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When it comes to Virginia Tech, you know what you're going to get week in and week out. That's the greatness of Frank Beamer and it's the reason why we've been able to win 10 games for the last eight seasons, which is the longest streak in the country. However, it also causes some stressors within the fanbase. The Hokies beat Austin Peay 42-7 on Saturday. To the casual fan, that's a 35 point win against an over-matched opponent that didn't appear to have much interest in playing to win the game. But, to me, that's a sign that the Hokies didn't have their heads in this game.
This is the second time we've played two games in six days and I still hate this setup. I understand why it happens. The money we'll receive (or well the ACC will receive) for playing Alabama next year in 2013 is well worth the risk. That kind of exposure just doesn't happen to the UVA's of the world. But, playing two games in six days at the collegiate level is tough. How many times have you seen the short week come back to bite a program? Virginia Tech in 2010 comes to mind as does Clemson in 2006, when the Tigers entered Lane Stadium on a short week and were immediate thrashed by Brandon Ore. It just doesn't work. Had we played an FCS team with any sort of talent, they could have beaten us on Saturday.
A lot of the mistakes we made were a result of mental fatigue. Hell, those in attendance said the crowd was even soft. It's tough for everybody to care about Austin Peay after one of the most exciting games in Lane Stadium history took place on Monday night. The Saturday game just came too soon, especially since it was against Austin Peay.
I've taken a little extra time to process this game and to me, it should really be thrown aside. We started slow, never really reached our potential on either side of the football, then managed to put up enough points to not completely embarrass ourselves. But, a lot of that can be blamed on the short week and the lack of preparation time.
This Saturday will give us a much better look at just who we are as a football team. Pittsburgh has struggled mightily this season but they hold a two game winning streak over Virginia Tech. If we can beat them by a good amount then I think we'll all feel better about where this team is headed this season. However, another close game would sound some alarms, especially since we're still struggling to run the football.
I don't feel like breaking down the Austin Peay game. I'd rather just acknowledged it happened and move on to Pitt. Plus, we're two games into the season so some trends are starting to develop. That's what I'm going to discuss below.
Lack of a Rushing Attack
Through two games, the Hokies are averaging 141.50 yards on the ground per game. That average ranks us 74th nationally in rushing. Obviously, we are breaking in a few new running backs so those stats are a little unfair. But, even if you just look at our rushing attack, it just hasn't been impressive. Michael Holmes has shown some flashes but he has just 94 yards rushing on 22 carries thus far. J.C. Coleman, our primary backup, has just 54 yards on 10 carries. Through two games, including one against an FCS team, the Hokies top two running backs have 32 carries for 148 yards. That's not a good sign.
Honestly, if it wasn't for Marcus Davis and his two end-around runs on Saturday, Tech's rushing offense would be 90th instead of 74th. It's imperative that we get this ground game going over our next three games. We can't head into UNC with our leading rusher having less than 300 yards. Somebody, either Holmes or Coleman at this point, needs to anoint themselves as our go-to running back. Coleman's first play fumble on Saturday is a worry as well. You have to secure the football.
Logan Being Logan
Although I criticized him on Saturday, Logan Thomas is having a good season statistically. But, even he doesn't really pass the eye test yet. On he year, the Brookeville star is 36-61 for 442 yards and four touchdowns. He has not turned the ball over so far. That last insight is the most important. Thomas has already put the team on his shoulders once to help win a game. His 4th quarter performance against Georgia Tech was incredible. Sadly, we're going to need a few more of those performances this season if we want to make it back to a BCS bowl.
The good news is, the Hokies have some defenses coming up that should allow them to air it out. Pittsburgh is 38th nationally in passing defense at 191 yards per game. Although, that's a little skewed since they played Youngstown State in the first game. Bowling Green is 79th in passing defense, allowing 248 yards per game.
Offensive Line... meh
I've watched a lot of college football games over the past two weeks. For those upset over the offensive line's performance on Saturday, you should probably watch more college football. Outside of LSU or Alabama, there's not many impressive units out there these days. Most groups are inconsistent at best and struggle to pass protect, especially in key situations. I agree that our offensive line play was very poor on Saturday. We played a lot of bodies and guys like Caleb Farris, Matt Arkema, and Brent Benedict received snaps within the first two drives. That's a lot of youth.
The good news is this line played well against Georgia Tech. I would love to see more of a push, especially on running plays. We just don't seem to be knocking guys off the line of scrimmage like we used to. That is a concern going forward. However, as a pass blocking unit, I think this group has the ability to be one of the better offensive line's we've possessed in recent memory.
Our Secondary Is A Concern
I am extremely confident in Torrian Gray and I feel silly writing this knowing our pass defense is currently 3rd in the country statistically. But, our secondary does concern me if we play a team that relies on the pass. Through two games, we've played teams that average passing the ball only about 10 times per game. That's going to change very soon. Pittsburgh is a run first team but Tino Sunseri will through the ball down the field... or he'll at least try to. This coming weekend is a big game for our secondary. Not only could they ease my mind a bit but they'll have at least a handful of opportunities at some interceptions.
I will follow that up by saying Kyshoen Jarrett deserves a helmet sticker or a game ball or something. That boy can level the boom. He's going to have at least a few hits that wind up on Billdozer's end of the season highlight tape. I'm hoping one or two come against UVA in November.
Beamerball Is Back... Kinda
Through two games, I will admit that I have much more faith in our special teams than I did a year ago. Our punt blocking team blocked a kick on Saturday. Props to Tony Gregory for soaring in there and getting his hand on it. Cody Journell, despite missing his first field goal of the year, is a trust worthy option at kicker. A.J. Hughes has been consistent while averaging 39.7 yards per punt with a long of 53. He has downed five of his 11 kicks inside the 20 yard line. Lastly, Kyshoen Jarrett appears to be our best choice at punt returner. He's not quite as explosive as Jayron Hosley but he has a good knack for returning punts.
Overall Confidence Level Is Still High
I'm going to cap off this article by saying that my overall confidence level in this team is still high. I don't believe I'm watching a team that could win the National Title but I do believe this team will develop into Coastal Division Champions and perhaps ACC Champions down the road. Whenever you have a quarterback with the upside of Logan Thomas, you have the ability to be special. Still, there is a long way to go before we can talk about winning 10 games for a 9th straight season or challenging for a National Title.
This weekend's game with Pittsburgh is crucial. For the first time this season, we'll be playing a somewhat normal offense with a normal gameplan. Pitt is a run first team and they have good running backs in Ray Graham (33 car. 174 yards) and Isaac Bennett (16 car. 66 yards, 1 TD). They have a quarterback who can throw the ball in Tino Sunseri (43-67, 517 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT). But, overall this team just isn't very good. They've lost by 14 to Youngstown State in week one and by 24 to Cincinnati on Thursday. They've scored a total of 27 points this year while giving up 85. Even though this is our first true road test of the year, I don't see this being a close contest.
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