all-time player, showed true determination as he worked and fought his way back into the system. He showed his ability on the field when he got the chance when Taylor went out of the Duke game with an injury. Glennon excelled and it was soon announced that the Hokies would be going with a platoon system at quarterback.

Later, the Hokies would once again face another major setback on the field. Up 10-0 with six minutes to play against the then number two Boston College Golden Eagles, the Hokies gave up two touchdowns. Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan led his team to a victory, scoring the second touchdown with just 11 seconds left on the clock, which will surely give Eagles fans that warm and fuzzy feeling when they’re watching the game on ESPN Classic someday.

For the Hokies, it was a moment suspended in time. From that moment, a proverbial fork in the road ahead was created. The Hokies took that moment to produce the greatest second half of any season by any team… ever. The Hokies defense, under the fire and rage of defensive coordinator Bud Foster, would allow just 29 points in the second half of the last six games. Astonishingly, the D did not allow a single point to be scored in the fourth quarter of those games – the same fourth quarter that on that miserable day in October, the Hokies gave up fourteen. This includes a complete shutout of the Eagles for the last 39:25 of the ACC Championship Game.

Charged up with the energy and the fury of an amazing end of season run the Hokies defense will once again have to shine against a balanced attack by the Jayhawks led by QB Todd Reesing and RB Brandon McAnderson. The Jayhawks run a spread offense, similar to what the Hokies have seen in the past from West Virginia and Clemson. The spread should string out the offensive line enough to give linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall and the Hokie front line some opportunities on the blitz. It’s likely the Jayhawks will look to establish the run early which could set up situations where the Hokie secondary will be called on to make the play in single coverage.

The Jayhawks offense struggled early in their loss to the Tigers – they were not able to put points on the board until late in the third quarter – and will be looking to solve those issues early. Along with McAnderson, the Jayhawks have a second punch at RB in Jake Sharp. Sharp and McAnderson combined for just 42 yards in the game against Mizzou while the rest of the season they averaged over 163. Reesing went six games without a pick leading up to that last game in which he had two interceptions. Summarily, the Hokie defense is looking at a mature, disciplined offense that slipped up in their last game. They’ll most likely come out looking to prove that their stumble on the field against the Tigers was little more than that: a stumble.

On the line, the Jayhawks bring an Outland Trophy finalist in OT Anthony Collins. DE Chris Ellis will most likely be matched up against the All-America Team tackle. This is certainly one match-up to watch.

All in all the Jayhawks bring a 6th ranked overall offense, which is 14th in the nation in passing, 28th in rushing, and 2nd in scoring only to be outdone by Hawai’i. However, it can be said that the Jayhawks have not faced a defense the likes of that brought to the field by the Hokies. The average national ranking of the defenses that the Jayhawks have faced is 82.6. Colorado and Missouri were the best defenses that they faced and they were ranked 65th and 60th respectively. By comparison, the Hokie defense is 5th in overall defense, 4th in passing defense, 4th in passing efficiency, and 5th in rushing defense. Only Ohio State is better at letting up points as the Hokies are 2nd in scoring defense. Second! This is despite the 48 points given up to LSU. But hold on now. The Hokies also have not faced an offense with stats like Kansas. LSU (20th), Boston College (27th), and Clemson (47th) had offenses in the top 50. The Hokies are 2-2 against these teams. What do these stats really tell us then? They tell us that when the Jayhawks have the ball, we’ll probably see two very well coached sets of eleven players battling hard and strong.

On defense, the Jayhawks again look impressive. Led by All-America cornerback Aqib Talib, the Jayhawks come in with the 14th best defense in the country. Their passing defense is 10th, rushing defense is 7th and they are 4th in the nation at holding their opponents to the fewest points. This is where the true test of the Hokie offense will have to perform. The Jayhawks have faced some of the better offenses, at least on paper, in Missouri (5th), Oklahoma State (8th), Nebraska (10th), Toledo (19th) and Central Michigan (21st). They have also faced some of the worst in Fla. International (119th) (only Notre Dame was worse!), and Iowa State (103rd).

On offense, the Taylor/Glennon led Hokies are 100th in the nation in overall offense. They’re 86th in passing, 83rd in rushing, and 50th in scoring. However, these stats may be padded by an early season plagued with injuries on the offensive line, as well as a suspected slow recovery from an early injury to RB Brandon Ore. The numbers on paper make this look like one of the worst offenses in the country, but in reality, with the offensive line back at full strength, Ore appearing to be near 100 percent towards the end of the season, and arguably the one of the best receiving corps in the country, and truly the best in Virginia Tech history, this offense could pose a formidable test to any defense.

Do Numbers Tell The Full Story?

Rnk

Total Offense

Kansas

491.1 ypg

6

Virginia Tech

332.4 ypg

100

Total Defense

Kansas

318.2 yds/gm

14

Virginia Tech

293.3 yds/gm

5

Passing Offense

Kansas

294.5 yds/gm

14

Virginia Tech

198.8 yds/gm

86

Passing Defense

Kansas

106.73 rating

10

Virginia Tech

97.93 rating

4

Rushing Offense

Kansas

196.6 yds/gm

28

Virginia Tech

133.5 yds/gm

83

Rushing Defense

Kansas

91.4 yds/ gm

7

Virginia Tech

86 yds/gm

5

Scoring Offense

Kansas

44.3 pts/gm

2

Virginia Tech

29.3 pts/gm

50

Scoring Defense

Kansas

16 pts/gm

4

Virginia Tech

15.5 pts/gm

2

SOS – Massey

Kansas


70

Virginia Tech


12

Keys to this game for the Hokies on offense will be to establish Ore’s running attack early. Keep the Jayhawk linebackers honest. Key also will be the turnovers. Glennon will surely remember last year’s bowl game against the Georgia Bulldogs in which he turned the ball over four times with three interceptions and a fumble. Make sure the passing lane is there before releasing. Eddie Royal, Josh Hyman, Josh Morgan, and Justin Harper will do the rest.

On defense, it will be important to stop McAnderson. I’ll bet dollars for donuts (Mmmmm… donuts) that the Jayhawks will come out also trying to establish the run as well. Second, the Hokies must keep the offense guessing. Throw blitzes and change the looks in coverage often. Should the Hokies allow Kansas to establish a rhythm, the game could get interesting quickly. All in all, if the defense takes care of business as they have during the season, the Hokies will be in good shape.

On special teams, the key is simple: Beamerball. Kansas will be afraid of two things: the frightening attack of the block rush and the even more frightening Eddie Royal return. Whenever a kicker has to worry about both a block and a return, one will surely fall through the cracks.

Finalmente, si los Hokies van a jugar en Miami, ciudad más o menos bilingüe, acabo en español. El Hokies se han fortuna actualmente, pero no son de mucho. Y a pesar de toda la controversia y especulación creadas por el BCMess, los SuperFans de los Hokies llegaran para arriba en sustantivo con casi toda la asignación de las escuelas vendida y que es adquirida seguramente más con marcar anaranjado del tazón de fuente. Cada oficial de los Bowls sabe que el HokieNation llegara para el juego y es feliz invitarles a que jueguen. La ciudad del anfitrión de Miami es una lugar muy magnifico esta tiempo de año. ¡Va adelante HokieNation y animó en el Hokies a su primera estación del año de 12 triunfos y trae una victoria de BCS para el ACC!

Va Hokies!

4 comments:

MadJay said...

Folks this is why we need EhhTee around. Best game previewer I've ever known.

MadJay

Slammy D said...

Ha, el BCMess.

All the best in the New Year, guys. This blog was on fire in 2007.

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