Monday, September 23, 2013

A Look Ahead: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech

By Justin Cates

After hours of slogging through the rain-soaked mess Saturday in Lane Stadium, the Hokies were finally able to complete their Sisyphean task and edge out a very solid Marshall squad 29-21 in three overtimes.

Missed field goals were the order of the day for the second straight week, but this time with a different kicker.

After no indications of trouble during the week, Frank Beamer suspended Cody Journell Saturday morning for a violation of team rules. The coach wouldn't elaborate further only later saying his starting kicker would be back on Thursday for the Georgia Tech game.

As I pointed out last week, Journell has been very reliable on the field but this is hardly the first time he's run afoul of team rules.

Journell has essentially become part II of the Marcus Vick Story. It's the tale of a talented but troubled athlete given countless opportunities by a kindly old football coach. One would think Beamer had learned the hard way you only get so many second chances.

In this case, it put Ethan Keyserling in a really tough position.

Playing in his first college game, the backup kicker missed all three of his field goals in the tough conditions but it's hard to blame him entirely.

The snap on the first kick was poor and it threw the timing off resulting in the 36-yard attempt hitting the left upright. Another try was from 50 yards and was partially blocked at the line.

The snaps are a major issue going back to East Carolina. It needs to be cleaned up immediately or a change needs to be made at long snapper.

The best thing to come out of this game was some real old fashioned Beamerball.

The Hokies blocked a punt early and returned it for a touchdown then blocked a field goal that would have won the game for Marshall. The defense was on its heels early, but locked down in the second half.

That's the classic Hokie formula for success. Defense + special teams + ugly offense = win.

As for that ugly offense, well, I've coined the term "Power Slop" to describe it.

Quarterback Logan Thomas is once again taking the bulk of criticism this season, but he once again has the offense squarely on his massive shoulders.

He had two interceptions and struggled passing in miserable conditions. That's in stark contrast to Marshall QB Rakeem Cato who played brilliantly for most of the game despite the weather.

Still, Thomas scored two rushing touchdowns and ran in a two-point conversion in the third overtime. He once again gutted out a win in less than ideal circumstances. He's a frustrating player, but no one can questions his heart or toughness.

"I've always loved playing with Logan," said wide receiver Willie Byrn.

"He's going to put all 260 pounds on the line every single play. He's the ultimate competitor. If he has a bad pass or a bad throw, he doesn't know any better than to go out and work his hardest and do whatever he can to win."

Willie Byrn snags a game-tying touchdown catch off a tipped pass. There was much rejoicing. 

Frankly, that's all Virginia Tech can hope for right now. Give it your best and try to stay positive regardless of the results.

The road only gets tougher for the Hokies with the non-conference slate behind them.  

It's a short week with a Thursday night trip to Atlanta to take on the challenging option attack of Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets are led by dynamic quarterback Vad Lee.

Vad Lee has the Yellow Jacket offense firing on all cylinders this season.

Lee is the best passer the Jackets have had under coach Paul Johnson and it adds a new variable to a tricky offense.

They still don't pass much, but when they do Lee is incredibly efficient. On the season he's completed 22-of-39 passes for 418 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.

Of course, Georgia Tech still runs the ball extremely well. So far on the season they've totaled 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns as a team.

David Sims, Robert Godhigh and Zach Laskey are the primary runners with Dennis Andrews and Broderick Snoddy in reserve. The depth in the backfield is impressive.

In addition to the potent offense, Georgia Tech is presently 11th in total defense.

This is the best team Paul Johnson has had and with a win on Thursday they'll likely be ranked in the top 25.

Virginia Tech has a number of injuries from Saturday to watch for given the short week. Free Safety Kyshoen Jarrett and leading rusher Trey Edmunds are both nursing leg injuries sustained late in the game against Marshall.

Edmunds returned to the game for a carry but had to leave again and Jarrett also came back but was clearly still limping around. Both are crucial cogs in the Tech machine.  

Let's be honest, the Hokies are not a good football team. Maybe they will be by the end of the year, but right now they're nowhere close. A win in Atlanta is certainly possible, it just isn't likely.

The only bright spots I can find are that the Hokies are 8-1 with only five days to prepare for an opponent since Bud Foster has been the defensive coordinator. His unit is currently 5th in total defense so they stand a good chance of slowing the Jackets offense.

The best thing I can say about the Hokie offense is that Thursday nights in Atlanta have been a coming out party for Tech QBs in the past.

Sean Glennon's jersey was stolen from the Hokie locker room, so he stole the game.

Bryan Randall led a furious comeback in 2004 and Sean Glennon played the best game of his career in 2007—in a Georgia Tech jersey no less.

If he's going to step up and salvage both his draft stock and his senior season, this is a perfect opportunity on national television for Logan Thomas to assert himself.

The offense and the season depend on it. 

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