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Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies vs North Carolina Tar Heels

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The first game between these two teams was played 120 years ago in Charlotte. We weren't Hokies, then. We weren't even Virginia Tech, then. These teams have serious history. We compete for the same players, and once a season we compete on the football field to see who did a better job. Tech is an underdog this time. It's Frank Beamer's last home game. Lots of emotion and pride at stake this weekend.

Last year Tech won a big victory in Chapel Hill.  What happens in Lane Stadium this season?
Last year Tech won a big victory in Chapel Hill. What happens in Lane Stadium this season?
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

There are just some opponents that are difficult to write about, difficult because there is history between the teams, and its frustrating history.  The last time that I attended a UNC game at Lane Stadium, the 2009 Hokies were something special.  It was a Thursday night game and my daughter and I arrived late in the afternoon, and was greeted my son (BLW: Joshua) at the Barringer Hall arch to take him to park the car and head to D2 for a dinner and perhaps get some Orange sweatshirts (Orange Effect) because it was seriously chilly for that evening.   Every plague flag in Blacksburg was out that Thursday, too.  The entire campus had been sick with a combination of the flu, and the swine flu, including Joshua's roommate.    For that game, it seemed that most of the team was down with the flu, too.  The play was lethargic, the crowd was abnormally sedate, and the ACC Refs were typically ACC Refs.  The result was a three point loss, and a team barely able to struggle off the field.  I swear I saw people bundled up and sleeping in the stands.

Saturday, I doubt there will be many sleeping people bundled up for warmth, and lulled into indifference by poor play, ill health, and a cold week night.  The noon kickoff and mismatched uniform to mood combination offers a perspective on the whole thing, I suppose.  We are in "All-blacks" at noon?   For a 7:30 PM kick-off, I am on that cart with a smile; but a noon is the call for throw-backs to the uniforms of the early Frank Beamer era.

Then we have the overarching spectacle of this being Frank Beamer's last home game, his last Senior Day, his last trip down the tunnel at Lane Stadium on to Worsham Field.  That's going to feel strange by any measure.  All three of my kids were born during his coaching tenure.  Two of them are Hokies and serious football fans; and they have never seen another Virginia Tech Head Coach on the sideline.   Every student in the stands was born during the Beamer Era (well, there may be a few gray beards with late Ph.D. aspirations attending).  This game will be for Frank, and the emotions are going to be high.  Well at least for a while, anyway.

Well there is some history to this contest.  It's sort of interesting because there was a seriously large gap between UNC vs Tech contests, and it is the Beamer Era in which the fight was renewed.   The first game played between the two schools was played on November 16, 1895, in Charlotte.   You read that right, 120 years ago!  There wasn't even a forward pass in that era.   I the players got all wrapped up about the cool colors of their uniforms, and their hodge-podge stocking cap headgear might have matched something.   I am sure they were the Big Men on Campus back then, too.  We also lost that game, by an ultra-embarrassing 32 to 5 score.  (In 1895, if a team scored 32 points meant that the opposition couldn't stop a sneeze with a handkerchief.)   Of course we weren't the Hokies in 1895, and we weren't even Virginia Tech.  We were still Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College.

Rip! Rah! Ree!

Via Via Vee!

Virginia! Virginia!  A M C!

Here is the game history between these two teams (gleaned from HokieSports.com), Tech is still leading, and we definitely have the edge while Frank has been coach.

Season

Date

Site

Score

TV

2014

Sat., Oct 4, 2014

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 34-17

ACC Network

2013

Sat., Oct 5, 2013

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 27-17

ACC Network

2012

Sat., Oct 6, 2012

Chapel Hill, N.C.

L, 34-48

ACC Network

2011

Thu., Nov 17, 2011

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 24-21

ESPN/ESPN3D

2010

Sat., Nov 13, 2010

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 26-10

ABC

2009

Thu., Oct 29, 2009

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 17-20

ESPN

2008

Sat., Sep 20, 2008

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 20-17

ABC

2007

Sat., Sep 29, 2007

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 17-10

Raycom

2006

Sat., Sep 9, 2006

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 35-10

ESPN (national)

2005

Sat., Nov 26, 2005

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 30-3

ESPN (national)

2004

Sat., Nov 6, 2004

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 27-24

ESPN2 (national)

1997

Thu., Jan 1, 1998

Jacksonville, Fla.

L, 3-42

NBC (national) Gator Bowl

1946

Sat., Sep 28, 1946

Chapel Hill, N.C.

T, 14-14

1945

Sat., Oct 6, 1945

Roanoke, Va.

