What most of the ACC football community has coined as, "The Battle of the Techs," happens this Saturday at Lane Stadium. Last year's contest ended with a 27-3 win for the Hokies and Sean Glennon, who had one of his most successful showings throwing for 296 yards. He did all of this while wearing a Georgia Tech jersey with his name hand scribed on the back. (Somehow the supply staff failed to procure him with a spare jersey after his regular one landed some paint stains from Clemson's field the week before.) While last season's competition sported two teams not too unevenly matched, this season's match-up pits a rebuilding Hokie squad against a little closer to established Ramblin' Wreck, who defeated another rebuilding team last week, Boston College.
So, more specifically, what do the Hokies face this week? At the team level, the Yellow Jackets have jumped out in front of the ACC in rushing, totaling 511 yards. The team's passing game isn't quite so strong coming out of the gate with only 208 yards, only surpassing (you guessed it) Virginia Tech on that statistic within the ACC. On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia Tech is beating the Hokies yet again by allowing roughly 50 less yards. However, one aspect of that statistic is that the Hokie rushing defense has outperformed its passing defense. That could match up well against Georgia Tech in favor of the Hokies.
Focusing more on the individual players, quarterback Josh Nesbitt has some attributes with which Hokie fans are familiar. He's quick. He can move within and away from the pocket with agility. He can throw on the run. He can evade defense with his shake and bake. He has almost as many carries as the Yellow Jackets' starting tailback, and he has exactly half the yardage of the running back in rushing. That sounds familiar right? Well, it should because it describes four of the last six Hokie quarterbacks. Nesbitt's weakness lies in his inexperience. He backed up quarterback Taylor Bennett through the 2007 season, and now he's got the starting job. His passing game and overall technique as a quarterback leave room for some improvement. Overall, though, he's a threat the Hokies must contain.
Running back Johnathan Dwyer, standing 6'0" and weighing in at 228 lbs., presents another concern for the Hokie defense. He has amassed 220 yards in rushing during his first two games this season. With that statistic, he ranks second in all of the ACC, trailing Da'Rel Scott of Maryland by exactly 100 yards. Many players at the college football level get into trouble with too much East to West, but Dwyer executes well with a clear North to South vision of running. He exhibits a great deal of power and ability to break tackles. Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Tyler Melton have each caught for 65 and 22 yards, respectively.
So how to the Hokies combat the Georgia Tech offensive weapons? Both the Yellow Jackets' offensive squad and the Hokies' defensive squad are young and inexperienced. So we can kinda think of these as a wash. Next, as noted above, the Yellow Jackets rely primarily on their running game. This year's Hokie defense has demonstrated the ability to stop the running game. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has a lot of speed and raw talent on his squad. If Foster's gang mentally prepares themselves for the game, they will contain the Georgia Tech offense. Mark my words, readers. While this Hokie defensive squad is young and inexperienced, Bud Foster will have them transformed into a well oiled machine before season's end.
As for the offense, the Hokies still have a lot of questions. Who's the primary quarterback taking the snaps? I know everybody feels pretty sure Tyrod Taylor will be taking over the job, but I tend to look more closely at history, and that indicates a mix between Sean Glennon and Taylor. After Taylor's 112 yards of rushing last week against Furman, he's tied with Kenny Lewis Jr. in total yardage for the season to date. I expect to see Tyrod Running like that again, and no athlete can be on the field for every offensive play while keeping his lungs from collapsing. For that reason I believe that Glennon plays an important role in the snaps he takes, albeit likely a lower number than Tyrod on Saturday. The Hokies have a brand new receiver core, and our favorite [sarcasm] offense coordinator leads the surly gang. While I've seen some moments of brilliance in the young wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, Taylor and Glennon generally don't have strong receivers on which they can rely. The Hokie offense's success depends on three factors: 1) Tyrod Taylor's success in gaining yardage during quarterback scrambles, 2) Sean Glennon's ability to have his usual handfull of plays where he exhibits brilliance while minimizing or even eliminating the plays where he does something completely foolish in what seems to be pure desperation, and 3) last but not least, the offensive line giving Taylor and Glennon the time to execute. Georgia Tech has a good defense, but it does leave a little be desired in how they stop the running game, which is Tech's most potent offensive weapon.
In closing, I'll say that while listening to the game against Furman, I began to have chills over the thoughts that the Hokies may not even reach bowl eligibility, but after examining the statistics and this match-up more closely, I'm starting to have some optimism, about this game at least. Sometimes the devil is in the details for these contests. Make no mistake, though; Virginia Tech is still the underdog by the numbers and by the sheer momentum Georgia Tech has already established for itself. But don't get too down just yet Hokie fans, I'm thinking we could see a big step towards the rebuilding of our beloved program.
Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field, Blacksburg, VA
Let's Go Hokies!