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2009 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. North Carolina

The Team

  • The Hokies may not go to the ACCCG because of their loss to Georgia Tech. But that doesn't mean the team has nothing to play for this season. It's important for the Hokies to play well in these final five games to transition into 2010. And if they get some lucky bounces, they could still end up in Tampa.
  • This will be my only trip to Blacksburg this year. I have faith that the crowd won't disappoint. The Thursday night crowd in Lane Stadium is always my favorite.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. North Carolina Defense

  • The North Carolina defense is nearly a carbon copy of Virginia Tech's. The Tar Heels have a solid front seven that has played well against the run. However, they were prone to big pass plays in the second half against Florida State when they weren't able to get pressure on the quarterback.
  • In three conference games, the Tar Heels are allowing 5.1 yards per play, fifth in the ACC.
  • I think the Tar Heels are going to have success stopping the Hokies' traditional run game. However, if Tyrod Taylor can avoid pressure and break containment, he could have a big day on the ground.
  • I also look for Taylor to have success throwing the ball against the Tar Heels. The shorter routes to guys like Danny Coale may not be open in this game, but guys like Jarrett Boykin and Dyrell Roberts should be able to get open down field. I like the matchup when the 6-2 Boykin and 6-4 Xavier Boyce are going against 5-9 Kendric Burney and 5-10 Charles Brown.
  • North Carolina has a -6 turnover margin in three league games, last in the ACC. The Heels have forced one turnover (a recovered fumble vs. FSU). Things could get ugly if they don't force a couple of turnovers against the Hokies.
  • Conversely, the Hokies need to hang on to the ball. They lost a fumble in each of their first three conference games before Tyrod threw two interceptions against Georgia Tech.
  • The penalties also need to stop. We're the third-most penalized team in the conference by yards at over 55 yards per game. It's even worse in league games at 59 yards per game.
Virginia Tech Defense vs. North Carolina Offense
  • Greg Little keyed last week's game for the Tar Heels. He made plays both as a wide receiver and on carries that ignited the North Carolina offense.
  • Look for Little to be in motion when the ball is snapped on a lot of plays. This is not only to give him the ball on end arounds, but to set up a bevy of other plays. Out of the same look, the Tar Heels will give the ball to Shaun Droughn and throw the ball on play-action.
  • A lot of times, it will be like facing another triple-option offense. If the Hokies can key in on these plays and not let any of them break for big yards, they'll be in good shape.
  • Like a lot of quarterbacks, T.J. Yates isn't very good when he's being pressured. The Tar Heels have allowed 17 sacks this year, 6 in their three conference games. Late in the FSU game the Tar Heels were trying to make a comeback, but a good pass rush from the Seminoles kept North Carolina from having any chance at winning. The Hokies have to get pressure from Jason Worilds and Nekos Brown to disrupt the passing game.
  • If Yates has time to get the ball away, he has receivers that are capable of making big plays. Little has been outstanding of late and freshman Erik Highsmith is coming along.
  • The key battle to watch is Nekos Brown against left tackle Kyle Jolly. The Tar Heels are going to focus on Worilds. While Brown isn't having a bad season, I think he can play a lot better than he has been. He needs to get to the quarterback and take pressure of Worilds in this game.
  • In three conference games, the Tar Heels have three touchdowns and two field goals in seven trips to the red zone. That's not getting the job done. The Hokies have been average in red zone defense, but should be able to have success against the Tar Heels when down by the goal line because of North Carolina's struggles with the run game.
  • The Hokies shouldn't have any trouble stopping the Tar Heel rush attack. If they can do that, they can force T.J. Yates into obvious passing downs and then just pin their ears back. I don't think North Carolina will be able to do enough on offense to win this game.
  • I know I'm usually a pessimist, but I think we win this one comfortably. Unless T.J. Yates has a Kyle Wright moment and suddenly becomes Joe Montana for a game.
Watch the Box Score For:
  • North Carolina rush yards
  • North Carolina sacks
  • VT first down yards
  • Tyrod Taylor passing stats
Virginia Tech Players to Watch:
  • 5 - Tyrod Taylor, Jr., QB
  • 81 - Jarrett Boykin, So., WR
  • 47 - Nekos Brown, Sr., DE
  • 17 - Kam Chancellor, Sr., FS
North Carolina Players to Watch:
  • 8 - Greg Little, Jr., WR
  • 72 - Kyle Jolly, Sr., OL
  • 52 - Quan Sturdivant, Jr., LB
  • 92 - E.J. Wilson, Sr., DE
Final Score

Virginia Tech 29, North Carolina 10