Tech Tidbits: A Reeling Defense Confronts A Surprisingly Strong BC Offense

The Hokies have some injuries and absences to cope with on defense, on top of a puzzling performance against the Yellow Jackets. How will they respond?

[Mark Umansky]

After last week's embarrassing, demoralizing, pick-a-depressing-adjective loss to Georgia Tech, I'm ready for just about any outcome Saturday.

I won't dwell too much on the Georgia Tech loss, as Joe pretty ably summed up my feelings on it. In short, I came into the game thinking it was entirely conceivable that the Hokies could lose that one, but I was stunned at how thoroughly unprepared the defense looked for an offense it plays every single year.

But that loss is long in the past, at least in fast-paced college football terms, and the Hokies have an interesting matchup ahead of them, with the Coastal still very much on the line (though a bit less so than it was this time last week).

Could the Hokies pull out a big win over one of the best BC teams in years? It wouldn't surprise me at all, especially considering that Justin Fuente has lost back-to-back games precisely once during his time in Blacksburg so far.

But could the Eagles use their surprising talent to drive a stake through Tech's season?

Absolutely! There's a reason why the Hokies are considered a 2- to 2.5-point underdog, even though they're at home. Heck, being at Lane has actually been far from a boon to the Hokies, considering they're 1-2 in Blacksburg on the year.

So I'm preparing mentally for anything from a thrilling blowout win to a crushing blowout loss Saturday afternoon.

I've given up on trying to predict a single thing about this team from week to week, so you'll find no bold predictions or hot takes in here from me.

Well, maybe a few. We'll see.

Evaluating the Eagles

On the heels of one of the worst defensive performances of Bud Foster's career, the Hokies don't get much in the way of a break.

Steve Addazio's Eagles have been known for their defense far more than their offense during his time in Chestnut Hill, but he's slowly but surely turned things around over the years.

BC is a perfectly respectable 37th overall in yards per game — six spots ahead of Tech, in fact — and the Eagles could well give a floundering defense plenty of trouble Saturday.

Part of the reason why is running back A.J. Dillon, who's averaging more than 133 yards per game at the moment, and has plainly inspired the respect of the coaching staff.

Williams, you might remember, ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns in his last game against the Hokies, a 34-27 win in Massachusetts. So, with a comparison like that, Dillon is certainly someone the Hokies should be worried about.

Even still, Tech managed to hold Dillon to 35 yards on 10 carries in last year's win over the Eagles. In fact, it was quarterback Anthony Brown who led BC in rushing on the day.

The question is whether or not the Hokies can focus on stopping Dillon while leaving Brown alone this year, especially with a defense that just looked so pathetic against the Yellow Jackets.

Last year, Brown threw for just 166 yards, while completing 13 of his 30 passes. This year, he's averaging nearly 174 yards per game, completing about 58 percent of his passes, up from 52 percent and 137 yards per game a year ago.

And it seems he has a far better group of skill players to work with from a year ago.

BC indeed has two senior wide receivers and a senior tight end to throw to, and Kobay White has proven to be a star in the early going. The question is whether it will matter against a Hokies defense that has shown promise, but just got embarrassed.

Does last week's performance against GT presage more issues against the Eagles? Well, Justin Fuente doesn't seem willing to say so, for better or worse.

"You can watch technique, the effort, execution and those sorts of things, but to put it in perspective, I don't know of any offense in the league when they are playing any other ACC team breaks down Georgia Tech film because it's just so different," Fuente told reporters Monday. "The defenses line up just so different, so there's no correlation because the defenses are just so different schematically. It's a one-time game that you've got to get lined up and go play in a different manner. So now, we'll get back to playing a normal style this week."

Hokies fans surely hope he's right.

Defensive Absences

It doesn't help matters that both DT Jarrod Hewitt and LB Dylan Rivers have been deemed "day-to-day" by Fuente this week, after both missed time against Georgia Tech.

The team didn't have much in the way of an update on Hewitt Tuesday, which is quite relevant given that he's been a key starter as Vinny Mihota's recovered from an injury.

