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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Arkansas State

When the schedule first came out, myself and probably a lot of other Hokie fans pointed to the Arkansas State game as the easiest game on the schedule. It's easy to be a revisionist after you've already beaten one team by 53 points, but it's apparent after two weeks that the Red Wolves are far from the worst team Virginia Tech will play this year.

Arkansas State was able to at least make life difficult for a while for Illinois and demolished the worst team in college football, Memphis. The Red Wolves aren't world beaters, but if the Hokies come in and make the same kind of mistakes they did against East Carolina, this game will be just as difficult as the one last week in Greenville.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Arkansas State Defense

  • While Arkansas State's offense might wind up being better than ECU's, it's defense definitely isn't on par with that of the Pirates. In edition to not being as fast, the Red Wolves are very small up front and feature a 5-11, 225-pound mike linebacker in Qushaun Lee.
  • If A-State is going to have any chance at stopping the run, it's going to have to sell out against it like it did against Illinois. After Jason Ford ran for 67 yards on 10 carries in the first carry, the Wolves held him to 19 yards in his final 12 carries.
  • Once the Wolves focused on the run, things opened up for Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaasse. Scheelhaasse passed for eight yards in five attempts in the first quarter and 259 yards in 17 attempts in the final three. Focusing on stopping the run helped A-State for a while as they forced a safety and eventually took an 8-7 lead, but a 45-yard TD pass on a quick pass to Darius Millines was the turning point in the game.
  • What I want to see if A-State focuses on the run against Tech is if the Hokies run David Wilson and Josh Oglesby into the pile until the wear down the opposing defense like last week or if they take their chance with Logan Thomas against the Red Wolves' secondary and work on the passing game.
  • My hope is that the Hokies work heavily on the passing game against Arkansas State. I think there's no contest between our receivers and A-State's secondary and with the game being at home this is a good chance for Thomas to improve. He's going to be fine at QB, he just needs more experience and needs to get to where he's comfortable and can repeat his mechanics on his throws. I think this game will provide that opportunity for Thomas.
  • As far as the run game goes, I'll say this. The talent level between Illinois and Memphis is astronomical. But the Illini run primarily a power run game and had no problem pushing around A-State while Memphis runs primarily out of the shotgun and got shut down. The Hokies may have no problem running straight ahead against the Red Wolves, but they still need to work on the passing game to prepare Thomas for ACC play.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Arkansas State Offense

  • Arkansas State is the third consecutive spread formation-based team the Hokies will face this year. But while Appalachian State was a run-first team and East Carolina was a pass-first team, the Red Wolves strive for balance. While the passing game is what they do best, they ran the ball just as much as they did last season, and that was for a team that went 4-8 and was having to pass late in games to mount comebacks.
  • The Red Wolves run primarily out of the shotgun and struggled to get yards against Illinois. As a team they managed only 1.9 yards per carry, but their two primary running backs were at least able to average over 3.0.
  • Frankie Jackson, who led the Red Wolves in rushing against Illinois and ran for over 100 yards against Memphis, hasn't been listed on their two-deep at running back yet this year, but I suspect the freshman will still see his share of carries against Tech.
  • Ryan Aplin's a very steady, accurate quarterback and when he doesn't make mistakes the Red Wolves are usually in the game. Last year he threw 11 interceptions, but only two in A-State's four wins.  Problems arise when he gets pressured and the A-State offensive line has already allowed five sacks this year.
  • When Aplin has time to throw, he's got talented targets we talked about earlier this week in Josh Jarboe and Dwayne Frampton. Jarboe is starting to come into his own after getting off to an ... interesting start to his career and finding his way to Jonesboro from junior college. He has to see this game, being shown to a good part of the country on FSN, as a chance to get back into the spotlight for something positive. The Red Wolves are going to try and get the ball to him deep downfield, which the Hokies haven't really faced this year against App State and ECU.
  • In all, I think this will be the most challenging offense the defense has faced this year because they're going to strive for some balance between the passing game and running game and they'll be able to go downfield. I think the Red Wolves will be able to pop a big play here and there, but I don't think their run game will be able to gain enough traction for them to consistently sustain drives.
  • As far as size goes, Arkansas State has a decently sized offensive line for a Sun Belt team and it's actually comparable to Virginia Tech's. However, I'm not sure they're going to be able to handle the Hokies' defensive ends in this game.

Watch the Box Score

  • Logan Thomas YPP
  • Josh Jarboe Receiving Yards
  • Arkansas State YPC
  • Virginia Tech Yards After Catch

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 3 - Logan Thomas, So., QB
  • 54 - Nick Becton, Jr. , LT
  • 20 - Jayron Hosley, Jr., CB
  • 42 - J.R. Collins, So., DE

Arkansas State Players to Watch

  • 3 - Josh Jarboe, Jr., WR
  • 6 - Frankie Jackson, Fr., RB
  • 1 - Darron Edwards, Sr., CB
  • 79 - Greg McCall, Sr., DT

Final Score

Virginia Tech 42, Arkansas State 20