Sat 10/01/05, Noon.
Milan Puskar Stadium
Poll Rank: NR
ECU 20-15 W
Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Poll Rank: 3
Ga. Tech 51-7 W
Rtn Lettermen: ??
Rtn Starters: ??
Last Meeting: 2004
If you don't know who is up next for the Mountaineers, it is time to crawl out of your bunker. The final meeting — at least in the foreseeable future — between West Virginia and Virginia Tech is coming to Mountaineer Field, and the Border Battle to see who gets the right to permanently keep the Black Diamond Trophy should be a fierce one.
After years of being made fools of by the Hokies, many of the "experts" finally took it easy on the Virginia Tech hype last season and projected Frank Beamer's squad to have little more than a mediocre campaign.
The Hokies responded by winning the conference title in their first season as Atlantic Coast Conference members, and now the hype is back. The Hokies are ranked No. 4 in the land after a 3- 0 start, and talk of a national title is filling the streets of Blacksburg once again.
Much of it may be justified, however, as Tech returns a slew of starters from a 10-3 finish in 2004 and has already knocked off a quality North Carolina State team in the season's opening week. The biggest buzz, though, is not surrounding BeamerBall this year, but instead around new quarterback Marcus Vick — or whatever alias he is going by these days.
Bryan Randall may have been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the college game over the past couple years — except when he was on the same field as Brian King — but many Hokie fans have been anxiously waiting to get him out the door and bring in the little brother of the school's best player of all time.
Vick has made plenty of headlines off the field, but in the early weeks of the 2005 season, it is his on-the-field play that has put his name at the top of the page. After beginning the spring listed third on the depth chart, Vick worked his way into the starting role, displaying some of the same skills that made his older brother Michael a star in the NFL. The younger Vick may not be quite as explosive, but he is surrounded by athletes who can make him look good if he simply avoids the big mistake.
Through the Hokies' 3-0 start, Vick's numbers are not going to challenge Matt Leinart, but he has completed 34-of-56 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns while only throwing one interception. Despite some electric speed, however, the younger Vick has not hurt teams on the ground as much as his brother did in his college days. Vick is credited with just 57 yards rushing on 30 carries, not exactly numbers that leave defensive coordinators trembling. Still Marcus can display some of the family's patented magic moves when he needs them. It's just that so far he hasn't had to run much, as Tech flattened Ohio and Duke by identical 45-0 scores after getting by N.C. State in the opener. Tech's coaches are definitely pleased with their young quarterback to this point, mostly because he has been consistent and avoided big mistakes. It is important to remember, though, that Vick will come into Milan Puskar Stadium with just four collegiate starts under his belt, and he will face a rabid group of Mountaineer fans hoping to see him fall flat on his face.
|WVU 4-0, 1-0
VT 4-0, 2-0
|Sat 10/14/05 Noon|
|Milan Puskar Stadium|
|Series: WVU 28-21-1|
|Sar: WVU-23 VT-4|
|Line: VT -12|
|Stats & Trends|
Royal, whose brother Chris is a senior defensive back at Marshall, has not exactly picked up where he left off in 2004, however, at least in terms of stats. Through the first three games, Royal caught just two passes for 15 yards. Tight end Jeff King has picked up much of the slack, hauling in nine balls for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Flanker Justin Harper also has five grabs for 67 yards, and split end Davin Clowney has made the most of his three starts, catching eight Vick passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Clowney, a junior from Delray Beach, Fla., is the speedster of the group, and he spent some time on the Virginia Tech track team. Clowney was clocked at a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash this spring.
Senior running backs Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes have helped take the bulk of the pressure off the Virginia Tech passing game. The co-starters at tailback combined to rush for 319 yards and three touchdowns during the Hokies' 3-0 start. Imoh (5-7, 195 lbs.) is the faster of the two backs, while Humes 6-1, 233 lbs.) provides the power half of the VT one-two punch. Both backs have seen nearly an identical number of carries to this point, and the same equation should be expected against the Mountaineers.
Experience is not hard to find on the front five, although injuries have forced the Hokies to make some changes. When left guard Reggie Butler sprained his the MCL in his right knee against Ohio, senior Will Montgomery moved over from center to fill the gap. That left junior Danny McGrath to make his first collegiate start at center.
Left tackle Jimmy Martin is the mainstay on the Hokie line, having started in 37 straight games. Jason Murphy is also getting used to his starting role at right guard, and he has started the last 11 games at that position.
Right tackle Duane Brown may not be as comfortable at his new position, after moving from tight end during summer drills. Brown did record three knockdowns against Ohio, though, and he has highly-regarded sophomore Brandon Frye ready to step in should he start to struggle. The Virginia Tech defense is, once again, one of the better units in the land, and it all starts with a strong defensive line.
