The Virginia Tech Hokies face their first road game of the season as they travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the Purdue Boilermakers. The Hokies will be looking to continue to build on the confidence of a blowout victory while the Boilermakers will look to get above .500 and win their second-straight home game.
Virginia Tech is a 5.5-point favorite on the road, and definitely should win this game even with Brenden Motley at quarterback and Sean Huelskamp at mike linebacker. However, here’s are the keys to the game for the Hokies to beat the Boilermakers.
Win the Turnover Battle
So far, the Hokies have a +4 turnover margin while the Boilermakers are at 0 despite their first two games coming at Marshall and against Indiana State. The turnover battle always has an impact on the outcome of the game as shown by how the Hokies won the turnover battle in the first half against Ohio State and had the lead at the half.
Purdue’s quarterback Austin Appleby threw four interceptions in week one against Marshall, but regained some confidence against Indiana State with no interceptions. However, Appleby has shown that he has somewhat of a reputation of making poor decision with 11 interceptions in 2014 despite only throwing 20 or more pass attempts in seven games.
Virginia Tech’s defensive backs will also be looking to make a statement after comments made by Purdue HC Darrell Hazell about the Hokie DBs getting away with some penalties. Kendall Fuller will look to have a dominant performance while Chuck Clark is already having a breakout season and Brandon Facyson is starting to gain confidence.
The Hokies also need Brenden Motley to avoid making stupid decisions on the road even if it won’t be that tough of an environment. Don’t be surprised if the Hokies control the turnover margin once again this week in West Lafayette.
Contain Purdue’s Rushing Attack
Purdue has two solid running backs in D.J. Knox and Markell Jones that are both averaging over five yards per carry so far this season. Purdue has shown some strength in their passing game as well, but Appleby has proven to be turnover-prone.
Purdue will likely look to rely on the rushing attack to set up their matchups on the outside in the play-action passing attack. The Hokies have the defensive backs to shut down the play-action pass, but putting Appleby in situations where more risks are in play is ideal and that means containing Purdue’s rushing attack.
It is still unknown how good the Boilermaker rushing attack really is, but the Hokies have the talent on the defensive line to dominate, and contain the Purdue running backs. The Hokies also will have a chip on their shoulder to prove that they have an elite defense against a Big 10 team in Purdue after dominating FCS team Furman last week.
Purdue has some talent in their backfield, but don’t be surprised if the Hokies shut Knox and Jones down.
Don’t Limit the Offensive Playbook
The Hokies limited the playbook when Brenden Motley was brought in against Ohio State, but Scot Loeffler opened up the playbook for the redshirt junior against Furman and he played better as the game went along. Now that Motley has some confidence, Loeffler and the Hokies need to avoid limiting the playbook.
Motley has started to get the touch that he has been needing while the Hokies also have the receivers on the outside in Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips to help Motley out. Loeffler should try to focus on establishing a strong rushing attack in this game, but that shouldn’t be to also limit how much of the playbook is available to Motley.
Motley needs to make smart decisions, but Loeffler should take some risks with his play-calling, and go for some big plays on the road against a Purdue team that gave up 41 to Marshall. If the Hokies do limit the playbook, it could be a very nerve-wracking game for Hokie fans, especially those that made the trip to West Lafayette.