We teamed up with SB Nation's Virginia Tech blog, Gobbler Country, to provide additional insight to the Nebraska - Virginia Tech game this Saturday. Furrier4heisman provided some good responses to questions from myself and Husker Mike.
Big Red Network did a Q&A session with Gobbler Country earlier in the week, while Husker Mike and I provided answers to their Q&A.
There was quite a difference between Virginia Tech's first two games. Is Alabama that good, Marshall that bad, has Virginia Tech improved that much, or all of the above?
It's easy to improve against Marshall. Their run defense is probably going to go down as the worst we see all season and Alabama's will likely go down as the best. On the other side of the ball, we did some good things on defense against Alabama, but gave up too many big plays.
We concentrated heavily on not letting Alabama's wide receiver Julio Jones beat us and that allowed a couple of other guys to have big receptions. Alabama (running back) Mark Ingram was just outstanding against us. I can't say enough about him.Speaking of Alabama, you guys gave up 498 total yards and a 6.3 average gain per play. After two games the Hokies are 101st in the nation against the run. What's up with that? What happened to the Lunch Pail defense?
Again, Ingram was just phenomenal. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry against us, but it sure felt like more than that. Another reason was our defense tired out in the fourth quarter from being on the field too long. Alabama ran 79 plays against us. We ran 51. There probably isn't a defense in the country that can survive getting worn down like Alabama did to us.
Against Marshall, 61 of its 126 yards came on a 61-yard touchdown run by Darius Marshall. It was a beautiful run and he made a bunch of nice cuts. But the Herd averaged 2.4 yards on their other 27 carries. Our defense has the same problem it did last year. It gives up a lot of big plays.
Macho Harris nearly defeated Nebraska single-handedly in Lincoln last year. Who's the focal point of the Hokie defense this season?
The guy to watch is No. 6, defensive end Jason Worilds. He was a beast last year, even with a dislocated shoulder and has been in the first two games of this season. He abused Alabama's right tackle in the first game to the point where he had to tackle Worilds to keep him from getting to McElroy.
He had two more "QB hurries" against Marshall, but that's a stat that can't really be quantified.
Another big week for the Hokies on special teams. With Frank Beamer's reputation in this area, how do opponents game plan around it. On punts, do they maximize protection, punt out of bounds, or go for fourth and short more often? Do they squib kick kickoffs?
The kick returns have been a new development this year with the emergence of Jayron Hosley and Dyrell Roberts. I think you'll start to see teams plan around that, probably starting this week. The punt blocks have been a specialty of ours for a while, so teams have been max protecting and planning for that for years. I think that's helped our return game a lot, actually.
We call our special teams the "Pride and Joy" team and Frank Beamer said before the season you were going to see the best Pride and Joy unit we've had here at Tech. That means more than just blocking kicks, it's punt coverage and setting up returns. So far, it's looking pretty good.
Switching to offense - Tyrod Taylor "fixed" his hitch in his throwing motion this season, which was supposed to improve his passing. That doesn't appear to have happened. Is Taylor progressing, is it the offensive coordinator, what's going on with the Hokie offense?
Against Marshall he looked pretty good when he had time to throw. He started 1-for-6 for 20 yards and a pick and finished 8-for-10 for 141 yards and 2 TDs. The problem is our offensive line can't pass block for anything (emphasis mine - CB) .
There were a lot of plays against Alabama where Taylor never had a chance. One play in the first quarter of the game stands out where our right tackle and right guard went in opposite directions and a blitzing linebacker had a huge hole to run straight at Tyrod.
If given time, I have confidence it Tyrod to have a good game against Nebraska. But if he's forced to run for his life again, we have to hope he can break contain and get downfield for yards like he did last season in Lincoln.
After spending some time talking to the Virginia Tech guys, I'm feeling better about Nebraska's chances in Blacksburg. We'll know soon enough. Thanks to Gobbler Country!