Early ACC Coastal test: Hokies vs. Yellow Jackets
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech arrive at their Atlantic Coast Conference openers in search of offensive consistency, and knowing their most important game remaining might be the one on Saturday.
Either the Hokies (2-1) or Yellow Jackets (3-0) have won the ACC’s Coastal Division title in every season but once since the league divided into divisions in 2005, and they meet Saturday at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies have won the last four meetings, but by an average of just seven points.
Virginia Tech is looking to bounce back from a 28-21 loss to East Carolina a week ago and hoping the setback served as a wakeup call to an offense that has been up and down.
Quarterback Michael Brewer led the Hokies to a 35-21 victory at Ohio State two weeks ago, but also has thrown five interceptions and failed to get much going against the Pirates until the fourth quarter.
”It took us awhile to kind of get in a rhythm and get things going and you know we can’t do that,” he said this week. ”Especially going forward, starting ACC play, because that’s how you get beat.”
Like last week, the Hokies have a noon start, and coach Frank Beamer said that might have contributed to the slow start against ECU, and is something the team will have to prepare better for this week.
”You’re up early. You’ve got to get ready,” he said. ”Things happen quickly and I think now that we have experienced it one time, we’ll be better the next time. Hopefully we will.”
The Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack is led by quarterback Justin Thomas and has had one good half in each game. Last week it almost cost them. Thomas accounted for four of his five touchdowns before halftime as Georgia Tech opened a 35-10 lead, but needed a fifth with 23 seconds left in a 42-38 victory.
Thomas leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 278 yards and has thrown for six touchdowns.
Coach Paul Johnson said the redshirt sophomore has maintained his cool under pressure so far, but will be tested in front of 60,000 plus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
”Conference game on the road, hard place to play and the dfense coming real aggressively,” he said. ”It’ll be a huge test for him. I think he’s excited to have the chance to go against them.”
Here are some things to watch when Georgia Tech plays at Virginia Tech:
TRIPLE TROUBLE: Johnson’s triple-option has gained an average of 306 yards this season, good for 15th nationally, but hasn’t had that success against the Hokies. The Yellow Jackets gained just 129 yards on the ground last season in a 17-10 loss at home, their fourth consecutive loss in the series.
GIVEAWAYS: Georgia Tech turned the ball over three times in its loss last season, and Hokies had no giveaways. Thomas has throw one interception this season, and Brewer has thrown five, and in a matchup that is usually close, one bas mistake by an offense or big play by a defense can be the difference.
STAGE FRIGHT: Youth figures to play a key role for both sides. While Thomas is a first-year starter for the Yellow Jackets as a redshirt sophomore, nine of the Hokies’ 12 touchdowns have been scored by freshman or redshirt freshmen. That includes one defensive score and seven touchdown passes.
AIRING IT OUT: Thomas has attempted 47 passes in three games, while Brewer attempted 56 last week alone in trying to rally the Hokies from a 21-point deficit. If Virginia Tech can get a lead that forces Georgia Tech to throw, the Hokies’ defense ranks second nationally by averaging five sacks.
KICKING ODDITY: Coach Frank Beamer heads up special teams for the Hokies, and has usually managed to find a steady placekicker. He says Joey Slye will be that guy, but so far, he’s 2 for 4 on field goal attempts and both makes came from inside 30 yards. Hokies opponents have missed their last four attempts, and the Yellow Jackets’ Harrison Butker also is 2-for-4, having connected from 30 and 46 yards.
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