Friday, October 25, 2013

A Look Ahead: Virginia Tech vs. Duke

By Justin Cates

The Hokies are coming off a bye week with a surprising number of new injuries in the defensive backfield.

Freshman corner Brandon Facyson is doubtful after suffering a concussion Sunday and Kyle fuller is questionable with a groin injury.

Thankfully, senior corner Antone Exum is expected to make his first start of the season after recovering from an off-season basketball injury. 

Duke (5-2, 1-2 ACC) runs primarily a spread attack which means the Hokies (6-1, 3-0 ACC) will line up in a nickel quite a bit, featuring Kendall Fuller at the nickel position. Expect to see lots of Donovan Riley opposite Exum if Kyle Fuller can't go.

Last season, J.C. Coleman had his breakout performance with 183 rushing yards against the Blue Devils. Tech hasn't been able to run on anyone this year however and Duke has some solid interior line players on defense.

It will be interesting to see if the Hokies find a way to run for any significant yardage.

The Hokie offense will likely continue to lean on the capable passing efforts of recent weeks. Logan Thomas is playing much better in ACC games and the receiver seem to get better every week.

Duke is feeling good after falling behind Virginia 22-0 only to storm back and score 35 unanswered points to win in Charlottesville.

Duke tore out to 20-0 lead during the first quarter against the Hokies. Tech scored the final 41 points and came away with a deceptively comfortable victory.

Brandon Connette is dangerous and elusive in the open field.

Duke always manages to play tough against Virginia Tech. Quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette hope they continue their strong play and make some plays early.

Tech should win, but they have to be wary if they want to keep winning and validate a No. 14 ranking in the initial BCS standings.   

Virginia Tech hosts Duke at 3:30 Saturday on ESPNU.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Look Ahead: Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh

By Justin Cates

The Hokies finally cracked the top 25 this week coming in at No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll after defeating North Carolina 27-17.

That makes plenty of Hokies—this one in particular—more than a little nervous, especially with the Pittsburgh Panthers coming to town.

Pitt has beaten the Hokies four straight times dating back to 2001. I'm quite certain Ronyell Whitaker still has nightmares about Larry Fitzgerald.

Larry Fitzgerald had 3 touchdowns in 5 catches to help beat the No. 3 Hokies in 2002.

Last year of course, the 13th ranked Hokies were absolutely embarrassed as the Panthers thumped Tech 35-17 at Heinz Field.

That's not the only negative history heading into this one.

Saturday marks the first game I will attend in person this season and I'm in a bit of a slump myself.

Last season, the Hokies lost both games I saw in person (Cincinnati, Florida State) and they've stumbled in three of the last four. We have to go all the way back to Tech's 38-35 thriller over Miami in 2011 for a victory I've witnessed firsthand.

It's imperative for me to perform at a high level in this one. I'm already hydrating.

As for the men on the field, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the Panther's win over Virginia.

Savage was sacked seven times in Charlottesville and the Wahoo defense has been suspect at times, especially against Ball State.

That bodes well for a Tech defensive front hoping to continue harassing quarterbacks. They'll need to in order to disrupt a potent Pitt passing game.

The Panthers have two outstanding receivers in Devin Street (21 catches, 445 yards, 3 TDs) and freshman Tyler Boyd (23 catches, 425 yards, 4 TDs).

Tyler Boyd hopes to keep flying high against the Hokie defense.

Tech leads the nation in interceptions, so this will be a fun match up to watch on the outside.

On the ground, Pitt freshman James Conner is off to a fast start. So far he's racked up 353 yards at a rate of 5.7 per carry.

It's a balanced attack, though they struggled against Florida State in the only real test this season. 

The Hokies rank fifth in the nation in total defense—two spots ahead of FSU—despite being on the field 85 more plays than top-ranked Michigan State.

The Tech defense has been asked to do a lot because of the oft-troubled offense.

Logan Thomas had a strong outing against Carolina, throwing for nearly 300 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Willie Byrn had the first 100 yard receiving effort of the season and Josh Stanford made some very nice catches.

Still, the Hokies can't run the football. They will have to keep passing until teams respect the run game. It's a frustrating, vicious cycle.

This might just be the game to break that cycle a bit. The Panthers are 66th against the run and 52nd versus the pass. It's a defense that has struggled in all facets which makes for a fine salve for a sputtering run game.

And if that doesn't work? Throw it all over the yard and hope.

Virginia Tech hosts Pittsburgh Saturday at Noon on ESPNU.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bands You Should Know: Beta Radio

By Justin Cates

This one came to me courtesy of my dear friend Amanda who isn't entirely sure how she found it.

Beta Radio hails from Wilmington, North Carolina and is a kind of Americana/indie folk outfit that's decidedly up my alley.

Benjamin Mabry handles lead vocals along with some guitar, glockenspiel and harmonium—a kind of pedaled reed organ.

Brent Holloman plays guitar, bass, piano, glockenspiel banjo and sings a bit too.

A myriad of other musicians, including Hoffman's wife Amanda appear on the group's studio efforts as well as backing the band up at live shows.

Brent Holloman (left) and Benjamin Mabry (right) appear at home in the 19th century.

On a whim—I realized I had 40 bucks on an iTunes gift card—the deluxe version of Beta Radio's only full length studio album to date, Seven Sisters has been purchased and downloaded.

In addition to standout track "Either Way", the beautiful but brief "Hello Lovely" and the happier fare of "Where Losers Do" brighten the more somber notes of "Highlight on the Hill".

