Game Preview: North Carolina

By French (#TeamPie), Mason (recently bought an iPhone 4s), Joe (#TeamCake), and joelestra (number cruncher)

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1, 1-0) against North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3, 0-1)

Time: 12:30 PM
Date: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Place: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -7.5
Weather: 55-80, Clear

The Skinny

Virginia Tech is 7-2 against North Carolina in ACC games. The Hokies suffered that second loss last season. In 2012, the Tar Heels won at home 48-34. UNC out rushed Tech by nearly 300 yards (339 to 40). This week Frank Beamer has repeatedly used the word "pounded" to describe what the Heels did to his Hokies last season.

Statistics

Well, needless to say the computers were wrong last week! Let's hope they're not wrong this week though, as they are universally in agreement that VT should win this game:

"Foe"Rensics: North Carolina

Hello. Welcome back to "Foe"Rensics, where we dive inside the heads of our opponents every week to understand what makes their football program tick. This week we were planning on doing a hat themed preview since North Carolinians are very fond of hats but you run out of jokes after "fedora" and "bowler", turns out. So, without further ado, let's all take a trip to Chapel Hill and get to your questions!

#goacc Power Rankings: Week 5

The Dave Shinskie Division

(Dregs of the conference)

14. Wake Forest (2-3, LW: L 56-7 @ Clemson): So Lane Kiffin gets fired, Paul Pasqualoni gets fired and Jim Grobe remains one of the safest coaches in the sport. The best part? He still has two years left on that ten year deal, meaning that Wake fans get to watch a team in decline for two whole presidential terms! Seriously though, talking about sadness, there was apparently a poll on a Wake Forest message board asking if Wake fans would take moving to FCS in football if it meant reaching the NCAA Tournament each year. I cannot tell you the result of the poll, however, because you are required to log onto the board and I don't want my computer to start showing me self-help advertisements.

Virginia Tech's Offensive Identity

Frank Beamer said before the season started that he wanted the program that he made nationally relevant to regain its reputation as a tough team. After an offseason of staff changes and a spring and summer of intense practices, it's clear through five games that the team Beamer runs out on the field every week is as tough as any in the country.

For the Hokies to go out and win this game is very impressive, and to win it by holding Georgia Tech to 129 rushing yards is downright ridiculous. That's an absurd number. Even more absurd is the short week the Hokies had to get ready for this brutal matchup. Four days? That's just not enough time. Not enough time to get prepared for the most unique offense Tech will face all season, not enough time to get everyone healthy again after a surprisingly tough game against Marshall, not enough time for Logan Thomas to even take a single practice snap.

Not many people were picking the Hokies to win this matchup. Why would they? The offense has looked less than inspiring as it worked it's way through an identity crisis and the defense was set up for failure by facing Paul Johnson on a short week. This Frank Beamer team is too tough to ever be counted out though, and the players all rallied around two solid game plans by their coaches and fought their way to a well-deserved victory.

GT Film Review: Bud's New Twist and Logan's Redemption

The narrative will vary from writer to writer this week, but the Hokies physically dominated the favored Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in front of a packed house at historic Bobby Dodd stadium. Virginia Tech's defense manhandled Georgia Tech's o-line and completely screwed up the distinct rhythm of Johnson's flexbone option offense. Logan Thomas had his best game of the season throwing accurate short to medium passes and moving the sticks with a punishing running game in between the tackles. The score may have been close, but the reality was that Georgia Tech was never really competitive in this football game. Bud Foster's scheme, coupled with his most talented defensive team in years dominated, and Logan Thomas shut up some naysayers with confident execution in the passing game.

Something Old and Something New from Bud Foster

As previously discussed, Foster has taught a variety of different alignments and techniques to stop Paul Johnson's offense over the years. The common themes in his approach have been 1) to defend the Yellow Jacket passing game with some form of cover 2 defense and 2) focus on taking away the dive and the pitch in the triple option and force the quarterback to be the leading ball carrier.