L, 0-14

1939

Sat., Oct 7, 1939

Norfolk, Va.

L, 6-13

1938

Sat., Nov 5, 1938

Chapel Hill, N.C.

L, 0-7

1930

Sat., Oct 4, 1930

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 21-39

1929

Sat., Oct 26, 1929

Chapel Hill, N.C.

L, 13-38

1928

Sat., Oct 20, 1928

Chapel Hill, N.C.

W, 16-14

1916

Sat., Nov 4, 1916

Roanoke, Va.

W, 14-7

1913

Sat., Oct 25, 1913

Winston-Salem, N.C.

W, 14-7

1912

Sat., Oct 26, 1912

Raleigh, N.C.

W, 26-0

1911

Sat., Nov 4, 1911

Richmond, Va.

T, 0-0

1910

Sat., Nov 5, 1910

Richmond, Va.

W, 20-0

1909

Sat., Nov 6, 1909

Richmond, Va.

W, 15-0

1908

Tue., Nov 10, 1908

Richmond, Va.

W, 10-0

1907

Thu., Nov 28, 1907

Richmond, Va.

W, 20-6

1906

Sat., Oct 27, 1906

Richmond, Va.

T, 0-0

1905

Sat., Oct 28, 1905

Richmond, Va.

W, 35-6

1904

Sat., Oct 29, 1904

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 0-6

1903

Sat., Nov 7, 1903

Norfolk, Va.

W, 21-0

1902

Sat., Oct 25, 1902

Roanoke, Va.

T, 0-0

1900

Sat., Oct 27, 1900

Chapel Hill, N.C.

T, 0-0

1898

Fri., Nov 4, 1898

Winston-Salem, N.C.

L, 6-28

1897

Sat., Oct 30, 1897

Danville, Va.

W, 4-0

1896

Sat., Oct 24, 1896

Danville, Va.

T, 0-0

1895

Sat., Nov 16, 1895

Charlotte, N.C.

L, 5-32

W-L Record

20-11-6

If you are thinking that I am rambling on, avoiding something, you might be right.  You see it would have been much nicer for Frank's last home game, and the last home game for the Tech seniors to have been against an opponent that wasn't likely to "paste us a good one" (as my old man used to say).   Folks, the North Carolina Tar Heels are all that, and more.  Their number 12 Playoff (17 AP) ranking is probably only due to the fact that Clemson is ranked number 1 and you can't have too many one-loss teams too close to the top from one conference.  Somehow the ACC has decided that maybe it can stand up and play 1A football with the SEC and PAC12.  UNC comes to Blacksburg with a fearsome record, a high flying high scoring offense, and its usual competent defense.  That's what I have been avoiding.

Sanguinity dictates that we have a real chance in this game; reality tells me that North Carolina is going to be a much more difficult machine to stop  than we have faced this season, including OSU in game one.  So how does everything stack up and maybe sweet dreams come true, instead of having to deal with cold reality?

North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina is ranked (#12 - and 17 in the popularity contests) it's record of nine wins and one loss probably would be a perfect 10 and 0 if they hadn't faced South Carolina in the first game, which was a four point 17-13 disappointment for the Heels.  That certainly wouldn't happen, now.  Since that game the University of North Carolina has unleashed a thundering stampede of goats scoring massive amounts of points.  That is a 420 to 188 point difference for UNC.  Oddly enough their close games have been with Pitt and UVa (of all teams) where both Coastal rivals held the Heels to 26 points.

Given the nature of the scoring differentials, though, it's difficult to predict exactly how good the UNC defense will be.  We know the offense can score some serious points, but sometimes their defense has given up far too many.  Some of their games have looked more like Big XII match-ups than slug fest "parity and awe" ACC contests.

The Tar Heels are led by Marquise Williams in the hybrid QB/HB position common in this era's college spread offenses.  Williams can pass and run, and is currently looking like another Cam Newton type football prospect.  He's Carolina's second leading rusher with nearly 700 yards, and his impressive passing stats make him a dual threat QB that the Hokie Defense has yet to find a cure for.

Elijah Hood is the UNC lead back and he's closing in on a 1000 yard rushing season.  I see no word that he won't be playing and when he runs well, the Tar Heels dominate.

Now, the Carolina defense is another sort of can of issues.  Carolina runs a more traditional 4-3 defense and it is populated by very talented players from very much the same recruiting territories covered by the Hokies, only UNC seems to get a touch better level of recruit in the size and speed categories for the interior defensive positions and their linebackers.  What is striking about it is their experience; most of the players are underclassmen, with a very large number of FR and SO abbreviations behind names.  As we have seen by the scoring differentials, the Carolina defense is good, but can be scored on.  This will be critical if the Hokies figure out some way to get stops against the Carolina offense.

