It’s been a wild past week and a half with the announcement of Frank Beamer retiring at the end of the season and the launching of the #GameDay4Frank campaign. However, the Hokies are finally back and ready to take the field on the road against a Georgia Tech team that must win to keep their hopes of going to a bowl game alive.
Tonight, the Hokies begin their push to get to a 23rd-straight bowl game to send Frank Beamer out in December instead of his last game coming at Virginia. With that said, here are the key Hokies to watch in Frank Beamer’s last appearance leading the Hokies on Thursday Night.
MLB Andrew Motuapuaka
Usually, we don’t start with the defensive players on our key Hokies to watch list, but Andrew Motuapuaka is definitely the most important player for Virginia Tech tonight in this matchup against Georgia Tech’s triple-option.
Bud Foster will rely on Motuapuaka to get the Hokies’ defense lined up well, especially since Foster will likely to load up the box with eight or nine guys to defend against Justin Thomas and the triple-option attack. One slight misalignment by Motuapuaka could be costly with Georgia Tech having the athletic Thomas running the triple-option.
Motuapuaka will also be relied on to prevent Georgia Tech from having any success on their runs right up the middle with their fullback. Motuapuaka will need to fill whatever holes may open up the gut while also having the quick reactions to get outside and help slow Thomas down if the GT quarterback keeps it or looks to pitch it to one of his tailbacks.
The Hokies need Motuapuaka to lead the defense well, and make sure that every player is in position before the snap whether the Yellow Jackets try to push the tempo or not. If Motuapuaka has a bad night, the Hokies could be on the brink of losing any chance of going to a bowl game next week.
RB Travon McMillian
Travon McMillian took the starting running back job a few weeks ago, and the redshirt freshman tailback hasn’t looked back. McMillian broke 90 rushing yards for the fourth-straight game against Boston College, and the fifth time this season.
McMillian has proven that he has game-changing speed that can allow him to flip the game upside down with a long touchdown run. McMillian is a downhill runner that has good judgment of whether he can make a move and create more space to make a play, or if he needs to put his head down and get as many yards as he can get.
Georgia Tech’s defense will look to contain McMillian with the Hokies showing a willingness to let him have a high volume of carries. McMillian will look to take control early, and Scot Loeffler will likely try to find ways to get McMillian outside to make plays.
Georgia Tech also recently lost their best defensive linemen, DT Adam Gotsis. With this loss, expect the Hokies to go after the middle of the Georgia Tech rush defense whether it is with McMillian or someone else like Sam Rogers. McMillian continued to play well even against tougher defenses, and could be set for a big game tonight against the Yellow Jackets.
WR Isaiah Ford
Isaiah Ford has been one of the top two wide receivers in the ACC along with Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd, and is a frontrunner to earn a spot on the All-ACC First Team. Ford has proven to be even better in his sophomore season, and may be the focus of Georgia Tech’s pass defense tonight.
Ford is averaging 1.3 more yards per reception this season than last season, and has show lots of growth as a wide receiver. Ford has developed his route-running abilities, and has the agility to make the quick cuts, and create windows of separation even when he is fairly well-covered by opposing defensive backs.
Ford has a high football IQ, and that is especially valuable in the red zone on extended plays with Ford being able to find some holes and windows to help make a play. If Ford can make some plays as he has throughout the season, that will create even more space for guys like Bucky Hodges, Ryan Malleck, and Cam Phillips to make some plays.
No one should be surprised if Ford has another strong game, and continues to prove why he should continue to be at the top of the list to make the All-ACC First Team at wide receiver.