It’s nearly Saturday; the team will be heading out in the next day to travel to Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. This trip would have been a serious lip chewing experience if the coaching and play style situation hadn’t changed at Georgia Institute of Technology. It might still give everyone some pause; however.
Here are some of the issues that the Hokies are facing:
- The Yellow Jackets have a losing record (2-7, 1-6) and look like they are struggling mightily this season. Well, that may have been completely true in the first half of the season, but the 2nd half effort of the Rambling Wreck looks to be pulling out of that particular dive.
- The old personnel mixed with the new offense and some strategic changes have seen steady positive momentum. UVA barely eked by the Jackets (33-28) and both sides of the ball handed the Hoos all that they could take.
- We are bowl eligible with a win, and it was supposed to be a cake walk for a confident team. Tell that to Bronco, Bryce, and crew. The Yellow Jackets are not making a bowl this season, but I would imagine a team that has beaten us the last 3 seasons (including last season’s brutalization) would just love to “water” our corn flakes.
- We’ve had four good outings in a row where everyone picked up the pace, and made important plays. A young team can easily lose that edge, and this is the sort of game that can be the equivalent of the turf monster in the open field. They asked Quincy Patterson what he was thinking when he broke away from the pack and scored from long distance. It’s reported that he said “...don’t trip”. That should be written on a piece of tape and put above every locker station for the remainder of the week.
So, what are the five substantive things that the Virginia Tech Hokies have to do to put this game in the W column?
The Big Five for this One
First, both sides of the ball need to play at the level they showed that they are capable of playing, last weekend. Though it wasn’t 100% complete, the fumbles are still a serious issue, the Wake Forest game is the most complete performance that this team has glued together this season. That good work (not feeling... work) needs to be duplicated for this game. Georgia Tech’s defense is still good enough to give our offense a serious challenge. Their offense is completely new to them, and they are still learning to operate it, but they scored 28 points against the Wahoos last weekend. That means they will be challenging us, hard. Wake’s offense is arguably much better and their quarterback is much more experienced and skilled than Georgia Tech’s. That may be true, but the Jackets can throw now. Presumably they haven’t forgotten how to run. It’s not going to be the triple option, but they’d be wise to remember some of those tactics. The Virginia Tech offense needs to do exactly what it did in the Wake Forest game, control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Run the ball on the edges on offense, and put heavy pressure on the Georgia Tech QB.
Secondly, the Hokies need to clean up the ball handling mistakes. This game is going to hinge on breaks; who gets them and takes advantage. The Hokies also need to make sure that they eliminate the procedural penalties along with the close calls that Tobacco Road referees can’t tip in disadvantageous directions. That means playing a clean game. A big part of that is concentrating on winning the play, one play at a time, not ‘winning the game’ before the game is over. The Hokies also need to put other issues out of their minds, completely; no worries about bowl games or division championships... or Pitt... or UVA... This team needs to focus on this game and this game alone.
Third, the offense needs to get the tight ends involved along with other receivers. The last few games have been dominated by Hazelton and Turner attempts (though not all successful) if the pass was being used. That’s going to register on the Yellow Jacket’s DC’s planning radar. Mitchell and Keene need to be seen for more than road graters. They block well, but they also catch and run the wheels, digs, and drags necessary to move the ball in bigger chunks in passing situations.
Fourth, the Hokies still have to minimize the third and long problem, along with calling more effective third and short plays. Hooker did convert two 4th and 2 situations, but play calling on 1st and 2nd down was still leaden. Smarter 1st down oriented (instead of low percentage deep throws) passing routes on 3rd down will go a long way to get that situation mopped up. Opening series with six to eight yard plays instead of throwing something deep would be as start, as well. Last week was better, and Hendon Hooker’s better passing skills really helped, so Fuente needs to build on that by giving him better route packages, and more options by rolling Hooker out or sliding the pocket.
Fifth, coach with enthusiasm. These young men respond when you get involved, even if you’re chewing them out, they understand that. Some coaches make great statues. I am not so sure that these kids respond to the “subdued” look. When the coaching staff gets involved the players get focused and fired up. It’s going to be a tough venue, so be your own cheering section.
It’s pretty simple. Don’t take anything for granted. Play your best game. Vary your offense and keep your defense unpredictable. Move the ball better, and show your players that you care.