WVU - VT Game Preview

Coach Rich Rodriguez and his Mountaineers travel south to Blacksburg, Va on Wednesday to get in a little turkey hunting. Will WVU's double barrelled running attack be enough against a Virginia Tech team on a two game losing streak?

Series: West Virginia leads series 26-20-1.

Common Opponents: Boston College, Rutgers, Temple and Syracuse - WVU 4-0 , VT 3-1.

Hit the Road with the Mountaineers

Hokies to watch:
QB-Bryan Randall, RB-Lee Suggs, RB-Kevin Jones, WR- Ernest Wilford, P-Vinnie Burns, LB-Vegas Robinson, DB-Michael Crawford, DB-DeAngelo Hall, C-Jake Groves, DB-Willie Pile, DE-Nathaniel Adibi

Injuries:
WVU - Ernest Hunter (Leg) Out, Ben Timmons (Neck) Out, Miquelle Henderson (Ankle) Doubtful, Ken Sandor (Ankle) Probable, Grant Wiley (Rib) Probable.

Hokies - Eric Green(Knee) Out, Michael Crawford (Medical Test) Probable, Justin Hamilton (Ankle) probable, Vegas Robinson (Ankle) Probable, Kevin Jones (Hamstring) Probable.

Game outlook:

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Game Info
WVU 4-1, 7-3
VT 3-2, 8-2
Wed. 11/20 7:00 pm
Lane Stadium
Series: WVU 26-20-1
TV: ESPN 2
Saragin: WVU-32 VT-26
Line:VT -9
Stats & Trends
WVU offense vs. Hokie defense

What has happened to Virginia Tech's vaunted defense? Nothing! Sure, the Hokies have struggled over the last two weeks, giving up 78 points and 1087 yards, but the dam stopper is back, and his name is Vegas Robinson(6-0, 245, Jr.). Robinson, the Hokies top linebacker, has missed the last three games and watched the Hokies drop from national title contender to fourth place in the Big East conference. Will Robinson solve all the Hokie's recent defensive woes? Probably not, but he will go along way in stopping WVU's second ranked rushing attack.

Teaming with Robinson at linebacker will be Mikal Baaqee(5-10, 217, So) and Brandon Manning (6-0, 214, So). Baaqee has had an excellent season, leading the Hokies in tackles with 78, nine of them coming behind the line of scrimmage. Baaqee also has three sacks and six quarterback hurries. Manning has also been impressive from his outside linebacker spot. Manning, a former walk-on, has totaled 60 tackles with four of those for a loss.

Leading the defensive line in defensive coordinator Bud Foster's 4-3 scheme have been Nathaniel Adibi (6-3, 261, Jr) and Cols Colas (6-0, 239, Jr), Tech's star defensive ends. Adibi and Colas have combined for staggering numbers. The duo has totaled 77 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks and 33 quarterback hurries. If the Mountaineer offensive line can contain these two troublemakers, WVU will have an excellent chance of leaving Blacksburg with their eighth victory. Rounding out the defensive line are tackles Kevin Lewis (6-1, 287, So) and Jason Lallis (6-0, 254, So). Lewis and Lallis have not rolled up the numbers that Adibi and Colas has but they have been outstanding at occupying blockers to allow Robinson and Company wreak havoc in opposing backfields.

As if Virginia Tech's front seven weren't talented enough, the defensive backfield is also loaded with great athletes. Willie Pile (6-3, 211, Sr), rated as one of the top free safeties in the nation, leads this intimidating group. Pile is second on the team in tackles with 67 and second on the team with three interceptions. DeAngelo Hall (5-11, 194, So), rated as the best athlete in the Big East by Street & Smith's preseason magazine, has also made a positive impact this season. Hall, Tech's boundary corner, is very physical and has recorded four interceptions and nine pass break-ups. Hall, Virginia Tech's answer to Deion Sanders, will be a thorn in the side of Big East teams for two more seasons.

Starting at the rover position will be Micheal Crawford (5-11, 206, Jr). Crawford, who has recently undergone test for possible lymphoma, has been cleared to play against West Virginia. Crawford has racked up 40 tackles and 2 sacks this season while splitting time with Billy Hardee (5-11, 203, Sr). Ronyell Whitaker (5-9, 192, Sr) will start at the field corner spot but has not had the season that Hokie fans had hoped entering the season. Whitaker will split time with Vincent Fuller (6-1, 184, So) who has made the most of his playing time. Fuller is tied for the team lead with four interceptions and also has six pass break-ups.

By the numbers:

WVU ranks 15th in total offense (421.5 yds/game), 2nd in rushing offense (294.9 yds/game) and 110th in passing offense (126.6 yds/game).

Hokies rank 23rd in total defense (322.7 yds/game), 6th in rushing defense (80.2 yds/game) and 30th in passing efficiency defense (109.2 rating).

Advantage : WVU

WVU defense vs. Hokies offense

Until last week the Virginia Tech offense looked to be one dimensional, with two outstanding running backs. After quarterback Bryan Randall (6-0, 213, So) passed for a record setting 504 yards against Syracuse, things seemed to have changed. On the season Randall has connected on 64.6% of his passes, averaging 153.9 yards per game after taking over for West Virginia native Grant Noel in the LSU game. Although the Hokies have relied on their running backs for much of the season, Randall has managed to throw 10 touchdown passes but has also thrown nine interceptions, showing his inexperience at the position. On the plus side for the Mountaineers, Randall has not faced a defense like WVU's 3-3-5 stack defense, which has confused quarterbacks such as Miami's Ken Dorsey and BC's Brain St. Pierre.

