It’s Thursday evening and that means our football five things article covering the upcoming game. This particular effort isn’t an easy one, and I am not talking about the game. We know that is going to be tough. It’s really difficult to grab five significant things that need to be done that a) haven’t been beaten to death already and b) are significant within the swirling plethora of things that Tech needs to do to beat Pitt.
Here’s what is at stake in the IF stream.
- IF Tech wins we play UVA for the Coastal Championship on Black Friday
- IF Pitt wins we still play UVA Black Friday but it will be for pride and to beat UVA
- IF we win Saturday and UVA loses to Liberty nothing changes except UVA’s win total.
- IF we beat Pitt, they are out of the Coastal race.
- IF they beat us we are out.
- IF we lose to Pitt, but beat UVA on Black Friday Pitt wins the Coastal
All the other scenarios lead to a UVA 1st finish as sacrificial lamb. (I just don’t want to contemplate losing to the Hoos, so I won’t)
The short summary is that both of these end-of-season games are significant for their own set of reasons. A loss tomorrow means elimination and 2nd or 3rd in the Coastal. That translates into #BEATPITT.
Well, so what five things are going to help us win on Saturday? The wise guys have us as a 4 point favorite (which is a hint above home field advantage).
First, this team needs to be humble, studied, and ready for the 3:30 kick. Weather is going to be a big factor. It’s going to be cold, mid to high 40’s, with the temperatures dropping as the sun goes down around five o’clock. It’s also going to be rainy. Currently it looks like the weather guys aren’t predicting downpours but it’s going to be rain (not a Bleaksburg Drizzle) with a good inch predicted.
That means there will be a premium on running the ball. Passing won’t normally be deep heaves. It’s going to be possession routes and short high percentage throws that work in wet conditions. The Hokie Offense will need to have lots of plays that take advantage of misdirection, and edge runs where footing is not counted on.
Second, build the right game and play calling. This is the kind of weather when you figure out if your Offensive line is working. The O-line is going to need to lock up with defenders and move them enough to get runners to the second level. The wet also means that the line is less likely to get to block on the 2nd level so that is going to require lead blocking by an H-Back and the tight end. So, the line needs to spend extra effort using solid technique to keep their feet since the field is going to be sloppy.
Third, the defense is going to need to shut down Kenny Pickett. The Panthers have decent running backs but Pickett is dangerous, especially to us. The secondary is going to need to be on their toes, because they have some downfield talent. The advantage to the weather is that it’s going to cool off Pitt’s passing attack, too. So control the line of scrimmage and present the same sorts of rush problems to Pickett and Nardo that was presented to Georgia Tech.
Fourth, don’t make ball handling mistakes. Unfortunately we operate from the spread ace, and that means there is no direct Center to QB exchange. Getting that right is going to be critical for any sustained rhythm and pace to the offense. Keep two hands on the ball. We dropped it too many times against Georgia Tech. The Hokies managed to minimize the damage because we were playing the Yellow Jackets. Pitt is much more likely to make us pay dearly for dropping the rock.
Fifth, forget everything else but winning this football game. Don’t let the specter or promise of UVA get on to the radar screen. Pitt has been a traditional problem for Tech. They win here, and they win there. The crowd is unlikely to be a sellout and will probably not fill the stadium. Most pre-Thanksgiving break games have trouble filling Lane Stadium because on campus students go home. Commuters might show, but to make sure that there are folks in the stands. There still are tickets available. Wear a rain suit, throw some coin… It is a 3:30 kick. So the critical Fifth thing that the Hokies need is for Hokie Nation to show up and be the 12th man. There is plenty of time to relax and have a good time for Thanksgiving after a win against Pitt.