Virginia Tech Football takes the field on Saturday afternoon in their 2019 home opener seeking to avenge last weekend’s season opening loss to Boston College, as well as last year’s debacle in Newport News at the hands of Old Dominion.
The Monarchs enter Lane Stadium on Saturday with a 1-0 record after narrowly escaping Norfolk State a week ago at home to open up the season. With last year’s loss to Old Dominion firmly in the minds of players and fans alike for Virginia Tech, Saturday presents an opportunity for revenge against their newly-minted in-state rival.
This year’s game has added intrigue, as two former Virginia Tech players, wide receiver Eric Kumah and tight end Chris Cunningham, both transferred to ODU and have been named captains for Saturday’s game against their former school.
With Saturday’s game now less than 24 hours away, what are the keys for the Hokies against Old Dominion? Let’s take a look
1. Don’t Beat Yourself
Seems simple, right? The Hokies turned the football over five times last Saturday, the most since Week 2 of 2016 at the Battle at Bristol, where Tech turned it over six times in their loss to Tennessee.
Last weekend’s 35-28 loss to Boston College can be put squarely on the turnovers, with quarterback Ryan Willis’ three interceptions and a fumble being the main culprit. Assuming that the Hokies clean up the turnovers and limit their mistakes on Saturday, the talent on the roster should be more than enough to outclass Old Dominion.
2. Containing Eric Kumah
The Hokies do not, and will not, know a single opposing receiver’s tendencies better than Old Dominion’s Eric Kumah. Kumah spent three seasons in Blacksburg, and is all too familiar with Virginia Tech’s secondary after practicing against them as a member of the Hokies from his freshman season, all the way to his junior season a year ago.
Kumah has quickly emerged as Old Dominion’s number one receiver, as he hauled in four catches for 65 yards in the season opening victory over Norfolk State.
Old Dominion quarterback Stone Smartt will be looking Kumah’s way early and often against the Hokies, as Kumah will be looking to make a statement in his return to Lane Stadium.
3. Build Off The Defense’s Strong 2nd Half at BC
Virginia Tech deployed the swiss cheese defense against Old Dominion in last year’s match-up, allowing former quarterback Blake LaRussa to throw for 495 yards and four scores, while ODU running back Jeremy Cox accounted for 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his own right.
That defensive performance against ODU was a microcosm of the entire season for Virginia Tech, who entered 2019 looking to improve mightily. While last weekend against Boston College wasn’t great in the first half, the defense tightened up after halftime, only allowing 79 yards in the second half.
If the version of the defense that showed up in the second half of last weekend’s game becomes the group that emerges on Saturday against ODU, the Hokies should be in excellent shape. It’s all about building on positives and becoming consistent from here on out, and Tech’s home opener on Saturday against the Monarch’s presents an excellent opportunity to continue to take steps in the right direction.