Carrying the rock for the Hokies will be the much publicized tandem of running backs nicknamed the "Untouchables". Lee Suggs(6-0, 198, Sr) and Kevin Jones(6-0, 212, So) make up this dynamic duo that has averaged 102.1 and 78.7 yards per game, respectively. The duo has combined for 23 touchdowns. Many comparisons have been made between the "Untouchables" and WVU's double barrel threat of Cobourne and Wilson so it will be interesting to watch these four talented running backs on the same field. For the record, Cobourne and Wilson have averaged a combined 208 yards per game.

Leading the pass catchers for the Hokies will be Ernest Wilford(6-4, 217, Jr). Wilford, coming off a dominating performance against Syracuse (4TD's 279 yards), is arguably the best wide receiver that the Mountaineers have face this season. Wilford has the rare combination of hands, size and speed to make an early impact at the next level. Wilford has reached pay dirt six times this season and has 33 receptions for 716 yards. The Hokies' other receiving threat has been Shawn Witten (6-0, 192, Sr), who has pulled down 16 passes for 192 yards. Virginia Tech's tight end, Keith Willis (6-5, 254, Jr), has been used mainly for run blocking. Willis has only 6 receptions for 162 yards.

Don't let the 504 yards passing against Syracuse fool you. Virginia Tech always has been a smash mouth football team and the Hokies' offensive line will remind the Mountaineers of that on Wednesday night. The mammoth unit is anchored by center Jack Grove (6-3, 286 Jr). Grove has been very consistent and leads the team with 34 knockdown blocks. Luke Owens (6-3, 312, Sr) and Jon Dunn (6-7, 324, So) will man the right side of the line and look to use their size and strength to open up holes for Suggs and Jones. Protecting Randall's blind side will be Anthony Davis (6-4, 322, Sr) and Jacob Gibson (6-4, 302 Jr). Davis and Gibson have combined for 63 knockdown blocks and have the experience to pick up the different schemes that the Mountaineers will pose.

By the numbers:

WVU ranks 20th in total defense (311.2 yds/game), 11th in rushing defense (95.1 yds/game) and 34th in passing efficiency defense (110.6 rating).

Hokies rank 61st in total offense (379.3 yds/game), 16th in rushing offense (216.6 yds/game) and 96th in passing (162.7 yds/game).

Advantage: Virginia Tech, slightly

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WVU special teams vs. Hokies special teams

The Mountaineers must make a good showing on special teams against the Hokies. Year in and year out the Hokies field one on the top special teams in the country and this year is no different. So far this season the Hokies have blocked three punts and two field goals along with returning two punts for touchdowns. In Frank Beamer's tenure, Virginia Tech has blocked 49 punts, 25 field goals and 21 extra points. Of those 95 blocks, four punts, three extra points and one field goal has come at the expense of the Mountaineers.

Handling the punting duties for Virginia Tech has been Vinnie Burns (5-11, 194, So). Burns has averaged 41.9 yards on 49 punts and has placed 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. Kicking for the Hokies will be Carter Warley (5-11, 189, Jr), the team's third ranked scorer with 41 points. Warley has struggled with accuracy of field goals, connecting on 5 of 10 attempts but has been perfect of extra points, making all 26.

Leading the Hokie's return game has been DeAngelo Hall. Hall has averaged 13.8 yards per punt return and has returned two punts for six points. WVU's punter, Mark Fazzalori has the ability to take Hall out of the game by punting the ball out of bounds when possible. Virginia Tech's kick off returners have not fared as well as Hall. Richard Johnson (5-10, 180, So) leads the Hokies with 18 kickoff returns for 326 yards, averaging only 18.1 yards, sub par for any team.

By the numbers:

WVU ranks 96th in net punting (31.9 yds/punt), 24th in kick returns (19.5 yds/return) and 104th in punt returns (6.9 yds/return).

The Hokies rank 35th in net punting (36.2 yds/punt), 110th in kick returns (16.8 yds/return) and 45th in punt returns (11.1 yds/return)

Advantage: Virginia Tech by a nose

Picks to Click:

On Offense: Offensive Line
On Defense: Jahmile Addae

Useless Stats:

* 48% on Virginia Tech's roster hails from Virginia.

* Virginia Tech is a young team, averaging 1.77 years experience while WVU averages 1.95 years.

* Virginia Tech is 39-7 as a home favorite over the last 8 years, WVU is 3-20 as a road underdog in the same time span.

* WVU is 6-2 all-time in games played on November 20th.

* Over history, Virginia Tech has played 110 different teams, WVU has played 147 different teams.

Stats & Trends

Prediction:

If this game was being played in Morgantown I feel that the Mountaineers would find a way to win, but unfortunately the Hokies are at home for this one. For some reason it seems as though the stars have aligned for the Mountaineers lose their fourth game of the season and the fifth in a row to the Hokies. With Tech coming off disappointing losses to Pitt and Syracuse and the Mountaineers coming off of an impressive performance against Boston College it would seem that WVU would have the advantage, but it's just not so. The Hokies have key players returning after injuries had sidelined them, and Virginia Tech will want to show the ESPN2 audience the they are still a team to be feared. Next year, it will be WVU's turn!

WVU - 17 Virginia Tech - 31

P.S.: Someone needs to contact the Butkus award selection committee and tell them about Grant Wiley. Wiley, although included with the 67 players in the watch list, did not make the 11 player semi-final round. Grant has racked up 107 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 9 pass break-up, 9 quarterback hurries and 2 forced fumbles this season. Are the 11 linebackers better than Grant Wiley? No way!


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