Jim Davis and Kevin Lewis are gone, but there are still three seniors and a talented junior left to get the job done up front. Tim Sandige and Johathan Lewis fill the middle of the Hokie d-line. Sandige has recorded eight tackles, two quarterback hurries and a sack from his tackle position, while Lewis, who has now started in 33 straight games, is credited with seven stops, a sack, a pass breakup and a team-leading seven quarterback hurries.
|VT Message Board|
|VT Official Site|
Preseason All-America pick Darryl Tapp is perhaps the most talented member of the group. The 265-pound senior leads the team with three sacks, and he has been credited with eight tackles so far this year, four of them coming behind the line of scrimmage. This front four has been very stingy against the run, allowing a total of 227 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown through three games. It has also been successful at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Through just three games, the starting front four had five sacks and 20 hurries among them.
The Hokies' linebacking corps may include two sophomores, but it is not lacking in experience or production. Second-year men Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi both got some starts last year, and both proved that they had the potential to be stars at their positions. Adibi's rookie campaign was hindered by a torn bicep muscle in the season opener, but he is now back at full strength. The talented sophomore is third on the team with 17 tackles, and he also has a 25-yard interception on his season statistics.
Hall may also be in just his second season, but he will be making his 17th start in a row when the Hokies come to Mountaineer Field. He led the team in tackles through the first three games (24), and he has three quarterback hurries to his credit.
Senior James Anderson was one of the surprises of the 2004 season, and his play has earned him a starting spot in 2005. Through three games, Anderson has recorded 23 tackles, 13 of them solo stops, and he has a sack and a forced fumble to his credit as well. Although Tech's secondary may be the weakest group of the entire defense, it is a unit that many schools would be happy to have. The Gobblers allowed just 145 passing yards per game through the early part of 2005, and it had five interceptions in just three games.
Senior corner Jimmy Williams, a preseason Thorpe Award candidate, is the proven star of the group. The big VT corner (6-2, 212 lbs.) has lived up to the hype with 12 tackles, two pass breakups, a sack and a quarterback hurry this year. The rest of the unit is young, but so far it has proved that it possesses enough speed to keep opponents from all-out air assaults. Sophomore Roland Minor will start at the field corner position against the Mountaineers. This is Minor's first season in the starting role, but to this point, he has performed very well. He leads the team with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Duke, and he also has 10 tackles and two pass breakups through three games.
If he should stumble, one of the top recruits in the nation, Victor "Macho" Harris, is ready to step in. Harris, who also played with Williams and Burchette at Highland Springs High School in the Richmond, Va., area, was a Parade All-American last season, and he chose Virginia Tech over Michigan, Virginia, Miami and Southern California. Harris has seen limited action this season, recording one solo tackle thus far.
Senior Justin Hamilton, a converted tailback, starts at free safety, while junior Aaron Rouse is a first-year starter at the Hokies' rover position. Rouse has made the most of his starting spot, and he was the ACC defensive back of the week after recording two interceptions and forcing a fumble against N.C. State in the season opener.
A discussion on Virginia Tech special teams is about as necessary as a discussion on Princeton academics. The Hokies pride themselves on continually having the best special teams around, and this year looks to be no different.
"BeamerBall," as the Hokies like to call it, is one of Virginia Tech's trademarks. Frank Beamer's teams have made a habit of scoring points without the offense on the field, and that tactic has really paid off.
Over the last eight seasons, at least 25 different players have scored touchdowns while playing on Tech's special teams. The defense and special teams have combined for 95 touchdowns since Beamer took over in 1987.
If you think those statistics don't lead to wins, think again. Since the start of the 1993 season, Tech is 51-8 in games where it scores at least one touchdown on defense or special teams.
Hokie special teams units have also made a habit of blocking kicks. During the course of Beamer's 217 games as the Virginia Tech head coach, the Hokies have blocked 53 punts, 30 field goals and 21 extra points.
West Virginia is one of the teams the Hokies have hurt the most, with 10 WVU kicks being blocked over the last 19 seasons. The Hokie specialists are not bad either. Junior Nic Schmitt is averaging 41 yards per punt, and he has put 6-of-13 punts inside the 20.
Placekicker Brandon Pace, also a junior, was a 2004 Lou Groza Award semifinalist, and he is on the watch list again in 2005. Pace is 13-for-13 on extra-point tries, and he has hit on 4-of-5 field goal attempts.
There is little question that the Hokies will be a stiff challenge for the men in Blue and Gold, but it could prove to be a magical night at Mountaineer Field. The game has been sold out for months, and the teams' starts have only helped the anticipation build.
West Virginia leads the overall series 28-21-1, but Virginia Tech has won eight of the last 11 meetings between the two old rivals. The Mountaineers, though, have won two of the last three, with back-to-back wins in 2002 and 2003, snapping a four-game Hokie winning streak. Tech did emerge with a 19-13 victory from Lane Stadium last year.
West Virginia does hold a 16-8 advantage when the game is played in Morgantown. The Mountaineers were 9-3 at Old Mountaineer Field, and they hold a 7-5 record against the Hokies at their current facility.
The series began in 1912, when Virginia Tech defeated West Virginia 41-0. The Mountaineers bounced back to win the next seven meetings between the two schools. Virginia Tech and West Virginia have met every year since 1973, but it appears as though this year's battle will be the last. The Hokies' move to the ACC put an end to the series, as well as good relations between the two schools.
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