Gameday has almost arrived for the final time as the Virginia Tech Hokies are making their final preparations for tomorrow’s Belk Bowl with their hopes of getting to 10 wins for the first time since 2011 after the Hokies made 10 wins the minimum standard during their first eight years in the ACC. However, the Hokies face a quality challenger in an Arkansas team looking to find some momentum going into the offseason with a win and potentially a top 25 ranking.
Both teams have plenty of things that they could achieve from this win more than just getting a bowl victory for their own pride. With most of the unique bowl events wrapped up, both teams now will be able to focus in with their final practices, walkthroughs, and meetings to get their teams ready for Thursday evening’s showdown in Bank of America Stadium.
With that said, here are our keys to the game for the Hokies against the Razorbacks.
If there’s one thing that’s been the consistent issue for the Hokies in their losses, it’s been their struggles with turnovers as turnovers proved costly in their regular season losses against Tennessee, Syracuse, and Georgia Tech whether it was a couple of untimely turnovers against the Orange or a major fumble issue in Bristol against the Volunteers.
Virginia Tech enters the game at -3 in the turnover margin category overall on the season with turnovers being the one thing that has prevented the Hokies for having 1 or 2 losses instead of four. Arkansas hasn’t been much as the Razorbacks have a -2 turnover margin, but Bret Bielema has some talented players on his defense that will know the issues Virginia Tech has had at times with fumbles and look to test VT’s ball security.
Jerod Evans had one a good job at protecting the football through the air with only 7 interceptions this season while Arkansas’s defense hasn’t necessarily been great at getting interceptions with only 9 in 12 games. Evans has had a couple of questionable decisions at times this season, but there is no doubt that Evans has improved a lot as the season has gone along.
However, Arkansas will definitely look to test and see if Evans has improved with progressing through his reads potentially using an extra defensive back as a spy possibly to find Evans’ first read an get a double team on that player at least early in the game to test Evans.
Overall, the winner of the turnover margin will likely also be the winner of the football game and if the Hokies can have good ball security as they did against Clemson along with Jerod Evans making smart decisions, the Hokies should be able to take care of the ball and win a game in which they are about 7-point favorites.
Be Disciplined Defensively
Arkansas’s offense is built around running the football to set up their play action passing attack with the Razorbacks likely to run the ball a lot on first and second down. On top of that, the Razorbacks have two very good running backs who have made opponents pay with both of their top running backs (Rawleigh Williams, Devwah Whaley) averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
When facing a team like Arkansas, it will be of the upmost importance for the Hokies to be disciplined defensively especially in the defensive backfield where Arkansas has some weapons that Austin Allen can definitely get the ball to that can make the Hokies pay if a cornerback bites on the fake.
It will be particularly important for Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks and safeties to be disciplined in handling the Arkansas play action passing attack with Bud Foster likely to run lots of man coverage today. Foster has used some zone, and the Hokies may employ some cover 1 defenses with Chuck Clark or Terrell Edmunds playing deep in case a corner bites on play action to try to break up a pass or prevent a big play from being a touchdown.
Virginia Tech has had their defensive discipline tested against teams like Georgia Tech and Arkansas isn’t like Georgia Tech where a big part of their offense intends to test their defensive discipline, but Dan Enos’s offense will be ready to take advantage of any corner that bites. However, Foster has proven time and time again that he can make sure his players are playing disciplined football and that will be a must against the Razorbacks.
Use The Crowd To Your Advantage
In bowl games, teams can have issues not coming out with a lot of energy in part due to how they may not see the bowl game as fitting for the amount of success they have, they made see the bowl as being too small, or for numerous reasons. The other things with bowl games is a lot of the time, you may not necessarily have a big crowd to boost your energy.
However, Virginia Tech has a unique advantage this game given the fact that the Hokies will have a significantly large contingent of fans in Bank of America Stadium with Arkansas not having nearly as many fans making the trip to Charlotte. For the Hokies, it will almost be as if they are at home, and that is something that they must take advantage of as they did time and time again this season.
Virginia Tech had one of their best seasons at home in years going 5-1 in Lane Stadium and the coaches would be smart to try to prepare the Hokies to approach this game on the field like they are at Lane Stadium given the fact that they will have a raucous crowd.
When you’re at home and not having the most motivation, it’s easier to build up that motivation on the field due to the home crowd and with the Hokies having a similar situation with this game, Virginia Tech must take advantage of it.