Foster's philosophy for the 2013 matchup followed his successful formula. Vad Lee lead the team with 18 carries and despite several nice gains, he took a beating. If the Hokie defense was in a base look, the defensive end would crash inside. The unblocked defender (usually the outside linebacker to the play side) took the pitch man, and the quarterback was forced to keep the ball. Usually, the quarterback gains anywhere from 3 to 6 yards, but the keeper rarely produces a big play because the middle linebacker and both safeties are there to bracket the quarterback on all sides. Let's watch as the defense defends a counter option with this basic approach.

Never too late to celebrate

I haven't rewatched the film, but I have slobbered over the boxscore. The defense played well; an understatement for sure. Before last night's game, Georgia Tech averaged 345.3 rushing yards a game. Virginia Tech held them to a buck-twenty-nine. That eclipses the 192 yards rushing Virginia Tech held Georgia Tech to last year, and is now an all-time best for Bud Foster against Paul Johnson which ranks among other epic stymieings of Georgia Tech's offense under Johnson. Who knows how the rest of this season will play out, but I'm going to enjoy watching Foster's group ball. Aggressive defense is such a rarity in college football, and it was highly enjoyable to watch those kids trust each other to do their jobs, and fly forward every snap.

Georgia Tech Preview

Georgia Tech is my new favorite rival. It's a rivalry that actually matters. The UVA bowties Wahoos haven't beaten the Hokies in what will be a decade, and that annual beatdown is less of a rivalry and more of a tradition at this point. The winner of the Techmo bowl not only is in great position to win the Coastal Division every year, but Paul Johnson can come across as such a jerk that it's always fun to see a look of disgust on his face.

Tonight's battle will tell us a lot about what the rest of this season is going to look like. I've seen a lot of different concepts used by Loeffler over the first four games of this season, but haven't seen what I would consider a "complete" game plan yet. Virginia Tech spent the Alabama game running triple option from the pistol with some pro-style under-the-center formations, and then next week against Western Carolina mostly ran the same base plays that were featured in the watered down August scrimmages. Against ECU's stunting 3-4 defense, the Hokies were unable to just zone-block their way down the field, so instead of trying to run some counter blocking schemes they gave up on the run and went four- and five-wide.

Georgia Tech Film Preview

While many loath Paul Johnson's chop blocking, veer oriented, flexbone offense, I circle the date of the Georgia Tech game on my calendar every as the opponent I most fear. Johnson's troops may tread the line on the ethics of blocking, but their offensive line plays a pure form football, one that I was taught: the low man, not big man wins. Explode off the ball at the snap. Create seems in the defense and exploit them with quick hitting, hard running plays that emphasize will more than talent. It is beautiful football, and it's damn frustrating to see it well executed against our Hokies.

Even though Paul Johnson's system is terrific, perhaps no coach has had more success in stopping the flexbone offense than Bud Foster. Johnson has only defeated the Hokies one time in five tries since taking over the Yellow Jackets program, and despite posting impressive yardage totals, the Hokies have been able to limit big plays and force turnovers.

Foster has tweaked his approach against Georgia Tech over the years, but several things have been consistent.

#goacc Power Rankings: Week 4

There weren't many marquee matchups last week, but the ACC had some awesome games. A 58-55 shootout? A game that went into triple overtime? A team that dominated West Virginia...a positive accomplishment for any team on this list? It seems particularly fitting that even in a week with a ton of terrible football, the conference came through with some solid entertainment.

The Dave Shinskie Division

(Dregs of the conference)

14. Wake Forest (2-2, LW: W 25-11 @ Army): With its win over Army last weekend, the Demon Deacons have probably played the last team that they will be favored against. They struggled for two-and-a-half quarters in West Point, but eventually pulled it out behind their rushing attack (something that will only be said once this season). Could Wake's loss to Boston College in week two really have meant the end of the road in terms of bowl eligibility? As depressing as that sounds, it's close. The Deac's Coastal opponents are Miami and Duke, giving them four of the conference's best teams remaining on their schedule (Miami and the best of the Atlantic). That being said, would it surprise anyone if Wake beat Miami at Miami and had to beat Duke or Vanderbilt to become bowl eligible?

