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2010 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. North Carolina

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No. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-2, 5-0) at North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3, 3-2)

The Team

  • This is Virginia Tech's first road game in well over a month. It's been a while since they've had to handle a hostile environment and I'm interested to see how long it takes for them to adjust.
  • The last time the Hokies were on the road they had what has been a very typical slow start and found themselves down 17-0. The Hokies have shown the ability to come from behind this year, but they can't keep doing this to themselves. Eventually it will come back to haunt them so it's important to finally have a strong first quarter against a good opponent.
  • There are plenty of stats about how poorly teams play after facing Paul Johnson's offense. The Hokies have had more than the usual amount of days to rest after playing the Jackets so again, hopefully it won't effect the way they come out in the this game.
  • The Coastal is within reach and I'm hoping that overrides the other factors going against the Hokies coming into this game. I hope, hope, hope that this is the game the Hokies come out already in their top gear.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. North Carolina Defense

  • The Tar Heels are almost back to full strength on defense with the return of senior CB Kendric Burney, who now has two games under his belt. Burney looked rusty against William and Mary and Florida State, but I think he'll be at full speed against the Hokies. If he's making plays in the secondary, it will be hard for Jarrett Boykin to have a big day.
  • Along with Miami, this will be the most talented defense the Hokies face this regular season even without the suspended Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. The reason is the play of their depleted linebackers and the emergence of Donte Paige-Moss at DE. Moss is well on his way to being a superior defensive end, but is still inconsistent as a sophomore.
  • The key for the Hokies on offense will be establishing the run early. The Tar Heel D is missing a lot due to suspension and injury and the Hokies need to wear down the Tar Heels for the fourth quarter similar to what Miami was able to do. Miami was able to gash the Heels up the middle with Damien Berry, but then used the speedy Lamar Miller to get yards on the edge. The Hokies will miss David Wilson because I felt he was going to be able to have the kind of game Miller had against the Heels.
  • I'm interested to see if Ryan Williams will finally return to his 2009 form. He's probably not likely to get to that level because he still isn't 100 percent, but I still want to see what he can do now that he's likely to get a good deal of carries. Without David Wilson, it will be up to Williams to provide the change-of-pace to Darren Evans' power game.
  • The X-factor for the offense is Tyrod Taylor's rushing. We need him to come up big and makes some plays with his feet to sustain drives, both this week and next. Tyrod seemed tentative to run against Georgia Tech, but needs to have the quick decision making we saw earlier this year against the Heels' talented defense.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. North Carolina Offense

  • After facing a punishing running attack against Georgia Tech, the Hokies will now face two of the ACC's best receiving corps in North Carolina and Miami. The Heels have a quartet of big, fast receivers led by Dwight Jones.
  • Jones is tough to bring down and some of his biggest plays this year have come when UNC has lined him up in the slot and run quick slants to him. One broken tackle later, he's got a big gain and in the case of the first play against UVa, six points. I'm interested to see if the Heels will put Jones in the slot more this week to get mismatches against the Hokies' linebackers and safeties. The Hokies will need to tackle well if this happens.
  • UNC will be without running back Johnny White, who along with tight end Zack Pianalto is out for the year. This really hurts UNC's short passing game, as QB T.J. Yates relied on both on check-downs. The Heels will still try to get the ball to H-back Ryan Taylor, but he's not nearly as reliable as White and Pianalto.
  • Without White, the Tar Heels will have to rely on inconsistent senior RB Shaun Draughn. Draughn's best game came against Miami when he got a majority of the second-half carries and averaged over seven yards per carry. If Draughn is due for a big game, it could come against the Hokies, who have struggled against the run this year.
  • The guy to watch for the Tar Heels is Yates, their senior QB. I couldn't be more impressed with Yates this year. Coming into the season, a lot of people said the Heels could be a national title contender if it weren't for Yates. Then, after the offseason scandals, Yates took over as the leader of the team and had a gutsy performance against LSU in the season opener. You can tell the rest of the offense wants to play hard for Yates and that's something you can't replace no matter how talented a QB may or may not be.
  • The key for the Hokies will be to get pressure on Yates. It's certainly possible because the Heels have given up a lot of sacks this year, 13 in five conference games. Yates does tend to hold the ball too long and with his top two check-down receivers gone, I think the Hokies need to blitz to make sure he doesn't have time to get the ball to his top playmakers on the outside. If Tech can get the Tar Heels into passing downs and get to Yates, they'll have a lot of success Saturday.

Watch the Box Score

  • Turnovers
  • Virginia Tech YPC
  • North Carolina YPA
  • Virginia Tech Sacks
Virginia Tech Players to Watch
  • 5 - Tyrod Taylor, Sr., QB
  • 34 - Ryan Williams, So., RB
  • 82 - Steven Friday, Sr., DE
  • 20 - Jayron Hosley, So., CB
North Carolina Players to Watch
  • 13 - T.J. Yates, Sr., QB
  • 83 - Dwight Jones, Jr., WR
  • 98 - Donte Paige-Moss, So., DE
  • 16 - Kendric Burney, Sr., CB
Final Score

Virginia Tech 23, North Carolina 20