The Virginia Tech Hokies renew acquaintances with ACC Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech this Saturday in Lane Stadium For the most part, VT has dominated this rivalry since its entry into the ACC over a decade ago. However, since Paul Johnson took over as the Yellow Jackets coach back in 2008, they’ve defeated the Hokies on two occasions.
GT, of course, is famous for it’s triple-option offense. So it’s no surprise the Yellow Jackets are No. 10 in the country in rushing offense, averaging 261.7 yards per game. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, the Jackets are coming at the worst possible time considering the vulnerability Bud Foster’s defense has shown against the run recently. Just last week, the Hokies allowed a pedestrian Duke rushing offense to go over 200 yards.
Virginia Tech took a steep fall down the rankings in rushing defense last week, as it now ranks No. 27, allowing 126 yards per game.
The good news for VT is Foster usually has his defense prepared for the triple option.
Johnson even noted his respect for Foster in his meeting with press this week, per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I have a lot of respect for Bud, Johnson said on Wednesday. “He’s been on the better end of it mostly. I think he does a great job coaching, and usually our games, if you find something, they’re going to adjust, so it’s kind of move, countermove.”
GT quarterback Justin Thomas is a three-year starter for the Jackets. Two years ago—the last time the Yellow Jackets defeated the Hokies—Thomas ran for 165 years ago and a score, while also passing for 125 yards and another touchdown. In that game, the Hokies actually led 24-17 with over two minutes left and Thomas led a touchdown drive to tie it with two minutes left. Georgia Tech got the ball back and Thomas led a drive that was capped off by a field goal to win the game as the clock expired.
So Foster has certainly had his issues with Thomas.
However, the Hokies did a much better job containing Thomas in 2015 as he rushed for just 52 yards, while completing only 4 of 13 passes for 97 yards.
What will happen this weekend?
The front seven will have to play their most disciplined game of the season. The defensive ends are crucial against the option as they actually often dictate what the quarterback does with the football. If the end holds his position or attacks the QB, he’ll give the ball to one of his backs. If the defensive end squeezes on the dive play, Thomas will pull back and play the option against the next defender crashing down. That is a dangerous scenario for the defense.
Under Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech is undefeated at home. That’s a positive sign with all VT’s struggles at home in recent seasons. The Hokies have been on the road in four of their last five games, but get Georgia Tech at home this weekend and UVA in Lane Stadium two weeks from now.
The Yellow Jackets aren’t particularly strong on defense, so Fuente can attack them through the air or on the ground. Expect Fuente to throw the ball more than he did last week. The Jackets have only four interceptions on the season and have sacked opposing quarterbacks just eight times.