It's a thoughtful album that could easily be dismissed as "boring", but the tasteful banjo touches and other auxiliary instrumentation is just subtle enough not to distract. I have a feeling this will make a great winter listen on a quiet snowy day spent indoors.

Give them a listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Look Ahead: Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina

By Justin Cates

North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC) was a trendy pick in the preseason to win the ACC's Coastal division while Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0 ACC) was largely an afterthought.

Those roles have have quickly reversed as the Tarheels limp into Lane Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Hokies surprised many by dominating Georgia Tech on a Thursday night in Atlanta. The 17-10 final score didn't tell the story.

The Hokie defense allowed the vaunted Georgia Tech rushing attack just 129 yards while Logan Thomas played his best game of the season on offense.

My last preview featured only one mildly optimistic note that Hokie QB's often play well in Atlanta and Thomas joined the list by completing 19-of-25 passes (including his first 9) for 221 yards and a touchdown.

He also toted the ball 16 times for 58 yards and a rushing touchdown despite nursing an abdominal strain and a mild ankle sprain late in the game.

It's no secret, the man is a tank but the Hokies will likely try to limit his carries a little more this week. That will of course be somewhat dictated by the defense.     

Outside of Thomas, Tech had absolutely no running game last week. The plan from the start was to throw the ball a lot because defenses are stacking the box and daring them to pass. Assuming that remains the case against a struggling Carolina defense, look for LT to keep throwing.

His receivers are finally stepping up and helping him out too.

Demitri Knowles had his best game of the season snagging five catches for 67 yards. D.J. Coles caught a touchdown pass on Tech's first drive of the game, Josh Stanford made some tough catches in big situations and Willie Byrn continues to be a reliable option as well.

Byrn is listed as probable for this weekend after suffering a knee injury against the Yellow Jackets.

The Hokie defense is playing simply masterful. It was nice to hear ESPN's Thursday night crew fawning over the defensive line, particularly Derrick Hopkins.

The defense stands to get a little better this week with the return of defensive back Antone Exum.

Antone Exum adds depth to an already talented and deep secondary.

Exum had offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL as well as his lateral and medial meniscus and a bone fracture all suffered during a pick-up basketball game.

In his absence, Tech has continued to see veteran Kyle Fuller play well and everyone has been wowed by his brother Kendall and fellow true freshman Brandon Facyson.

Facyson is currently tied for the national lead in interceptions with four and will continue to start at field corner with Exum getting time in spots.

There were rumors during the week about Exum starting and Facyson getting reps on offense (he got a few) but for now at least, it's just an idea.

The defense will look to harass UNC quarterback Bryn Renner who has struggled so far this season, but his top weapon, tight end Eric Ebron is always a match up problem.

Eric Ebron will challenge Tech's stout pass defense.

 At 6-4, 245 he presents a significant challenge for a linebacker but still has the speed to give defensive backs headaches. Tech has used 6-6 quarterback Bucky Hodges to simulate Ebron's size while receiver Austin Jones was used for speed in practice.

It's a must win game for the Tarheels if they have any hope of salvaging the season and it's a massively important recruiting day for the Hokies as a number of valued high school prospects will be in attendance.

The game kicks off Saturday at 12:30 and will be broadcast on the ACC Network—which isn't really a real thing so check you local listings for an affiliate in your area.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

U.S. Government Shuts Down

By Justin Cates

In a fateful twist the United States Government is in the process of a partial shut-down on the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park being designated as such.

Yeah you guessed it, the Park is closed now.

So is just about every government agency—NASA is furloughing 97% of their folks—unless they're designated essential. In that case, the people are coming to work...they just aren't getting paid.

America! Breathe it in friends. That's the smell of good old fashioned red, white and blue incompetence.

Now there are some who will point out that the last two government shut-downs have occurred under democratic administrations; President's Obama and Clinton. They will say this implies that the blame lies with those on the more liberal end of the American political spectrum.

Still, there are those who will say it's the fault of the largely Republican Congress' in both instances who are to blame for such a lack of leadership.

Both sides of this argument would be wrong.

It's a collective blame that must be shouldered in this and every case of ineffectual governance by these supposedly "exceptional" American citizens who claim so boldly to be running our government.

Bad governing, and thus, bad policy is bipartisan.

There's no way around the fact that all American politicians are incapable of affecting meaningful change without simultaneously asking, "What's in it for me?"

President Obama made a statement yesterday that cut to the heart of the matter regarding the ongoing "negotiations" in Congress.

"I shouldn't have to offer anything," he said.

"They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities."

Now, why President Obama didn't say this years ago is far beyond me to guess. Perhaps he thought it was painfully obvious, but it clearly isn't.

I won't begin to delve into the nitty gritty of this political tomfoolery, largely because it's below me to stoop to the level of our elected officials.

I'm not a politician. I'm not cut out for the work as I possess both a spine and a moral compass that responds as it should to magnetic north. 

Like most Americans, I believe that a representative government should work for the people. We don't always agree on what's best, but we agree the lights should always be on. It sets a bad precedent when government agencies don't show up to work.

It sends an even worse message when people deemed so vital to our nation's well-being that they must continue working during a government shut-down do just that, but aren't compensated for their efforts.

Sure, they'll most likely be paid later but that's part of the problem.

We've elected a government so focused on the now that they haven't the slightest concern for down the road. Our officials at present can't even agree on a short-term fix that won't actually fix anything.  There's no agreeing to delaying our biggest problems.

We're bearing witness to a full-on power grab and the scum-sucking greedheads in Washington claiming to speak for the people don't actually give a damn about any of us. 

They're focused on the future alright. Just not ours.


Related Posts with Thumbnails