It Wasn't Pretty, but the Hokies Made Plays

Well, it certainly wasn't pretty. As I feared, the Thundering Herd put a scare into the Hokies on Saturday. I don't think anyone was particularly satisfied with the performance, but the outcome leaves the Hokies at 3-1 as they begin ACC play against Georgia Tech on Thursday night.

Before I watched the film, I seriously considered not doing a review this week. The game featured almost every good and bad thing that you could possibly see in a football game, and the performance was so erratic, with so many highs and lows, that it was difficult to really evaluate everyone. BeamerBall produced two blocked kicks and a punter scramble for a first down. But special teams also missed several field goals, had a short punt that Marshall turned into points, and again was absolutely atrocious blocking on the kickoff return teams. An elite defense got gashed time and again, while also producing 8 tackles for a loss, four sacks, and forcing three critical turnovers. Kendall Fuller perhaps saves the game with a critical interception, but got eaten up on inside slant routes. Kyle Fuller blocked a punt and took away the short side of the field early, but was beaten twice on double moves, one overthrow, but one put Marshall close to field goal range to win the game. (Fortunately for Kyle, Rakeem Cato tried the same play to the wide side of the field, and while he fooled Brandon Facyson, he didn't fool Kyshoen Jarrett.) The offensive line tipped the spear to the tune of over 200 yards rushing, but then struggled on some key short yardage plays, only to turn around and clear the path for the game winning touchdown. Logan Thomas went from electric, to terrible, to lucky, to a powerhouse in just under 4 hours. Just typing that gives me a frightful headache. But, the Hokies got the W, and 48 hours later, with my blood pressure going back below stroke levels, I decided to drill down and sample a little of the good, bad, and the ugly.

Press Coverage and The Pin and Pull

It's games like these which remind me why I love college football so much. As I posted here after the game, the Marshall–Virginia Tech matchup was one of the most entertaining games I've watched in a long time. It had everything... blocked punts, a mobile QB scrambling for his life and completing pinpoint throws against great man coverage, great catches, a tipped pass that was caught to tie the game, interceptions, sacks, a long run by Edmunds, the inverted veer, overtime, a blocked game winning field goal, a second overtime, A THIRD OVERTIME! Most importantly, it featured a Hokie victory. I thoroughly enjoyed the game even though my Hokies could have played better. Wins are so hard to come by that if you spend too much time upset that a win wasn't "more convincing", then you can wake up one day and realize you spent your football program's golden years complaining about them, rather than appreciating them.

Marshall is a good football team, I think we can all agree on that now. They aren't elite by any means, but Doc Holliday (what a football coach name!) has built a solid program that is capable of hanging in there against more prestigious football teams. Marshall isn't a laughing stock of a football program anymore, and Rakeem Cato isn't that scared little freshmen he was two years ago when he made the trip to Blacksburg. Cato's mobility caused problems for Tech all day (especially early). He doesn't just hurt you with his feet though, as his short passing accuracy was at times capable of picking apart Tech's press coverage. Despite his playmaking skills, Bud Foster's game plan was able to hold Marshall's high flying attack to just 4.15 yards per play, almost two yards per play less than any of their previous games this season.

Epic Overtime Highlights

Why yes, there is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference.

With the short week, we're adjusting the schedule a bit. There's no #BUZZCAP for Marshall, but look for a create the caption in the forum.

GIFTORY: Marshall

Because we won a three overtime game against a good football team and we should all be in a good mood. GIFTORY is here. Boom. (Thanks to Bill for nabbing me the video.)

