Gameday has arrived in Blacksburg as the Virginia Tech Hokies face off against the Liberty Flames to not only open their 2016 season but also to kick off the Justin Fuente era after a 29-year golden era of Virginia Tech football led by Frank Beamer.
With that said, let’s take a look at today’s keys to the game for the Hokies against Liberty.
Don’t Overlook Liberty
The Hokies can’t afford to overlook the Liberty Flames and must look at what nearly happened to Tennessee as great example of what could happen to them if they start looking towards the Battle at Bristol.
While Liberty is an unranked FCS team, they did receive some votes to be in the top 25 down there in preseason while they are also coming off a FCS postseason appearance due to an upset victory over Coastal Carolina to win their conference. Liberty also has former FBS head coach Turner Gill who may not have had much success at Kansas but had success at Buffalo and is a well-respected head coach.
Liberty may have a new quarterback but he’s also a mobile quarterback which has frustrated Bud Foster’s defenses over the last couple years with QBs having some big games on the ground. Liberty may have lost some of their top players but there is definitely some talent returning to this team and there is greater continuity with no head coaching change.
The Hokies can’t afford to overlook Liberty or else they’ll make this game a lot more nerve-racking than expected.
Don’t Try to Win the Game On Your Own
Jerod Evans will be starting his first FBS game today and while he definitely showed in junior college that he has a whole lot of upside, he also enters this game in an offense loaded with playmakers around him. Evans is also in a Justin Fuente offense that will be designed to spread the ball out more and create space for Virginia Tech’s talented receiving corps to get open.
With that said, Evans, while having the upside, needs to focus primarily on protecting the football and making smart decisions to allow his talented groups of receivers to make the plays that they can make.
Evans doesn’t need to try to go win the game by himself given that he has guys like Bucky Hodges, Isaiah Ford, and Cam Phillips behind him. There may be a couple moments where the Hokies will need Evans to either make a tough throw or scramble away to gain some yards but in this offense, Evans should not consistently be looking to be Superman.
If Evans can do that, it will be recipe for success not only this week but throughout the season.
Contain the Mobile QB
While Liberty doesn’t have a returning starting QB, they do have a mobile quarterback which has given Bud Foster’s defense plenty of issues over the past few seasons. The Hokies have suffered disappointing losses due in part to failures to contain a mobile quarterback including against East Carolina and Duke last season.
With Josh Dobbs and Tennessee next week, Bud Foster and his defense must step up this week and prove that they have fixed defensive issues that allowed mobile quarterbacks to do a whole lot of damage over the past couple of years.
With the Hokies being expected to run a lot more zone on defense, linebackers Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds may both also play some as a spy on defense when they aren’t being used on a blitz. When they are in that role, they must stay alert and have the type of quick, quality reactions that are necessary to get outside and shut down the mobile quarterback.
If the Hokies can do that, it won’t only give fans a lot of confidence looking towards next week but also should give the defense the confidence that yes, they can stop a mobile quarterback.