Luckily, Mihota saw his first substantial playing time of the season against the Jackets, recording four tackles in all, though Hewitt's ability to provide depth at the position is still quite relevant.

Rivers is the more interesting case. He's been decent in spots, but there is no question that Dax Hollifield has loomed over his whole season.

Hollifield was one of just a few players to jump off the page in the early going against GT, to me at least, so it strikes me that he won't be the biggest issue if he needs to start against BC.

The bigger question is how the team will fill in for Khalil Ladler, who was tossed from the game for an (interesting) targeting call, and will miss the first half of the game.

The Hokies can certainly cope without him for a half, but without, say, Mook Reynolds and the redshirting Devon Hunter, the options at whip are a bit thinner than they might've been otherwise.

Foster admitted Tuesday that he wasn't sure how exactly the team might replace Ladler for the first half. I expect how they answer that question will play quite the important role indeed in setting the early tone for this game.

Staying Alive in the Coastal

There was quite a bit of doom and gloom about VT's chances in the Coastal following the GT loss, and with good reason.

Even still, ESPN's David Hale provided a neat bit of perspective on the matter.

Clearly, the numbers show that the Hokies are not the favorites here, as we all expected.

But I think they are illustrative of the fact that it's not some foregone conclusion that the Hokies are out of the hunt here.

Consider that Pitt, which controls its own destiny with a matchup against UVA looming this weekend, is still a major factor here. And that Miami, who plays Duke, GT, VT and Pitt to close this year, also has a fighting chance.

Most of all, though, consider that the Hoos could easily drop a game on the road at the Yellow Jackets two weeks from now. Many people have suggested that the final game in Blacksburg will prove to be the deciding factor in the Coastal race, but anyone following this division for any significant period of time knows that writing off any even seemingly insignificant game is a fool's errand.

Will the Coastal slip away from Tech if the Hokies blow this game against the Eagles? Quite possibly. But it also isn't set in stone that UVA will win this thing, as hard it is to believe all the pundits are predicting, if we make it to Sunday and the Hoos remain on top of the division.

At least we can rule out one particularly intriguing Coastal outcome.

Comments

There's a reason why the Hokies are only considered a 2- to 2.5-point favorite

We're 2 to 2.5 point dogs on all the lines I'm seeing.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

"Someone Needs an Editor"

My rates are reasonable.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

this comment deserves more credit. paging Jiddy

for those who don't get the reference. see the active discussions list, I see what you did there joe.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

Slight correction. VT is actually a 2 point underdog in this game, not a favorite.

Good catch by you both! I suppose it was wishful thinking on my part that made us favorites.

"He'll get after ya"- Frank Beamer, repeatedly.

Same gameplan as last year, just a matter of whether we will execute. I expect our defensive gameplan to be less effective than last year, but I'm also relatively confident our offense can be better than last year against BC as well. We will see.

This quote from Fuente is dead on:

"You can watch technique, the effort, execution and those sorts of things, but to put it in perspective, I don't know of any offense in the league when they are playing any other ACC team breaks down Georgia Tech film because it's just so different. The defenses line up just so different, so there's no correlation because the defenses are just so different schematically. It's a one-time game that you've got to get lined up and go play in a different manner. So now, we'll get back to playing a normal style this week."

I think a lot of people are looking at the GT game and thinking every team we face in November is going to run all over us just like GT did. What I expect is something somewhere between the Duke and ND games, where our defense gets some key stops, and then some rookie mistakes give up big chunks. (Dexter Williams got more than half his yards for the entire game against us on the 97 yard touchdown run, because a defender was out of position.)

What I don't expect to see in November is another game that looks like the ODU game of catch, because I don't think we face QB the rest of the way who can throw deep accurately under pressure.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

What I don't expect to see in November is another game that looks like the ODU game of catch, because I don't think we face QB the rest of the way who can throw deep accurately under pressure.

So, you're presuming we're going to pressure the BC QB? I hope we can. Not sure of anything with this defense at this point.

