BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech is ranked 16th in country and viewed by some as a national championship contender.
The Hokies will have to be ready to look the part when they open against Georgia Tech and its triple option Monday night.
Having extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ dynamic offense has been a plus, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Thursday. They have also spent time preparing to face the Georgia Tech defense because it also presents some different challenges.
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For cornerback Kyle Fuller, a defensive leader and signal caller, the added time has been especially helpful.
“It is definitely a little bit more difficult than going against a regular offense just because of how unique this offense is,” he said. “You have to be very focused on the key reads and things like that, so it’s definitely good to have a lot of extra time to prepare for these guys. But we’ve been preparing all summer, just looking at past games, anything we can get.”
The Hokies’ recent history also serves as a reminder that starting fast is a huge plus.
Virginia Tech has opened with big games before, with little success recently. The Hokies lost to East Carolina to start the 2008 season, fell to Alabama to begin 2009 and stumbled against Boise State to open 2010. The biggest differences between those neutral-site games and this one: The Yellow Jackets are Virginia Tech’s chief rival in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division and the Hokies are playing at home.
Add two consecutive losses to end last season, and Logan Thomas and company are raring to go.
“Somebody asked me earlier today. `Does coming off the last two games make it harder to get ready for the first game?'” he said. “… It makes it that much easier. It makes us want to come out and work in the summer. It makes us want to get better in the spring. I think we’ve done so, and having Georgia Tech as the first game is awesome because we get to play a really meaningful game the first game of the season. Georgia Tech is a great team and we think we’re a great team as well, and it’s a good test of confidence for week one.”
In the seven-year history of the ACC championship game, the Hokies have represented the division five times, Georgia Tech twice.
“It doesn’t get any harder than this. This is a team that, if we don’t win, they win the division, so that shows how important this game is,” Fuller said. “The coaches have put that in our head … so that’s all we can do is come out, prepare and be ready.”
Virginia Tech has won the last two meetings against Georgia Tech and has nine starters back on defense. The newcomers are safeties Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett. Linebackers Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouviea-Winslow are back after injuries shortened their 2011 seasons.
Even with the inexperience on the back end of the defense, the Hokies’ goal is to make Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington throw the ball.
“Really, we’re focused on the run and that’s what we want to stop,” Gouviea-Winslow said. “I think if we can get them to pass the ball … that’s where we’ll have the advantage. Put the ball in the air; give us an opportunity for turnovers, incomplete passes, loss of downs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out and tried to throw the ball on us, but I don’t think that’s what they’re gonna do.
“It would be interesting if they did do that. I think it would help us actually, if they put the ball in the air.”
Washington, in his second full season as the starter, was third nationally in rushing yards by a quarterback last season with 987, and third in rushing touchdowns with 14. He was also among the leaders in passing efficiency, but completed just 74 of 150 attempts.
Against the Hokies, he ran for all three of Georgia Tech’s touchdowns in their 37-26 loss at home.
“He hurt us on some plays last year,” Beamer said. “He’s run (the offense) enough where he feels very comfortable in it and I think there’s no question about his ability to run that offense. He’s hit some big passes against us last year throwing the ball.”
The Hokies hope to force him to try to do it again on Monday night.