I so desperately wanted this to be a fat guy touchdown. (Note: if one of our fat guys scores a fat guy touchdown the gif of said fat guy touchdown will occupy a prominent place on this website for a long time.)

Beamer Ball is Back

Everything else might have been horrible, but on special teams Hughes was a boss, Kyle Fuller was a boss, and Skip was a boss. We won a three overtime game y'all!

There will be better analysis on Monday. It's now Georgia Tech (hate) week. Let's hug here.

Game Preview: Marshall

By French (hates cheese), Mason (doesn't have a cell phone capable of text messaging), Joe (is helpless without spell check), and joelestra (number cruncher)

Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) against Marshall Thundering Herd (2-1)

Time: Noon (12:01)
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Place: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -9
Tickets: Virginia Tech Football Tickets (Sponsored)
Weather: 72 F, 80% Chance of Rain

The Skinny

The Hokies host 2-1 Marshall and are tasked with defending one of the top passing attacks in the country. The Thundering Herd is coming off of a brutal loss to Ohio, where they had three fumbles, an interception, and a multitude of offsides penalties, despite racking up 482 yards. The Hokies are seeking their 700th win in program history, they would be the 15th school in NCAA I-A history to reach that milestone.

A Step Backwards but an Opportunity for Growth

One of the bright spots this young season has been the excellent performance by the offensive line. I was thrilled with their execution and noticeably improved fundamentals. My one reservation was the matchups. Alabama has an elite, very athletic front, but their system requires their defensive line to engage blockers, allowing their linebackers to make plays. Western Carolina was completely out manned. Both teams used a relatively static concept up front designed to occupy blockers.

East Carolina presented a very different challenge. Could the Hokies offensive line be effective against a quick defensive front that is focused more on attacking the gaps and stunting than maintaining gap fits? The Pirates used a 3-man defensive front that they flexed over to the strong side of the offensive line. To the weak side, the "jack" linebacker aligned as a stand-up defensive end. The inside linebackers aligned well off the line of scrimmage. The added distance gave the linebackers a distinct quickness advantage over the offensive linemen trying to get to the second level. To the strong side, the Pirates completed the 3-4 look with an outside linebacker who usually aligned well off the line of scrimmage, almost in a nickel alignment.

"Foe"Rensics: Marshall

Hello. Welcome to this week's installment of "Foe"Rensics where we give you an in depth look at this week's opponent with information sourced mostly from Wikipedia and my imagination. This week we venture into the cheery, sunny climes of a tiny town nestled deep in the mountains of West Virginia; Huntington, the home of Marshall University.

(I'm only going if Radha Mitchell will be there, you guys.)

1. So hey, we didn't lose to East Carolina!

A. We sure gave it our best effort, though, falling just short in the end. But my GOD, our defense...I always thought those James Gayle in a Bane mask posts by Joe were funny but now...I'm not sure it was a joke. Who's our scout team quarterback this year? Can you imagine being him and waking up EVERY DAY knowing Gayle was going to try to de-arm and de-head you?

Weekly Rewind: Week 3

THE FAB FIVE

(My five favorite storylines from last week)

THIS SEASON'S GAME OF THE MILLENNIUM (so far): Man, this thing was fun. Two things were obvious from the opening kick: Johnny Football is better than he was last season, and there was no chance in this world that Alabama was losing that game. Manziel was in ultimate JFF mode, doing whatever he wanted all the while giving Gary Danielson an aneurism. Bama, on the other hand, made the Aggie defense look like they hadn't played together this season. It was such an exciting game with so many storylines that I've decided to write an ending to the inevitable movie script written about this game:

ACT 5 SCENE 2

[After the game, Johnny and A.J. walk through the crowd of players when they spot each other across the field]

A.J.: [whips off his aviator sunglasses to look Johnny in the eyes] {slowly and emotionally} Manziel. You're still dangerous. {smiles} But you can be my wingman anytime.

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