History will be made Saturday as Virginia Tech and Old Dominion will play for the first time at Lane Stadium. ODU has come a long ways in a short time, but they face a tough task against the kings of the Commonwealth, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
A showdown with Clemson looms next Saturday for the Hokies, but they can’t afford to look ahead to that Clemson game just yet. With that said, here are our keys to the game for the Hokies against the Monarchs.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line has been quite good this season in pass blocking only allowing three sacks. However, they will be tested some on Saturday against an Old Dominion pass rush that leads the nation with 16 sacks in 3 games. Old Dominion likely won’t be afraid to throw some blitzes at the Hokies as well, making it important for Josh Jackson and Virginia Tech to be effective with quick passes.
The good news is that this passing game is built to run a passing game heavy on quick passes via slant, curl, and out routes.
Josh Jackson showed great timing and accuracy with his receivers last week, and that should help the Hokies push the ball down the field quickly this week. Virginia Tech also has the receivers to attack quickly starting with star Cam Phillips. Phillips is perfect for a quick passing attack with above-average speed and agility combined with great hands and route-running that allow him to get separation quickly.
The Hokies also have lots of speed at receiver including freshman Sean Savoy who has been impressive so far this season with 12 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. Combine that with Phillips and speedy slot receiver CJ Carroll and James Clark, and the Hokies have a great group of quick, proven receivers that can get separation and be very effective on quick passes.
ODU’s biggest strength is with their pass rush and they’ll look to use that to make this game more competitive than expected. However, the Hokies have the tools to make ODU’s pass rush ineffective.
Build Consistency on the Ground
Virginia Tech’s rushing attack has been up-and-down this season with a great performance against West Virginia followed by a disappointing afternoon against Delaware followed by a dominant performance against East Carolina. Last week’s performance against ECU was encouraging that the Hokies can establish a rushing attack.
However, this game presents more of a challenge than an ECU defense that was outside the top 120 defense. This also presents an opportunity to build more confidence and consistency ahead of next week’s ACC Championship rematch where having a well-rounded offensive attack will be critical.
Travon McMillian looked like his 2015 self last week rushing for 72 yards on 11 carries and is emerging as the Hokies’ best RB for now. Last year, McMillian had some great performances similar to what he did last week against ECU, but usually followed those games with duds that frustrated many. McMillian has a chance to build some consistency and though ODU will be a tougher test, this makes this game a better opportunity to build more confidence.
Deshawn McClease has shown his speed and big play potential with an average of 5.1 yards per carry through his first three games. McClease will have some extra motivation for this game as a 757 native facing the first FBS program from his home area. This game presents a great stage for McClease to make a big statement and impress many fans and coaches, especially those from back home in the 757. Don’t be surprised if McClease has a strong performance against ODU.
Virginia Tech’s rushing attack has been promising but inconsistent through the first three games. However, Saturday presents an opportunity for the Hokies to build some consistency on the ground that they have been looking for since Justin Fuente arrived in Blacksburg.
Come Out With Intensity
The first quarter struggles against East Carolina were simply due to a lack of intensity and aggressiveness on the defensive end. After the first quarter, the Hokies’ defense turned up the intensity and ECU didn’t stand a chance as the Hokies went on to score 57 unanswered points.
This week, the Hokies are in a similar situation facing an Old Dominion that is rebuilding and not very good outside of their pass rush. ODU’s offense is a mess and with a 17-year old at the helm, this feels like a “blood in the water” type of game for the Hokies’ defense.
For Virginia Tech, it’s important to make it as difficult as possible for true freshman QB Steven Williams to gain any sort of rhythm. Williams was able to push the ball down the field last week against UNC, but also only completed 45% of his passes against an average at best UNC defense.
This is a mismatch heavily in the Hokies’ favor, but the Hokies can’t allow ODU to gain any early momentum like they did last week against East Carolina. If so, it’ll make life a little more difficult especially with Old Dominion having a defense that isn’t outside of the top 120 in America.