Arkansas St.-Virginia Tech Preview

Virginia Tech’s defense is proving it has put last season’s
disappointing performance behind it.

The 13th-ranked Hokies have a chance to continue improving as
they host Arkansas State on Saturday.

With its offense struggling, Virginia Tech’s defense took over
in a 17-10 win over East Carolina last Saturday, holding the
Pirates to minus-15 yards rushing and 112 overall.

The Hokies (2-0) were coming off a 66-13 win over FCS school
Appalachian State the week before in which they gave up 61 yards in
the first half before putting in the backups.

Virginia Tech was just as dominating against a much better
Pirates offense, recording five sacks and nine tackles for
losses.

“It feels good to see our hard work pay off,” said linebacker
Bruce Taylor, who was credited with six tackles.

Virginia Tech ranked 52nd in the FBS last year in yards allowed
(361.5 per game), the first time it wasn’t among the top 15 since
2003. It ranked among the top 5 between 2004-07.

Getting the defense back to an elite status is important for the
Hokies, who have an inexperienced quarterback in Logan Thomas. He
had a rough game Saturday, completing 8 of 20 passes for 91 yards
and an interception.

Although the offense needs to improve, Thomas has a talented
cast behind him. Jarrett Boykin had a modest game against the
Pirates, finishing with four catches for 48 yards, but he became
the school’s all-time leader in receptions and needs 21 receiving
yards to move past Antonio Freeman into second place on Virginia
Tech’s all-time list.

David Wilson is also proving to be a big playmaker on offense.
He’s quickly adjusted to his new role as starting tailback, rushing
for 300 yards and three touchdowns in his first two games while
averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He gained 49 yards during a 13-play,
89-yard drive for the go-ahead score.

“They had stopped us several times so coming back and
re-establishing ourselves was important,” Wilson said. “Our
offensive line and the backfield, we know we have to play four
quarters. We weren’t giving up, because they played four
quarters.”

The offense figures to look better against the unproven defense
of Arkansas State.

After losing 33-15 in its opener to Illinois, Arkansas State
(1-1) defeated Memphis 47-3 last Saturday. The Red Wolves ran for
236 yards and finished with 611 yards of total offense.

Ryan Aplin completed 19 of 21 passes for 274 yards and three
touchdowns while Frankie Jackson ran for 101 yards and another
score.

“Obviously we are thrilled to get a win,” first-year coach Hugh
Freeze said. “But we’ll keep it in perspective, it’s one win in a
12-game schedule.”

Freeze was offensive coordinator for Arkansas State last year.
The Red Wolves averaged 30.0 points and 403.4 yards of offense, but
still finished 4-8.

Aplin will be key to keeping up those offensive numbers this
year. He was a duel threat last year, passing for 2,939 yards while
rushing for an additional 477. He’s tallied just 24 yards on the
ground this year, but has passed for 564.

However, defense continues to be a concern. While Arkansas State
contained a Tigers team that went 1-11 last season, it yielded 473
yards in the loss to Illinois.

Virginia Tech has won the previous three meetings between the
teams by a combined 147-14, including a 63-7 rout in the most
recent meeting in 2002.