Virginia Tech is coming off a bye week after barely getting past North Carolina two weeks ago. The Hokies were forced to drive 98 yards down the field to complete the comeback victory over the Tar Heels, but they escaped Chapel Hill with a win.
The timing of the off week was beneficial, as it gave Virginia Tech plenty of time to prepare for its next test – Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets offense has proven difficult in recent years, and the Hokies are going to have their work cut out for them on Thursday night. Here are our three keys to the game.
Stop the Run
This one might seem obvious given that Georgia Tech runs a triple option offense, but it’s still the biggest key for the Hokies if they want to get a win this week. Georgia Tech consistently gives the Hokies trouble in the running game, and don’t expect this year’s game to be any different.
In 2016, the Yellow Jackets had two players rush for over 100 yards against Virginia Tech. Last season was just as bad when three different players ran for over 80 yards. Even in 2015, the last time Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets were able to run for 195 yards and have two players run for 70 or more.
The majority of Georgia Tech’s offense is run-oriented, which seems to always give the Hokies fits. That sentiment is especially true this year with their offense averaging 352.4 rushing yards per game. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has run the ball 127 times for 598 yards. Compare that to his 76 passing attempts, and it’s easy to see how much Georgia Tech focuses on the run.
The Hokies’ defensive line hasn’t been what fans expected this season, and the dismissal of Trevon Hill only added to the troubles. Ricky Walker and co. will have to step up this week to minimize the effects that Georgia Tech’s running game will have on the Virginia Tech defense. If they are able to stop the run, they can shut down the entire offense.
Play Disciplined Football
You might have seen this key to the game during previous weeks, but it’s a big one. Penalties have seriously plagued Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies have a lot of young players that are seeing significant time on the field this year, so it’s somewhat expected that mistakes will be made. Halfway into the season though, these kinds of mistakes need to be fixed or they will have major consequences on the team.
Virginia Tech is averaging 49.5 yards per game given up in penalties. In total, the Hokies have committed 33 penalties for 297 yards. Their opponents have committed 28 for 137 yards. In a game as big as this one in a tight ACC race, the team has to allow minimal mistakes if they want to get away with a victory.
Virginia Tech committed eight penalties in its last game against UNC. They’re going to have to bring that number way down if they want to stay in the game against Georgia Tech this week, especially given the speed at which the Yellow Jacket offense operates.
One of the best things the Hokies can do to help their chances in this week’s game is to relax and play the game the way they know how. If Georgia Tech goes up early or is outplaying Virginia Tech, the Hokies need to relax and continue to play their game. Too many times this season, games have gone south once the team starts making mental mistakes that cost them.
If the Hokies are able to remain calm under pressure, it will benefit them throughout the game, even when they are trailing on the scoreboard. Quarterback Ryan Willis put together a great game-winning drive against UNC while the Hokies were down late in the game, staying poised the entire time. That’s the style of play the team needs all game against Georgia Tech in order to stay competitive.
The Hokies can get another ACC win this week if they stay calm, cool and collected against the Yellow Jackets. Virginia Tech kicks off at 7:30pm Thursday night and will be broadcasted on ESPN.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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