Here are the ESPN stats for The North Carolina Tar Heels Offense:

Passing Statistics

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Marquise Williams

153

231

2222

66.2

9.62

16

7

163.8

Mitch Trubisky

38

45

534

84.4

11.87

5

0

220.8

Totals

193

280

2804

68.9

10.01

22

7

174.0

Rushing Statistics

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Elijah Hood

154

945

6.1

44

12

Marquise Williams

96

659

6.9

46

9

T.J. Logan

44

217

4.9

20

3

Mitch Trubisky

16

101

6.3

35 (TD)

3

Ty'Son Williams

19

57

3.0

8

0

Caleb Henderson

5

53

10.6

21

0

Romar Morris

9

51

5.7

15

1

Khris Francis

11

37

3.4

16

0

Charles Brunson

8

20

2.5

11

1

Ryan Switzer

3

9

3.0

13

0

Austin Proehl

1

4

4.0

4

0

Totals

372

2146

5.8

46

29

Receiving Statistics

NAME

REC

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Mack Hollins

22

585

26.6

74 (TD)

7

Ryan Switzer

36

539

15.0

89 (TD)

4

Quinshad Davis

39

430

11.0

35

2

Bug Howard

22

407

18.5

49 (TD)

3

Austin Proehl

11

193

17.5

61

1

Kendrick Singleton

10

124

12.4

47 (TD)

1

T.J. Logan

9

103

11.4

49

0

Jordan Fieulleteau

6

100

16.7

47

0

Damien Washington

7

92

13.1

27

0

Brandon Fritts

9

83

9.2

36

3

Elijah Hood

9

59

6.6

14

0

Romar Morris

8

43

5.4

20

0

Marquise Williams

1

37

37.0

37 (TD)

1

Dalton Stogner

2

9

4.5

6

0

Totals

193

2804

14.5

89

22

Virginia Tech Hokies

What can we say that we haven't already been over ten prior previews?  Virginia Tech is a team that to win must exceed expectations and talent levels.  The Hokie offense is good enough at its starting positions, but has no depth, and the cobbled together offensive line took more than half the season to get into the rhythm of playing together.

Michael Brewer is a natural leader.  He's enough of one that we might see him on the sideline of some team on a Saturday afternoon in the future.  He's not necessarily a pro prospect, but he's a leader and I'd love to see him stay a Hokie as a GA to make it a career teaching and leading young men to play football as a coach.  His game last week was choppy, but his unflappable nature kept us in it, and allowed us to win away from home in a difficult venue against a dangerous opponent.  This week he's going to have to double down on that unflappability and figure out a way to avoid mistakes so that we stay on the field on offense, and score points while burning clock.

A key part of that effort is going to be Travon McMillian.  He has become the feature back, a real workhorse whose talent and strong decisive one cut and go running style needs to be put to good use.  Virginia Tech must run the ball effectively; and that means the influence game.  We might be able to bull ahead here and there, but we cannot waste plays.  McMillian needs to get the ball routinely, and that means there needs to be good disguise, misdirection, and variety in the play calls.

It also means that Tech needs to use its badly underutilized tight ends and H-back formations for wheels, inside slants, and sluggo routes to loosen the defense and keep them from loading the box to stop the run.   The Hokies need balance so names like Phillips, Ford, Hodges, Malleck, and Rogers need to be routinely a topic of the play-by-play from the announcers.

The game plan must avoid wasting plays by throwing or running AT the line of scrimmage.  Leoffler must do something that he just hasn't shown the talent for doing; thinking downfield 10 to 15 yards.   The Hokie Offense has the pieces but has rarely gotten them all moving downfield at the same time.  This game, it's going to be critical that we move the sticks.  Three and outs to rely on AJ's leg and field position won't cut it Saturday.

That leaves us with something that Tech just hasn't gotten a lot of consistency from this season; consistently good that is.  We have been chronically bad (Yes, I said B-A-D; awful) at defending against running quarterbacks.  There seems to be little to complain about in stopping most regular TB/HB running plays.  The defense gets gashed occasionally from the tailback position, but for the most part snuffing the straight running game happens regularly enough to win that contest.  What we haven't stopped for several years now, is the Spread Option or Scrambling running quarterback.  The words Quarterback and Gash when used together in a sentence immediately brings to mind a picture of a befuddled Hokie defense; Safety and Rover crashing down out of coverage madly trying to stop the runner as the third level begins to appear on the hash marks.

