Saturday the kickoff is at an unusual 4:00 time. Comcast still hasn’t sorted anything much out with the ACC Network so a huge audience won’t be getting the game.
The Old Guy Stuff
Some history is in order. The University of Rhode Island Rams visited Lane Stadium on Oct 11, 1980. That game ended up being a 34-7 Tech run away that helped the Fighting Gobblers/Hokies. The team was having an identity crisis after Bill Dooley discovered the secret of the Gobblers, so was trying to make rapid image changes to a program that didn’t much care to have an image. That was the magic season of the 30-0 stomping of the Wahoos, and a trip to supposedly get beaten up by Jim Kelly and the Miami Hurricanes in the Peach Bowl. Tech did lose, but it was a 20-10 fist fight and Miami was put on notice that Virginia Tech wasn’t interested in being a Division 1A doormat.
A Little on the Rams
That was then and this is now. Rhode Island might be 1-4, but those games are a bit closer and harder fought than one would think. They recently took the Delaware Blue Hens into a 3OT game and came out on the short end by a single score 44-36 (remember by 3OT the teams are forced to go for 2). Their last game was a win against Ivy League Brown; 31-28. Their starting Quarterback is redshirt Junior; Vito Priore. He’s got a pretty impressive arm, and seems to be in the driver’s seat at his position.
Their starting running back is Zoe Bryant, Jr. While his numbers aren’t stellar on the ground, it looks like he’s a primary pass receiver in the mix. From the looks of their statistics in general, the Rhode Island Rams seem to be a pass first offense with a defense that looks more like a Big XII offering.
It is dangerous and ill advised to dismiss an offense that can score more than 4 touchdowns in a good portion of their games, even if they are losses. So, that’s what the Hokies of 2019 are up against. The single game history from my senior year just doesn’t really say much in any direction. This is a fresh match up.
What Tech Needs to Do
(and blowouts don’t need to be discussed)
The First Big Task
The first thing that Tech must do is take this contest seriously. No football game is a push over. Inattention and half-hearted play can get players hurt, and can also seriously damage the morale of the program if the game goes south. This should be a relatively simple game with maximum effort put into executing every play with as much perfection as possible. There should be no missing keys, procedure penalties, personal fouls, or other flags that come from the “This is a Piece of Cake” playbook.
The second thing that the Hokies need is some confidence time. That means calling plays that can be executed properly, and are designed to build a rhythm and purpose to the offense. This is an excellent time to get Hendon Hooker some quality snaps and more complex play structures. He needs to get some air time. We know that he can run and that’s nice, but getting him plays that allow him to make some multi-level reads are good for eye hand muscle memory. Many dual threat QB’s are one read and go players. It’d be great to see Hendon get a chance to check down a few reads, look off some receivers, and make some quality throws.
Work the Run but Do It Smart
This is also a time for a very young offensive line to get a chance to do some solid run blocking for both Deshawn McClease and Keshawn King. What we don’t need to see is the tendency for the Offense in a near scrimmage situation to fall back on the “basic” playbook. If the offense starts off tanking two plays into the line and throwing on third down and long, the game won’t be proving much. Well, other than the coaches are so conservative that they can’t find the throttle at all. Tech needs to pull a few of the more successful scoring drives of the last few games together, and see if they can execute them better.
No Garbage Time in This One
This game needs to be played start to finish with the players that regularly play in football games. Even though the impulse might be to play “garbage time” players (provided the score allows). The truth is that Fuente is playing so many true and redshirt freshmen and sophomores that every play is being executed by garbage time players for us this season. The staff needs to let the team go out and play ball. Swap out the players. Get Hollifield some solid Mike time. Swap both lines in and out like hockey lines between down series. Use old plays but choose the plays that need work.
Build Some Mo
Get the team to build on the Miami win by setting them up to exceed expectations on Saturday. Success breeds excitement and builds enthusiasm. Get this team feeling better about itself. Do that by challenging the players to play hard and stay focused. Fun is fun, but winning is more fun. Winning convincingly from start to finish instead of waking from a halftime torpor to “sneak one in” is what this team needs.
This is the chance to solidify some gains, and polish a few dull spots. The Hokies need to give maximum effort in all phases of the game, and not pay attention to the name of the opponent.