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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Marshall

Last non-conference game and a chance to be undefeated heading into October for the first time since 2005. It's been a long time since Virginia Tech has been relevant after turning the season's first calendar page, but a win against Marshall would do just that. Unfortunately for Tech, it can ill-afford to think ahead to its next game, a prime-time match-up with Clemson to open ACC play.

With this game taking place in Huntington, Tech can't have the same slow start we saw the last two weeks against ECU and Arkansas State. Obviously I want to see the Hokies get a win and a big one at that, but right below that in level of importance is how focused the team is.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Marshall Defense

  • The strength of Marshall's defense is its line and if the Herd want to pull the upset Saturday, they need better play from that line than it saw Saturday against Ohio. The Bobcats, who aren't a bad team at all, ran for 271 yards in their blow-out win, including 130 from Ryan Boykin.
  • Vinny Curry will be by far the best defensive end the Hokies have played this year and will be a good test for Tech's offensive line, especially on the left side. Starting left tackle Andrew Lanier suffered a knee injury against Arkansas State and we might see a lot of Nick Becton at LT in this game.
  • This is another road test for Logan Thomas and while it won't be as frenzied as the ECU game, it's important that he have a solid game to carry that momentum into ACC play. One way to do that against Marshall is to establish the short passing game early.
  • Ohio killed Marshall last week with passes into the flats and ones like the play that resulted in an early touchdown for D.J. Coles against Arkansas State. The same play probably isn't going to work since Marshall will have seen it on film and will make their own adjustments after the Ohio game, but I'd like to see the Hokies get the ball into their receivers' hands quickly in this one. Marshall's tackling was absolutely atrocious against Ohio and I'd like to see the Hokies test it early in this one.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Marshall Offense

  • Marshall's going to run primarily out of the shotgun, which hasn't really worked all that well for teams through the first three games against the Hokies. Tech's first three opponents averaged 2.0 ypc and 55.3 ypg. However, Marshall will have the best running backs Tech has faced so far this year. If they can make a difference, the Herd can stay in this game. Still, with the Herd running primarily out of the shotgun, I don't see them gaining much traction.
  • The Herd have a true freshman at QB in Rakeem Cato. While he was terrible against Ohio, he threw three touchdown passes in the second half against Southern Miss to bring the Herd back from a 17-3 deficit at the break. Look for Cato to play much better at home than he did on the road.
  • The Herd have slowly been allowing Cato to test defenses deep the last two weeks and Aaron Dobson has benefited most, scoring three touchdowns. However, with this being probably the best secondary Cato will see all season, I expect the play-calling to go back to what it was against West Virginia for Marshall: Short, high-percentage passes that get the ball out of Cato's hands quickly and allow him to build confidence.
  • The key for Tech is to make sure that confidence is never there. Against East Carolina I thought it was important to get pressure up the middle against Davis because it would force him to scramble and throw off the timing of ECU's offense. Against the freshman Cato, I'd like to see Tech attack him from the edges. If they get an early sack or knockdown he may hear footsteps the rest of the game.
  • One thing to really watch with Cato is that he has a really long, wind-up throwing motion and takes forever to release the ball. Combine that with a tendency to stare down his receiver and I think the Hokies should be able to get a couple of picks in this game.

Watch the Box Score

  • Marshall Yards Per Carry
  • Logan Thomas TD/INT Rate
  • Virginia Tech Sacks
  • Virginia Tech Yards Per Punt

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

Marshall Players to Watch

Final Score

Virginia Tech 31, Marshall 10