The Tech Lunch Pail is excited to announce the launch of the new TLP Insider subscription. Sign up for an account and get the best news, inside scoops, and analysis on the Hokies! Learn more

Three Keys to the Game for Virginia Tech vs Purdue

Grant Wells 1 VT ODU 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

After taking care of business last Saturday night vs Old Dominion, the Hokies pursue a 2-0 start when they take on a hungry Purdue team looking to bounce back from an upset loss to Fresno State.

Give Grant Time

Ron Crook is the new offensive line coach in Blacksburg and one game into 2023, the Hokies’ inexperienced offensive line has held up well in pass protection.

A group that includes two freshmen and only two key returners who have combined for 42 starts did well against Old Dominion allowing no sacks. This is an important note provided that last season, the line allowed over 33 sacks or 3 a game, which was good for 90th in the country.

Grant Wells was also pleased with his offensive line after last week's game as he shared.

"They played incredible. Anytime you have no sacks, no real pressures, that’s only going to build their confidence. I think they needed some confidence going into this game. I think that’s just them being young. I think they had a lot of questions in that room that they needed answered, and I think they answered it and they played really well. So I’m excited to watch them play with confidence now," Wells said.

Since Purdue’s strength is in their front 7, Tech will want to give its wideouts ample time to get open against zone or press coverage and take advantage of Purdue's back end weakness. The Virginia Tech offensive line has had its struggles before in the past, and will face a tougher challenger today against that solid Purdue front 7 that was in the middle of the pack nationally with 28 sacks (54th overall) last season.

If the offensive line can get the job done again in pass protection as they did last week, it wouldn't be surprising to see a big game from the Hokies' passing attack.

Make Purdue One-Dimensional

The defense needs to make a point to stop the run first after looking suspect against Old Dominion. They permitted the Monarchs to rush for 4.7 yards a carry, good for 201 total rushing yards. Last year, they gave up over 135 yards a game. The key against Purdue will be to force Hudson Card into obvious passing downs, especially with Tech being strong at cornerback.

The Boilermakers only averaged 3.6 yards a carry against the Fresno State defense in their first game. They struggled to run the ball effectively and lost in time of possession. However, Purdue will absolutely want to test Tech's rush defense and see if they've figured out some of the run fit issues that the Hokies had last week causing their struggles as Brent Pry discussed last Saturday night.

"First of all, I thought they did a really nice job, a combination of the tempo, the splits and a good run-game plan. They were IDing our defense and putting themselves in the best run play. But we didn’t fit things very good. Just base fits, defending the run, which we’ll clean those up. Some of it, I think they did a nice job with their tempo, it was opening game. But we’ve got some work to do there. I was disappointed in our run defense for sure," Pry said.

Card may have a decent game for Purdue regardless of how Purdue's rushing attack does given his pedigree. Card proved in limited opportunities to be a quality player at Texas as he threw for 1,518 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons for Texas including a gutsy performance against Alabama last year.

The Hokies’ defense will need to take away the run so Card can’t get into a rhythm and hit the open man.

Ball Security

Take care of the ball. It is always a necessity, but especially against Purdue coach Ryan Walters and company. Walters led an Illinois defense last year that led the nation in interceptions (22). Yes, this Purdue defense is different, since they only averaged 1.5 turnovers a game in 2022, but every coach has a focus. There's no doubt that the Boilermakers will be focused on takeaways especially as a road underdog.

Wells and the Hokie RBs will need to take care of the ball so the defense won’t be put in situations with their backs against the wall. That's especially true for Wells who had 9 interceptions last season many of which came at costly times. Wells did show growth last week in making smarter decisions, but he'll need to continue that this week even with Purdue's issues in the secondary.

If this game ends up being a back-and-forth scoring affair with the Hokies favored -2.0 (over/under at 49.5 on ESPN), then avoiding costly turnovers will be a major key.

You must login in order to comment on this post.
Loading Indicator