KICKOFF: Saturday, 4 ET
GAME DATE: 9/17/11
SITE: Lane Stadium
TV: ACC Network, Channel 34 on Suddenlink in Jonesboro
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads l3-0 (last meeting, 2002, Virginia Tech 63-7)
RECORDS: Arkansas State 1-1; Virginia Tech 2-0
POLLS: Virginia Tech (No. 13 AP, No. 12 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
For Arkansas State: Limit turnovers. The offense faces a big enough task taking on a Virginia Tech defense that has allowed an average of 202.5 yards a game overall and 150.5 through the air. It will be a challenge for the Red Wolves to reach 300 total yards for a 15th consecutive game.
For Virginia Tech: Get their passing game going. It might not matter in this one as they can probably run the ball at will, but don't be surprised if they try to give QB Logan Thomas some easy throws in order to build confidence. The defense must contain ASU QB Ryan Aplin.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Dating back to last season's first game, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 14 straight games, for the longest streak in school history. ASU posted over 300 yards of total offense in just six games the season prior to Hugh Freeze taking over as offensive coordinator.
The Red Wolves defense recorded at least three sacks and eight tackles for losses in each of the first two games. A-State posted eight or more tackles behind the line of scrimmage in three games for all of last season and had three or more sacks in three games last year as well. ASU is ranked ninth in the nation in tackles for loss (9.0) and 14th in sacks (4.0).
Virginia Tech may try to give QB Logan Thomas some easy throws early in the game to boost his confidence after two games of sub-50 percent completion work. Arkansas State figures to load the tackle box in an attempt to contain TB David Wilson, so there will be one-on-one opportunities for the receivers. At some point, Tech will have to prove it can throw the ball for the offense to be at its best. If the passing game doesn't work right away, it can always go back to the run and probably overpower a defense which has good speed but little size.
Based on what happened at East Carolina, this could be one of coordinator Bud Foster's better defenses at Virginia Tech. The Hokies' speed and tackling really stood out against a Pirate offense which thrives on short passes and its receivers' ability to make yardage after the catch. That didn't happen as players like Fuller, Cris Hill and Eddie Whitley starred for four quarters. The line's ability to get to the passer also helped as the mobile Dominique Davis was sacked five times. Through two games, there is no discernible weakness on the unit, a marked change from last year.
Red Wolves: Virginia Tech is one of three opponents from the ACC the Red Wolves have faced. ASU also played Miami in 1997 and North Carolina State in 2000. A-State is 0-5 in those games, but narrowly missed a victory against the Wolfpack with a 38-31 double overtime loss. ASU's other four games against Virginia Tech and Miami were all decided by at least 27 points. ... A win would give ASU its best record through three games since 2008 when it started 2-1. It would also snap a four-game skid in road games and break a nine-game losing streak in road games against non-conference opponents. ... Arkansas State's 44-point victory over Memphis was its largest over an FBS opponent since it moved to Division I-A in 1992. ... RB Sir Gregory Thornton was back in action after starting the season opener at Illinois only to leave after the game's first play, which was a four-yard loss. Thornton left the game with a leg injury that coaches didn't want to risk aggravating, but he played against Memphis, rushing for 67 yards on seven carries.
Hokies: It was a historic day at East Carolina for coach Frank Beamer as he notched the 200th win in his 25 seasons at Virginia Tech. Beamer is 200-95-2 at Tech, which includes a 24-40-2 mark in his first six years, a record that would get a coach fired now. But former athletic director Dave Braine stuck with Beamer after a 2-8-1 record in 1992 -- and the program hasn't missed a bowl game since. ... Odd stat of the young season: Virginia Tech has been penalized 16 times through two games, and its opponents have been flagged once for five yards. Its eight first-half penalties at East Carolina were one short of the most in a first half under Beamer. ... WR Jarrett Boykin became the school's all-time receptions leader on a 20-yard catch in the second quarter, giving him 127, one more than Ernest Wilford (2000-03). Boykin finished with four catches for 48 yards, upping his career total to 129. ... QB Logan Thomas was used more as a runner than many people expected, carrying the ball 11 times for 66 yards. The 6-foot-6, 254-pound sophomore picked up four first downs, often rushing after fake handoffs out of the shotgun. ... LG Greg Nosal led the Hokies' offensive line in the win at East Carolina with six knockdown blocks. All five starters posted grades of better than 80 percent, which is considered a winning grade by the coaching staff.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Ryan Aplin -- Aplin passed for at least 200 yards for the 12th time in his career last game with 274 yards to his credit, and all 12 games have come over his last 16 played, meaning he will pose a challenge for a Virginia Tech secondary averaging just 150.5 passing yards per game allowed. ... Aplin has recorded over 300 yards of total offense six times during his career, including the Illinois game with 301 yards. While he finished with 287 yards of total offense last game, he played only one series in the second half
RB Frankie Jackson -- In just his second career game at ASU, redshirt freshman running back Frankie Jackson eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark with 101 to his credit. He averaged 10.1 yards per rush and had a career-best 48 yard run that was the longest by an ASU player since 2008.
PK Bobby Zalud -- Zalud kicked a career-best 56-yard field goal last game against Memphis that was the third-longest in school history and is the longest in the NCAA this season. His 56-yard field goal is also the second-longest in Sun Belt Conference history behind only a 57-yarder by North Texas' Jason Ball in 2001. Zalud also had a 49-yard field goal against Illinois in the season opener and is now 2-of-3 on his field-goal attempts this year.
TB Josh Oglesby -- He scored both touchdowns last week at East Carolina, powering in on a 10-yarder with 7 1/2 minutes left for the winning points. After a lost season last year in which he was moved to fullback and got six carries, Oglesby is back in a contributing role as a backup to David Wilson. His power running is a good complement to Wilson's slashing, breakaway style.
DT Antoine Hopkins -- Along with his brother, Derrick, he's been as big a reason for the defense's emergence as anyone. His ability to get penetration into the opponents' backfield has led to negative-yardage plays and forced passing situations, allowing the pass rush and the secondary to shine.
P Scott Demler -- Through two games, Demler is averaging just 35.1 yards on 10 punts and his 30-yard shank in the first quarter set up East Carolina's only TD. His performance must improve soon or he could wind up losing his job to either senior WR Danny Coale or freshman Michael Branthover.
Hokies: OL Michael Via (knee, probable), OG David Wang (foot, out), TB David Wilson (hip, probable).