At some point the #LPD will have to figure out how to run a 4-2-5 as a 4-3-4 with some real linebacker work being done because Williams can throw and run.  There will be lots of decisions and tons of rush discipline necessary to keep bad things from happening out of the pocket.

Emotions are going to be high.  Carolina is fully aware of this, and will make every effort to take advantage.  Their offense can be held to a reasonable point total.  Even UVA did it.  We need to take council of that event.

Here is the year to date chart of the Hokie Offense from ESPN:

Passing Statistics

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Brenden Motley

92

164

1155

56.1

7.04

11

7

128.9

Michael Brewer

68

115

849

59.1

7.38

8

3

138.9

Dwayne Lawson

3

9

51

33.3

5.67

0

0

80.9

Totals

165

292

2082

56.5

7.13

19

10

131.0

Rushing Statistics

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Travon McMillian

145

800

5.5

63

5

Brenden Motley

88

224

2.5

22

3

Trey Edmunds

45

174

3.9

35

2

Sam Rogers

39

171

4.4

29

1

J.C. Coleman

38

122

3.2

10

1

Dwayne Lawson

14

55

3.9

10

1

Shai McKenzie

13

50

3.8

11

0

Chris Durkin

4

25

6.3

9

0

Cam Phillips

1

24

24.0

24

0

Isaiah Ford

3

22

7.3

10

0

Greg Stroman

7

12

1.7

6

0

Totals

425

1620

3.8

63

13

Receiving Statistics

NAME

REC

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Isaiah Ford

49

661

13.5

61

8

Cam Phillips

40

505

12.6

60

2

Bucky Hodges

27

414

15.3

46

5

Ryan Malleck

17

204

12.0

40

2

Sam Rogers

11

131

11.9

51 (TD)

1

Travon McMillian

12

64

5.3

19

1

Kalvin Cline

3

38

12.7

31

0

Michael Brewer

1

14

14.0

14

0

Brenden Motley

1

13

13.0

13

0

Kevin Asante

1

13

13.0

13

0

J.C. Coleman

1

10

10.0

10

0

Trey Edmunds

1

8

8.0

8

0

Demitri Knowles

1

7

7.0

7

0

Totals

165

2082

12.6

61

19

The Hokies are a 6.5 point underdog as of the Wednesday reports of the college spreads.  This is surprising, not because it's at Lane Stadium (UNC has won in our house - much to my personal chagrin) but because it's pretty low considering the wide disparity in the performances of the respective teams this season.  Maybe we are getting a combination of emotion points for it being Coach Beamer's last home game along with the usual 3 points for the normal home field advantage.   Either way we are really multiple score underdogs and must bring an A+ game to the field to win Saturday.

The IFs and ANDs

The Virginia Tech Hokies will win IF:  They play stout flexible defense that keeps the high powered high scoring UNC offense away from the goal line.  In this game, field goals might equal stops.  The Hokies must play disciplined containment rush lanes.  It must also stay away from boneheaded procedural penalties that give away free yardage and downs.  Tech's Linebacking corps is going to be challenged.  Williams must be keyed and he must be stopped for minimal yardage.   #DBU and #LPD need to come up with stops, and above all they must get Carolina to do what it hasn't this season; turn over the ball.

The Hokie offense needs to contribute to the defense, by playing ball control aggressive scoring offense.  We cannot afford to hold the ball for five minutes and score only 3 points.  Tech must score touchdowns, even if that means taking risks on fourth down and short when it means the difference between keeping the UNC offense off the field and leaving 4 on it.

In short if Tech plays an A game, we can win.

North Carolina wins IF: It plays its game, and Tech plays what it's been playing lately.  There isn't much else to say.  Carolina has very few holes or faults this season.  They have to play their offense and take advantage of Tech's 4-1-6/4-0-7 defense.  They also need to take both the crowd and the emotion out of Frank Beamer's last home game by scoring early.  If they win the toss and elect to receive we are in for a seriously scary football game.  To win Carolina needs to score first, fast, and often.

Honestly that's what I think they will attempt to do, and they have a serious capability of doing it.

Kickoff is at Noon on Saturday, and looks like it's listed for ESPN broadcast.

GO HOKIES!!!!

Sources:

http://www.hokiesports.com/football/opponents/North%20Carolina

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/153/north-carolina-tar-heels

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/259/virginia-tech-hokies