2007 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College

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Thursday, October 25th, 2007, 7:30

TV: ESPN

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):
Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 4:00 pm Tuesday: Cloudy, with a 20 percent
chance of rain. Temperature 52.


Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/BC roster card


Game Preview: #8 Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC) vs. #2 Boston College (7-0,
3-0)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

The Boston College Offense

The Boston College offense is led by quarterback Matt Ryan, one of the top
signal callers in the nation. Generally BC employs a balanced, grinding type of
offense. But with new head coach Jeff Jadogzinski, a former NFL offensive
coordinator, and new offensive coordinator Steve Logan, they are now a
pass-first offense.


BC Offensive Stats

Category

Stat

ACC Rank

Nat. Rank

Rushing Offense

144.57 ypg

6

72

Passing Offense

310.86 ypg

1

8

Total Offense

455.43 ypg

1

16

Scoring Offense

34.57 ppg

2

29

Sacks Allowed

0.86 spg

2

7

Their running stats look okay on paper, especially considering how much they
throw the ball, but let’s take a closer look.


BC’s Running Game, a Closer Look

Opponent

Yards

Opp. Rush D
Rank

Held Below
Average?

Wake Forest

54

38

Yes

NC State

231

103

No

Georgia Tech

92

10

Yes

Army

202

88

No

UMass

119

17 (1-AA)

Yes

Bowling Green

146

106

No

Notre Dame

168

95

No

BC racked up the rushing yards against the really bad rush defenses they have
faced: NC State, Army, Bowling Green and Notre Dame. Even Bowling Green nearly
held BC to below their average on the ground. Over the last five games, Virginia
Tech is allowing just 49.4 yards per game on the ground. Two of those five
opponents were held to eight yards or less, including Clemson. In short, BC will
likely be one dimensional on Thursday night.

However, if you only have one dimension, Matt Ryan is a pretty good dimension
to have. Ryan is averaging 306.9 yards per game this year while completing 63.2%
of his passes. He has thrown 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is a very
cerebral quarterback, really the only player of his kind in the ACC. He is the
reason Boston College has risen to #2 in the nation.

If Ryan has a weakness, it’s his tendency to throw the pick-six. Three of his
six interceptions this year have been returned for touchdowns. The passing game
has been much more aggressive this year than in seasons past under Jadogzinski
and Logan, and this statistic is a result.

Ryan is spreading the wealth amongst a lot of different receivers this year.


Top BC Receivers

Name

Position

Rec.

Yards

TD

Brandon Robinson

WR

30

402

4

Rich Gunnell

WR

30

333

3

Kevin Challenger

WR

27

313

3

Andre Callender

RB

26

266

3

Ryan Purvis

TE

24

230

1

Clarence Megwa

WR

15

177

1

Justin Jarvis

WR

13

206

2

Not only is that a lot of different targets, but Ryan distributes the ball to
the tight end and running back as well. The Hokies have to defend every single
position with Ryan at quarterback. When he drops back to throw, everybody on
offense is a weapon.

Except for Justin Jarvis (6-5, 195, So.), BC lacks height at wide receiver.
However, they are all natural receivers, and Ryan helps them look very good.
Look for Kevin Challenger (5-8, 180, Sr.) and Brandon Robinson (5-10, 194, Jr.)
to start, with Rich Gunnell (5-11, 206, So) serving as the third receiver.

Andre Callender (5-11, 204, Sr.) is BC’s primary tailback this year. He has
run for 607 yards and is averaging five yards per carry. He is the most
versatile of BC’s running backs, as he also has 24 receptions so far, which
ranks fifth on the team. He is a very good back, however BC’s offensive line
doesn’t knock defensive lines off the ball like they used to.

L.V. Whitworth (5-11, 219, Sr.) is probably the name most Tech fans are
familiar with. He missed two games with an injury, but he’s back now. He has 275
yards on the ground this year.

BC’s offensive line suffered a setback in their last game when starting
senior left guard Ryan Poles ruptured his Achilles. He is out for the season.
His replacement will be Ty Hall (6-4, 290, Sr.). Hall is obviously experienced
in the system, but he’s been a backup his entire career.

BC’s top offensive lineman is left tackle Gosder Cherilus (6-7, 319, Sr.).
He’s a prototypical offensive tackle, and Mel Kiper thinks he’ll be a First
Round pick in next April’s NFL Draft. Whoever lines up across from him will have
his hands full.

Cherilus is the anchor on a much smaller BC offensive line than we are used
to seeing. The Eagles have switched to a zone blocking scheme. Here is a look at
their starting offensive line.


BC Starting Offensive Line

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

Starts

LT

Gosder Cherilus

6-7

319

Sr.

44

LG

Ty Hall

6-4

290

Sr.

4

C

Matt Tennant

6-4

285

So.

7

RG

Clif Ramsey

6-6

302

Jr.

5

RT

Anthony Castrano

6-7

262

Fr.

7

That’s an average height of just over 6-5, and 291.6 pounds per man. Generally
we are used to seeing huge, drive blocking BC offensive lines. This year we’ll
get to see a lighter, more athletic offensive front. However, there isn’t much
experience, as you can see. Tennatn, Ramsey and Castrano are first year
starters, and Castrano is an undersized true freshman who needs to add size and
strength. Hall has played tackle and guard in his career.

