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Virginia Tech hosts the Pittsburgh Panthers this week. Last year the Hokies took the Panthers too lightly and lost 35-17. Rushel Shell (was a true freshman last year when he faced the Hokies and now he is at WVU) ran all over the Hokies, along with Ray Graham (who graduated). They combined for 254 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The only problem wasn’t just trying to stop that duo, but Logan Thomas also threw three picks in the game. They also had some success with the air attack. Needless to say last year’s game was one to forget.
1. Stop the Run
Even though both Shell and Graham are gone, the Panthers still have a very cable back. James Conner, a true freshman, leads the ground attack with 353 yards rushing and four touchdowns so far this season. The Hokies defense needs to stop the run first and not have a repeat of last year’s game where they were ran all over. Hopefully they learned from last year not to think much of a true freshman.
2. “DB U” Must Once Again Step Up
Tech’s secondary is going to have their hands full this week with two solid wide outs. Tyler Boyd, another true freshman (that Tech recruited), has 23 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns. His counterpart, Devin Street has 21 receptions for 445 yards and three touchdowns. Street also gave the Hokies some fits in last year’s match-up, finishing with 73 yards on just 4 receptions, including one touchdown. Once again “DB U” is going to have to prove just how good they are by taking on two talented receivers and shutting them down.
Tom Savage, Pitt’s quarterback, has thrown for 1.052 yards and ten touchdowns, but he has also thrown six picks. Yes, he is capable of making plays, but he is also capable of making mistakes. If any defense takes advantage of a quarterback that makes mistakes it is ours. So they must continue to force turnovers and ruffle this quarterbacks feathers just like they have all season.
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3. Logan Thomas Has To Continue His Hot Streak
Thomas has played well in the past two games and must keep this up. He has thrown for 514 yards, four touchdowns, and had a nearly 72 percent completion percentage in the past two games alone. Most importantly he has also not turned over the ball once. It is absolutely pivotal that he carries these performances over this week, instead of having a repeat of his performance last year where he struggled with three picks.
4. Establish the Run
Pittsburgh has a solid defense, and their secondary is their weakness, but that still doesn’t mean we should solely rely on our passing game. We absolutely must establish the running game in some way in order to help our offense move the ball and control the clock. Since the Alabama and Western Carolina game, the Hokies haven’t been able to run the ball consistently and that needs to come to an end. Tech has not averaged below 125 yards rushing per game since 2006 (which is the only time in the Frank Beamer era), but if they continue on the path they are currently on then this could happen again. A huge gain here on the ground could go a long way to not allowing that to happen again.
5. Win the Turnover Battle
As mentioned before, Thomas threw three picks to Tino Sunseri’s (there quarterback last season) one. In addition to the picks, Tech also lost one fumble by Michael Holmes. Pitt won the turnover battle four to one and that ultimately led to the blowout. This year the Hokies need to swing that stat into their favor. That will take a strong effort from the defense and the offense, but this is a task I feel they can accomplish. If they could that would pay dividends for them to pick up their sixth straight victory.
If Tech takes care of the football and the offense moves the ball to put points on the board, our defense will give us a chance to win this game. As Justin stated in his article, the Hokies have lost to Pitt the past four meetings in a row and hopefully it is time for that to come to an end. Both teams are different teams from last year, but either team is capable of winning this game. It will just come down to who executes and takes advantages when the opportunities present themselves. At least this year Tech is at home and not away.
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