Q&A with Pitt Blather

Here's a little something extra this week. I exchanged questions and answers with Chas of Pitt Blather, which he has been running independently since August, 2003 *applause*. His answers to my questions are below. My answers to his questions will be on his site tomorrow (or when he posts them).

1. What are two things the Hokies must do on Saturday in order to defeat the Panthers? (I hope that questions lends itself to two answers other than score more points.) You may also read this question as, what are Pitt's two biggest weaknesses?

On defense, they have to get pressure on the quarterback. Whether with a normal rush or a blitz. That is the big thing. If Savage is not getting time, he is not going to be able to get the ball downfield to Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Pitt has had success running the ball, but the scoring and driving is keyed by Savage getting the ball a good 20 yards out to the receivers.

On offense, there are two possibilities -- or just do both and watch the chaos. The first is to let Logan Thomas run. Pitt struggles against mobile quarterbacks. I'm not talking triple-option, rarely throwing QBs. I mean the quarterbacks that can pass the ball but are also as likely to pull it down and run. Duke was really good at doing that.

The other thing, is to go no-huddle. Pitt likes to do a lot of substituting on defense. Rotating guys in and out. No-huddle throws that off. The defense gets shaky and discipline quickly evaporates. Even Virginia found some offensive success when they quickened the pace. (Of course, the Hoos pure incompetence on offense meant that they couldn't go no-huddle for more than 2-3 plays before they abruptly stopped and gave Pitt's defense a chance to regroup.)

Virginia Tech to Play Tennessee At Bristol in 2016

I can confirm a report from Bruce Feldman that Virginia Tech will play Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway, The Last Great Colosseum, in 2016. Because of the night race the weekend before Labor Day Weekend, don't expect the game to be Labor Day, rather the second weekend of the season.

Because of their media rights, expect Tennessee to be listed as the home team to assist with better access to a broadcast window through the SEC deal(s).

If the scoring pylon is removed, and the football field is setup right in the middle of the infield of the track, then they can add bleachers right around the field and then fill the Bristol Motor Speedway bowl, which seats approximately 160,000. The potential is there to shatter Michigan's attendance record.

Big news! What does everyone think?

"Foe"Rensics: Pittsburgh

Hello. Welcome to this week's installment of "Foe"Rensics, where we try to share information many people don't know about this week's football opponent1. Pittsburgh is a proud city (also known locally as MelonCarnegieHeinzville) with a strong industrial tradition that produces some blue collar football players. Frankly, they were idiots not to hire Bud Foster and bring the Lunchpail D north the 47 times they've changed head coaches in the last ten years. But, one school's stupidity is another's gain, I guess.

#goacc Power Rankings: Week 6

Obviously the biggest story of this week transcended the sports world. The government shutdown has been weighing on the minds of many. That's why this week I decided to commemorate the shut down in my own little #goacc way, by thinking about what each coach would do with their time if they had been furloughed.

Let's get to the rankings, shall we?

The Dave Shinskie Division

(Dregs of the conference)

14. Virginia (2-3, LW: L 48-27 vs Ball State): It's come to this, and what a long, strange trip it's been. Just over a month ago, the Cavaliers beat BYU to start the season and had a few (but not many) people thinking that they were better than expected. Now? I'm starting to wonder if there was any assistant coach/babysitter in the entire country that could help the travesty that is Mike London's ability to actually...you know...coach football.

What Mike London would do if furloughed: London would form a volunteer police department. It would initially be the best volunteer police force in the country due to his ability to recruit new members, but would fall apart after five weeks due to a lack of direction and organization. It would end in a mutiny and London going on a rogue-cop spree.

A Critical Win: UNC Film Review

I'll start this week's film review with an admission. I did not watch the Hokies beat the Tar Heels live. I listened to the game on AM radio as I took my family to the Outer Banks for a week of fishing and boiled shrimp. As I listened to Bill Roth's and Mike Burnop's call, I felt many of the same emotions that HokieNation was feeling on Saturday: elation as the offense clicked on all cylinders early; hint of worry as the defense didn't seem quite as dominant as expected against a quarterback making his first start; frustration with the Hokies inability to ice the football game in the 3rd quarter as well as the lack of rushing yards. I went to the film to look for answers, at the same time, when I reviewed my Twitter timeline after enjoying a good dinner in Kitty Hawk, I was surprised at how dissatisfied many seemed to be with the win. UNC beat the stuffing out of the Hokies last season, and to turn around and get a convincing win after the physical pounding of the Georgia Tech game makes this a huge victory. Yes, there is room for improvement, but the film clearly indicates that Virginia Tech dominated this football game and the coaching staff and the fan base should be thrilled with how the team continues to improve.

Blocking and the Running Game: Stats Do Lie

A quick look at the stat sheet, the Hokies only netted 48 yards on 34 carries for a putrid 1.4 yards per carry. As a result, the natives got restless, and I read numerous complaints about the offensive line. I expected the film to reflect a major regression by the offensive line, but instead I quickly saw that the Virginia Tech offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Based on my rewatch, there were only three complete busts from the offensive line through the entire game (one on pass protection) and when keyed in on individual matchups, every Hokie offensive lineman was physically dominant.

A True Multiple Offense

Designing a game plan to stop the Hokies offense must be a nightmare. Scott Loeffler's unit has shown so many different formations, personnel groupings, and schemes that it's impossible for a defensive coordinator to know what's going to happen on any given play. A tight end, fullback, and running back all come in to the game? The Hokies can line up with five wide, or in a diamond pistol formation, or under center. Loeffler said he wanted to run a multiple offense, well there's no doubt that he's established multiple ways to move the ball. He's also played a crucial role in helping Frank Beamer add five more wins to his already impressive career total.

Everyone knows that Frank Beamer (and Loeffler and Grimes) want to run the ball. For the past decade every defensive coordinator that rolled into Blacksburg to oppose Tech had one goal, stop the run at whatever cost. Almost any success Virginia Tech has had rushing the ball this season has been from a spread formation, so it shouldn't be a surprise that UNC focused on stopping the run from the pistol and shotgun early. What was a little surprising though was the game plan Loeffler had to defeat that tactic.

4-star DT Ricky Walker Commits to Virginia Tech

Ricky Walker made a verbal pledge to the Hokies today during his official visit to Virginia Tech. Walker is a 6-2, 275 pound defensive tackle from Bethel High in Hampton, Virginia (where James Gayle played his high school ball), and both Rivals.com and 247Sports rank him a 4-star prospect. In 10 games last season he had 70 tackles, 11 sacks, and earned first-team all-Peninsula District and all-Eastern Region as a two-way player (DT and guard).

5-1

I really enjoy D.J. Coles making celebrity touchdown catches. He shows up on the red carpet, baby.

Let's hug, and high five, here.

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?

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