Apologies, first. There were just too few pictures from last week’s weather delayed disappointment to really have a full photo essay. The camera was not happy with the weather, and the 9 minutes available to shoot action shots were rewarded by those 2 1⁄2 series of Tech’s problems. I did find one that illustrated the game perfectly, though. The Offensive line, struggling to get blocking done on a doomed pass play.
Now, on to the preview for this week. The Hokies travel to northern New Jersey, to take on an away game in Piscataway against the surging Scarlet Knights. No one is going to write home about how great Rutgers is or has been in the recent past. It’s looked upon as a moderate quality B1G “cupcake” program. Well, their former coach - who had them pushing the envelope past moderate, Mike Sciano, is back at the helm, and the Scarlet Knights find themselves at 2-0, looking to stretch that to 3-0, as Bryan pointed out in his watch article, that hasn’t happened since 1961. Well, the B1G effect seems to be working on both of their problematic programs, because Maryland is also winning.
In our case, that means we are facing talent that, now with better coaching, is equal to or better than Tech’s. That’s going to be a serious problem because Tech has struggled with peer teams for the last several years. On paper, history says that Rutgers should be a reasonable win, with good effort, but a win. That’s not the case for September 16, 2023, though.
The Scarlet Knights have managed an offense with 60 points put up in two games (Northwestern 24, and Temple 36). That’s bad enough. Their defense has held those two opponents to just a touchdown, each. Neither opponent could be classified as an easy blowout win. Both teams play at Rutgers’ level, and the paper on them says that they should have been close games. Obviously, neither were even remotely so.
Rutgers has a competent dual threat quarterback in Gavin Wimsett. He’s not setting the house on fire with either his arm, which is modestly good, or his legs which are better than good, Sciano is managing to balance the offense so that no one thing is a glowing star. Wimsett has one TD passing and one running in his two games. He’s managed a modest 361 yards in the air for an average completion percentage of a hair over 50% (at 27 completions on 50 attempts). What’s best about those numbers is that he hasn’t thrown the ball away. Rutgers seems to score points by a run heavy offense that strategically passes when needed.
It’s the running game that has grabbed the most traction for Sciano’s Scarlet Knights. Their lead tailback, Kyle Monangai, has amassed 214 yards and 2 touchdowns in those two games. At that pace his pushing a 1,000+ yard season. If that isn’t tough enough, he’s followed by Ja’shon Benjamin, Gavin Wimsatt, and Al-Shadee Salaam. Each of them has significant yardage, 82, 57, and 28 yards respectively for the two games. With a running QB putting up a total of 57 yards, exactly 1 sack, and a loss of only 2, you have a potent and difficult to defend option offense.
Rutgers head coach Greg Sciano has managed to build up a program with a run heavy Read/Option offense that can do some serious damage. It might not be a heavy hitter in the B1G, but it’s certainly more than a match for other mid-grade and struggling opponents from the likes of the ACC.
First things first. The Virginia Tech Offense is a nearly complete mess. The Hokies have a solid 2 deep across all receiver positions and two competent running backs who can catch and run out of the backfield. Then crickets start chirping and comments become circumspect.
The Offensive Line, which we all worried greatly about before the season started, is struggling. They pass blocked with above average quality in the ODU game but couldn’t manage to keep Grant Wells from getting hit, harassed, and otherwise scared sightless in the Purdue contest. In neither contest could the Hokies manage any sort of running attack. Adding to those woes, Wells’s best set of series in the resumed 1st and 2nd quarters that generated 17 points in short order, evaporated in the 2nd half. Wells was evidently banged up in the final series of the 1st half, and just never managed to be effective in the 2nd.
That leads to the second issue that sort of leaves the door open for any offensive predictions in this game. Instead of being on the field and noticing that his starting QB was injured and struggling, Bowen only managed a switch for Kyron Drones, in the post-game period. We would all have a better feel, regardless of the outcome of the Purdue game, for how substitute starting QB Drones is going to handle the offense. Right now, we only have a few sketchy plays this season, and the spring game to go by. Drones is more athletic, slightly larger, and a bit faster than Wells. He’s also better kitted out skill wise to run a classic Read/Option style offense because he’s a legitimate threat to run the Belly/Blast exchange, himself. So, regardless of the play calling, which has demonstrated to be poor and inconsistent (well, maybe consistently poor), Drones’s play style is likely to change what we see on the field between the whistles. One can only hope that the change is beneficial, and the results end up being something akin to a functioning offense.
As to the O-Line. I have been cautiously neutral over the last few months in regard to the personnel selection and execution in the offensive line. What we saw in the Spring Game changed slightly, but the Maroon Team’s line was demonstrably better than the White team’s. Now with the real season stirred into the mix, and a heavy challenge of having to sub in and out those two squads, the line is starting to show some issues. The run blocking is struggling, and now the pass blocking is also suspect. Some of the problems are individual execution, but a huge portion of it is a combination of pregame/in-game routine and play calling. That’s all on the coaching staff, and in particular the Offensive Coordinator. The line is just not showing that it’s developing much discipline. From chronic low snaps from the center, to slow developing plays, and ineffective play calling, the line is getting little help in developing the skills necessary to create much of either a running game or a passing game.
The wise guys think that this game is largely over, with Rutgers managing a one touchdown win (-6.5 with a 37 O/U) over a struggling Virginia Tech team - sporting a decent enough defense and no offense. The modest O/U speaks of the respect the odds makers have for both defenses.
There isn’t much point in arguing with them on this one. Tech’s loss last week, could easily have been a win in the 3-point range that was predicted. The betting folks are acknowledging the fact that Virginia Tech’s offense is barely functional. I don’t think too many people in Hokie Nation will disagree at this point.
The wild card is Kyron Drones, and can he riff enough and change enough of the defensive preparations from Rutgers to affect the outcome in Virginia Tech’s favor?
So, how do you think this one is going to go?
This poll is closed
Please. Just hang a huge "L" on everyone’s forehead and get it over with. Tech’s offense won’t score more than a few times, and Rutgers is going to run all over the field. Rutgers beats the spread and Tech limps to Marshall.
Drones makes a huge difference. The offense goes to a one read and go, stays on the field long enough to keep the defense fresh, and Tech comes away with a low scoring ‘W’. Bet Tech and the Over by a hair.
Drones makes no difference. The Defense gets gassed in the 4th, and a close game devolves into a close loss. Don’t bet the Over, but Rutgers has this one.
I’m watching, but not saying anything. Drones is a wildcard - at this point anything is better than the last two performances. Just hoping he looks good and changes things for the better. Saving my coin... no bets, no expectations.
We’ll post up the tidbits and news tomorrow morning.