Virginia Tech heads on the road this weekend for a 12:30pm tilt with the Tar Heels of North Carolina. The Hokies and Heels are both 0-1 in the ACC and will be looking to get back on track as the coastal division race is far from over.
The Tar Heels are coming off of back-to-back loses to ECU and Clemson where their defense gave up a combined 120 points in those two outings. On the season, the UNC defense is giving up 44 points per contest, but do not let those numbers fool you because although the Tar Heels are 2-2 on the season their offense is posting nearly 41 points per game while average 439 yards of total offense. Roughly 300 of the Tar Heels yards per game are coming through the air, which the Hokies and their up and down secondary will have to limit if they hope to come away with a victory.
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Keys To The Game:
- Bend, but don't break. The UNC offense will be looking to attack down the field against a Hokies secondary that has given up several big plays this season. Key to stopping these big plays is for the defensive backs to make tackles in space and avoid giving up too many yards after catches. Several players to watch for are Quinshad Davis--a 6-4" WR and the speedy, deep-threat Ryan Switzer who will be looking to get behind the Hokies secondary all afternoon.
- Get off the field on third down. The Hokies are thin along the defensive line this week due to several players being out with injury (Maddy, Baron) so look for true-freshmen Ricky Walker to get a lot of reps this weekend. If the Hokies can keep the Tar Heels from converting third downs consistently the defensive line should be able to get some pressure for 4 quarters.
- Be opportunistic. Bud Foster has a reputation of blitzing opposing offenses as he steps off the bus, but taking those kinds of risks could hurt the Hokies this weekend. I look for Bud to give his secondary some help and play more zone, which will give Kendall Fuller some opportunities to blitz off the edge, while also giving Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem opportunities to make plays up front.
- Limit the turnovers. Michael Brewer has 9 interceptions on the year and many have come at the most inopportune times. If the Hokies QB can manage the game and limit his turnovers then the Hokies should be able to attack a UNC defense that is ranked 122 in the country in total defense.
- Establish the run game. In the second half against Wester Michigan the Hokies made a concerted effort to run the football and ended up with over 300 yards on the ground. This effort needs to continue regardless of who the Hokies choose to run the ball. Freshman Marshawn Williams and Sophomore Trey Edmunds are more than capable of attacking the UNC front seven.
- Get the young guys the ball. Bucky Hodges, Marshawn Williams, Deon Newsome, Isaiah Ford and Cam Philips have all proven to be reliable options, especially against Ohio State, and should be used religiously this weekend. All of these players are dynamic with the ball in their hands and should be a part of the game-plan week in and week out.