Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Game Preview - VT vs. UVa

I am so relieved that the Hokies won last weekend's game against the Canes. If the Coastal Division title would have come down to having to beat the Cavaliers in Blacksburg, and given those hated Wahoos something to play for, I honestly would have had a hard time picking VT to win, especially after the physical nature of last week's game.

That said, the Tech players can now play without all that added pressure on their shoulders. They can line up against their hated rivals and simply try and beat UVa into the ground. The seniors can rally the younger players and explain the bitterness in this rivalry. The Clint Sintim-late-hit-on-Sean-Glennon-when-the-game-was-long-over type of bitterness. The you-played-against-these-cats-in-high-school-and-now-they-think-they're-better-than-you kind of bitterness. The Hokies have a trip to Charlotte in hand, and now just get to go out and play football on Saturday for the love of the game and the chance to destroy the wine-and-cheese crowd.

On offense, Virginia Tech has a clear advantage. The offensive line for Tech is much more athletic than the Wahoos' defensive line and they are going up against a squad that is near the bottom of the country in rush defense. The Cavaliers are also getting very few sacks and can't get off the field on third down. Their players are not strong enough at linebacker and they are missing too many good players in the secondary due to injury to stop this offense. Does that mean VT scores enough to win? Not necessarily.

As we have seen - ad nauseum - the Hokie offense is often its own worst enemy, PARTICULARLY in the first quarter. I don't know whether these guys need to eat their Wheaties, have a sharper pre-game warmup, get a shot of horse steroids or WHAT, but the sloppiness and sluggishness on both sides of the ball for Tech in the first quarter this season has been an embarrassment. If these players can't get fired up playing Virginia at home on Senior Day, then I don't know what to say. But I am sick of dropped passes, missed blocks, etc and the Hokies have a chance to quit doing that starting Saturday.

When Tech is on defense it's a much better matchup as UVa's offense is far more potent than its defense. The UVa offense is led by senior RB Keith Payne who has the most rushing TD's in the ACC this season and is a real load to bring down. His 1-2 punch counterpart is Perry Jones, a shiftier, quicker running back who can still break tackles. QB Marc Verica is a game-manager more than a playmaker and he will surely have nightmares about his last visit to Lane Stadium two years ago when he threw a critical interception in the red zone near the end of the game with the Hoos only trailing by 3 points. But he has better receivers this year than in '08 and if the Hokies have those early defensive struggles that have followed them like the plague this season, the game could be closer than many people think.

At the end of the day, you honestly can throw out the records when these two teams play. VT has won handily in the recent games, but I know for a fact that the players on both teams get up more and play harder for this game than any other. Sure, the games and scores in recent years would indicate that the "real" rivals are Miami and Georgia Tech, but honestly, this is the most hated opponent for the Hokies and it matters for in-state bragging rights and goes a long way in recruiting for the future. Especially now, when the Cavs have a guy like Mike London at the helm who recruits the "757", the Hokies need to press their advantage on the field for as long as they can.

The Hokies can end this game in the first half if they play up to their capability. That would be nice to see for a change, and would give them some great momentum heading into the ACC title game in a few weeks. It would also give some valuable playing time to a lot of backups who can experience this rivalry first hand if the starters take care of business. But make no mistake - this is the only game of the season that I have zero sportsmanship for. No score can be big enough in this game. The Hokies have blown out the Cavaliers several times in the past 5 years but it's never enough. I never feel sorry for the Hoos, I never felt sorry for Al Groh, and I won't feel sorry for Mike London if Tech can win and hopefully win big. I don't have a lot of respect for the school, its students, its football program and if I had my way, they'd be leaving on Saturday from Blacksburg with their tail between their legs to go and mire in the pain of a blowout defeat as they all sit around on "The Lawn" and wish they'd gone to Tech instead.


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