It's a trap!
- Admiral Ackbar
Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1) is coming off a disappointing loss to, now front-runner in the Coastal Division, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Jackets (7-1, 5-1), who soundly defeated the Wahoos on Saturday, need wins against Wake Forest and Duke to clinch the title.
Meanwhile, the Hokies have had to deal with having their outside hopes of playing for the national title AND hopes of playing for the ACC title stripped in one fell swoop. The Hokies have had extra time to think about those implications, but this Thursday night's game could very well be a trap game for them.
The North Carolina Tarheels (4-3, 0-3), under the direction of Coach Butch Davis, have had a rocky first half of the season despite high early expectations. The Tarheels are also coming off a disappointing loss. Leading big against Florida State, North Carolina watched a late 3rd quarter lead of 24-6 disappear. UNC may have a bit of bitter taste in their mouths after performing so well early only to end up losing 30-27.
|29 Oct. 2009|
Last year's showdown between Tech and UNC had similar results. The Tarheels held a 17-3 lead deep into the thirdth quarter, however three quick scores within a six minute span by the Hokies gave Tech the come-from-behind victory in Chapel Hill. The Tarheels will have both losses in mind and either will rally to keep bowl hopes alive or fold to the emotions of defeat. Coaching and desire will define which direction they choose.
During that contest in Keenan Stadium, Quarterback T.J. Yates (Jr, #13) left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter ahead 10-3. The next play was a 50 yard run for a touchdown giving them the 17-3 advantage, but eventually the Tarheels killed their own momentum with five penalties that kept the Hokies' drive alive on several occasions. Committing three turnovers all giving the Hokies the ball in or near the red zone didn't help their case either.
This year Yates has been healthy but he is still turnover prone. Yates has had decent numbers this year with 1,028 yards passing for seven touchdowns, but his eight interceptions and fifteen sacks have led the Tarheels to a less than stellar start.
Yates' two main targets this year have been Erik Highsmith (Fr, #88, 295 yards with two touchdowns) and Greg Little (Jr, #8, 290 yards with a touchdown), were held to just 65 yards against Florida State.
Junior running back Shaun Draughn (#20) has 481 rushing yards and one touchdown. This pales in comparison to Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams (r-Fr, #34) who has 834 yards rushing with ten touchdowns.
Overall, the Tarheels are highly talented, but perhaps still too young and inexperienced to get the big victories.
In the Hokies' game against the Yellow Jackets, as MadJay predicted, the first play from scrimmage on offense was a play action pass setting the tone for what appeared to be a return to the old ways. If the Hokies are going to win this game, they will need to return to what worked in the weeks leading up to the Georgia Tech loss. Specifically, they need to commit to the run again.
Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring has had flashes of brilliance [Never thought I'd use that word with Coach Stinespring in the same sentence, didya?], and had an actual complete game or two of good coaching decisions this year. He needs to take a good look at what worked in those games and what didn't against Georgia Tech and bring them to the field Thursday.
On defense, the Hokies need to focus on disciplined assignment coverage. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt (Jr, #9) completed just two passes in just seven attempts. One of those was an interception! Would you believe a quarterback with those stats could lead a team to victory? Defending the run has hurt the Hokies this year and needs to be stepped up this week.
All of this needs to come together for the Hokies to have a solid victory. But what I haven't mentioned yet is that Lane Stadium, or should I say Terrordome, [Yes, Corey Moore realizes that Lane is not actually a dome.] is one of the toughest places to play on the planet on Thursday night. Tech is 15-4 overall and 9-2 at home in their previous 19 appearances on ESPN College Football Primetime. The only teams to beat the Hokies on Thursday night (in the modern era*) are Boston College and Miami.
However, one of those losses to Boston College came in October of 2006, when the Hokies had their national title hopes smashed by Georgia Tech and ten days later played on Thursday night. (Sound familiar?) The Hokies came into that game dejected and let Boston College walk all over them losing 22-3.
What it all boils down to is that this will be an exciting game to watch this Thursday. The last six games between the two schools had been decided by seven points or less. Break out the antacid. Strap in to your favorite chair. And lets watch some Hokie football!
* Tech used to play VMI on Thanksgiving Day each year between 1913 and 1969.