Virginia Tech faces Virginia this Saturday for the annual rivalry game. The Commonwealth Cup is once again up for grabs. The Hokies have held the cup for nine straight years and look to increase that streak to ten. This is a game that the Hokies should win, but as well all know it is never that easy. Let’s dive into what Tech needs to do to in order to keep the cup in Blacksburg.
1. Win the Turnover Battle
Virginia Tech is 15-1, under Logan Thomas, when he throws zero interceptions. We have seen what happens when Tech fails to take care of the football and it isn’t something worth repeating. Two of the Hokies losses have come due to having too many turnovers. Logan came out of the last bye week, earlier in the season, and had a four interception game against Duke. He, after coming off another bye week, cannot afford to repeat that performance against his bitter in state rivals or it could once again result in a loss. David Watford has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns this season and Tech’s opportunistic defense needs to feed off of that. If the Hokies stop the ground game and build a led that causes the Hoos to have to throw the ball; the secondary could have a field day with Watford. If the Hokies win the turnover battle, the outcome will not be like the Maryland game this season. I honestly feel that if the Hokies take care of the football they will come out on top in this one.
2. Come Out of the Gates Firing
As Justin pointed out earlier in the week, Anthony Harris will be out for the first half of this game due to a targeting foul he got in their last game against Miami. Harris leads the team and the nation if I’m not mistaken, in INT’s with eight. So it is crucial for our offense to take advantage of him not being on the field and try to jump out to an early lead. Since UVA’s season hasn’t been a successful one, I honestly believe if the Hokies could get up early, then the Hoos would lose some motivation. Virginia Tech can’t shoot themselves in the foot this game and lose it themselves.
3. O-line needs to Step Up
After the horrible performance the offensive line had against Maryland, they need to bounce back. Thankfully they have had a bye week to get prepared and try to fix the problems they had against the Terps. Not only do they need to protect Thomas better, but also they need to provide some holes for the ground attack so the offense doesn’t become one dimensional. It is so important for Tech’s offensive line to attack the trenches and control the line of scrimmage.
4. Defense Dominate
The clear cut advantage that the Hokies have in this game is obviously their defense. The defense has to come primed and ready to put on yet another dominate performance. They need to stop the run and for the Cavaliers to throw the ball, because if they do it could lead to some turnovers. Tech performed well a couple of years ago against UVA after a bye week when the game was in Charlottesville and I don’t expect it to be any different this year. As long as the Hokies come in focused and have the right mindset there is no reason they shouldn’t retain the cup for another year.
No Huge Special Teams Woes
The Hokies lack of experience at the kicking position could come back to bite them in the butt, if this game turns out like last years. It took an interception by Antone Exum (and some great clock management by Mike London) to set up Cody Journell for a game winning field goal. If Tech cannot get up early and allows UVA to hang around this game could fall on the shoulders of a kicker, Tech is at a disadvantage. Along with the kicker the coverage teams have also been suspect. They have given up too many good returns to the opposing teams. If not for the fumbles in the Miami game, the Hokies could have dug themselves into a deep hole. Tech will have to address those issues on the coverage teams and make sure the game doesn’t rest on the leg of a walk-on kicker that has only attempted two field goals in his career.
The Hokies should win this game without a doubt. I believe as long as they come into this game with the correct mentality then they will come out victorious. The one thing they cannot afford to do is allow the Hoos to hang around, because the longer they are in the game the more hope they have. I think it will be crucial for Tech to jump out to a quick lead and kill UVA’s spirit. I just hope our team isn’t too focused on possibly still playing for an ACC championship, instead of being focused on the opponent this week, because even if North Carolina beats Duke, the Hokies still have to beat Virginia. Hopefully the Maryland loss was just what the doctor ordered to make sure the Hokies are zoned in on this game. I believe that Virginia Tech will bring the Commonwealth Cup back to Blacksburg for the tenth consecutive year.