Hokie in West Africa...sadly, I can't jump up and down hard enough for it to be felt in Lane

We're 37th in the country in sacks per game, and only one of them came against W&M, so we're aren't complete slouches in that regard. I couldn't find anything right off the bat for QB hurries/hits or anything like that.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I wonder how we are in this category since dismissing Trevon Hill? Eye test says a substantial drop off, but maybe I am mistaken

Trevon accounted for 3.5 sacks for 33 total yards over 3 games while the rest of the team accounted for 5.5 sacks for 22 yards over those same 3 games. Over 7 games, the team is 14.5 sacks for 78 yards, which puts Trevon's contributions at ~19.5% for sack rate and ~30% for total yards.

IMO a substantial, but not devastating drop off.

With Hill we averaged 3 sacks per game and those games included ODU and William & Mary where sacks should have been easy to rack up.

Since hill left we averaged 2.25 sacks per game. (All games against P5 competition.)

VT averages three sacks per game against ACC opponents.

There were a couple stops that our defense would have had against GT if we wrapped up when we tackled and if we didn't commit some egregious penalty. I remember 3 plays where we had them lined up for a sack/loss and they ended up gaining 10 yards because we didn't put him on the ground when we had the chance. I'm not saying that we would have beaten GT, but it certainly would have made things look a bit less disastrous.

Against BC, I expect we'll have to rely on the offense again but I don't expect our defense to look as shitacular as it did against GT. We need senior leadership more than ever though. I really hope Ricky is getting the youngins to leave that GT loss behind and re-focus on BC.

The bigger question is how the team will fill in for Khalil Ladler, who was tossed from the game for an (interesting) targeting call, and will miss the first half of the game.

Translation, "interesting" =

Saw BC live against NC State a month ago. This is a beatable team. Granted Dillion wasn't in the backfield, but it's not like BC adjusted their game plan - establish the run, go over the top with play action. State was in 1 high almost all game long. It was close because State tried to crap all over themselves with turnovers, special team issues, and empty redzone trips.

BC at home and BC away are two different teams.

Offensive rankings/production aside, as long as Scott Loeffler is calling the plays, we have a good shot.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

An addendum to David Hale's tweet:

Per ESPN FPI, here are the odds for ACCCG matchup:

Clemson-UVA, 40.4%
Clemson-VT, 27.5%
Clemson-Miami, 15.6%
Clemson-Pitt, 8.1%
Clemson-GT, 6.0%
BC-UVA, 1.0%
all others, < 1%

Odds for 2018 ACC football champion:

Clemson, 99%,
BC, 0.5%
Any Coastal team, < 0.5%

I am surprised it's that low for Clemson.

Hamp Cheavers vs Hazelton will be extremely interesting to watch.

Wonder who we put on Kobay White, that kid is a big play waiting to happen at any minute.

Hamp Cheavers

Can't wait to watch him in the East West College Bowl.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

So will Hazelton catching jump balls be over a Cheavers?

I'll see myself out.

"That’s a stupid question. Next question."
-Corey Moore

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

It most certainly was for a TD!

Will the Coastal slip away from Tech if the Hokies blow this game against the Eagles? Quite possibly. But it also isn't set in stone that UVA will win this thing, as hard it is to believe all the pundits are predicting, if we make it to Sunday and the Hoos remain on top of the division.

At the moment, we still control our own destiny even with a loss to BC or a win over BC and a loss to Pitt regardless of what happens with every other team in the next two weeks.

or a win over BC and a loss to Pitt

That's predicated on Pitt losing tomorrow night. As of right now if we lost to them after beating BC and both won out they would be in.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

What is the definition of destiny? It is not controllable. Why do sports people insist it is?

#Let's Go - Hokies

Since you asked.

I think you're thinking of the second definition.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

All I know is if we keep up the streak of winning after a loss, we bowl qualify.
Beat BC, then we need just 1 win of 3 remaining.

Are you sure? This doesn't add up in my mind. If LOLUVA wins out, they win the division. If we lose two games and beat LOLUVA then they still have only two conference losses, while we would have 3.

At the moment, we have to beat LOLUVA, Pitt, and Miami to guarantee the Coastal (assuming any one of them wins out otherwise). What am I missing?

He typed "bowl qualify" not ACCCG

Shit how did i read over that.