The Boston College Defense

BC’s defense looked like it was going to take a hit when linebacker Brian
Toal (injury) and defensive tackle B.J. Raji (academics) were lost for the
season, but they haven’t missed a beat.


BC Defensive Stats

Category

Stat

ACC Rank

Nat. Rank

Rushing Defense

46.43 ypg

1

1

Passing Defense

277.14 ypg

12

105

Total Defense

323.57 ypg

6

29

Scoring Defense

17.71 ppg

3

18

Pass Efficiency Defense

103.19

3

15

Two things jump out when looking at those stats. The first is BC’s run defense,
which ranks first in the country. What kind of competition have they faced, when
it comes to opposing rushing offenses? The answer is: not very good competition.


BC vs. the Run, a Closer Look

Opponent

Yards

Opponent’s Nat.
Rushing Rank

Held Below
Average?

Wake Forest

2

64

Yes

NC State

56

109

Yes

Georgia Tech

63

15

Yes

Army

44

111

Yes

UMass

69

71 (1-AA)

Yes

Bowling Green

64

107

Yes

Notre Dame

27

119

Yes

Wake Forest is a solid rushing team, but they didn’t give Josh Adams a single
carry when they played BC, and he has since become Wake’s top rusher. The Eagles
did shut down Georgia Tech’s running game easily in Atlanta. Other than that, BC
has faced a bunch of teams that can’t run the ball. That said, shutting down
Georgia Tech counts for something, as does the fact that they’ve held every
single opponent below their season average.

There has also been some question about BC’s pass defense, which allows
277.14 yards per game. However, their pass efficiency defense is very strong, at
15th nationally. They are a very solid defense all the way around, though the
Hokies will very likely have more success through the air than on the ground.

With gigantic defensive tackle B.J. Raji out this year because of academics,
BC’s defensive line is now a lot smaller. The Eagles moved Brady Smith (6-2,
284, So.) from end to tackle. They still have Ron Brace (6-3, 325, Jr.) at
defensive tackle, but the other three starters on the defensive line are a lot
smaller than last season.

Defensive end Alex Albright (6-5, 235, So.) is the biggest playmaker up
front. He has seven tackles for loss and six sacks on the season. The other
defensive end is Nick Larkin (6-4, 241, Sr.). He has four tackles for loss and
2.5 sacks. BC’s backup defensive ends, Austin Giles (6-3, 291, So.) and Jerry
Willette (6-5, 282, Jr.) are much bigger than their starters.

When you look at BC’s depth chart, it’s interesting to look at the defensive
line. With such huge backups at defensive end, one would think there would be
size at defensive tackle. Not so. Jim Ramella (6-4, 247, So.) is an extremely
undersized defensive tackle, and is currently listed in the two deep. He has 10
tackles and a sack on the year. However, Jerry Willette should also see action
as a reserve defensive tackle, and he is a much bigger player than Ramella.

Overall, BC doesn’t possess a group of big time playmakers up front. However,
they are a tough bunch to move off the line.

At linebacker, the Eagles have more athletic ability than they featured back
in the days of the Big East. Jolonn Dunbar (6-4, 238, Sr.) is a very experienced
starter and is second on the team in tackles. He has recorded 53 tackles and 2.5
tackles for loss on the season. Mark Herzlich (6-4, 238, So.) is active as well,
with 43 tackles and five tackles for loss.

Tyrone Pruitt (5-11, 226, Sr.) and Kevin Akins (6-2, 220, Jr.) share time at
the other linebacker spot. Mike McLaughlin (6-0, 250, So.) backs up Dunbar,
while Robert Francois (6-2, 240, So.) sees plenty of action behind Herzlich. All
their linebackers have experience, and they all have at least 15 tackles on the
year.

The secondary is the place to attack Boston College, but it’s also a unit
that can make you pay. The Eagles are allowing over 277 yards per game through
the air, but they have also intercepted 18 passes this season, tops in the
nation. BC has a couple of defensive backs in particular who are big play guys.

Free safety Jamie Silva (5-11, 210, Sr.) is a very experienced player and the
leader of BC’s defense. He leads the team in tackles with 55, and he also has
five interceptions, tops on the team. So far, he is the team’s defensive MVP.

Silva is joined in the secondary by DeJuan Tribble (5-9, 190). He was a
second team All-ACC selection a year ago when he intercepted seven passes and
returned three of them for touchdowns. So far this season he has four
interceptions and seven passes defended. He and Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest
combine for the most big plays from cornerbacks in the conference.

The other members of the secondary are not as effective as Silva and Tribble,
although they are solid players. Paul Anderson (6-1, 208, Jr.) is the starter at
strong safety, while Taji Morris (5-9, 189, Sr.) holds down the corner spot
opposite Tribble. BC’s secondary is very experienced, with three seniors and a
junior, but they aren’t the biggest group the Hokies have faced this year.
Tech’s receivers should have some room to maneuver.

Special Teams

The Eagles are having a solid, if unspectacular year on special teams. Their
coverage units have been very good all year long. Opponents are averaging just
seven yards per punt return on BC, and just 20.8 yards on kickoff returns. They
will likely try to kick the ball away from Eddie Royal on Thursday night.

On the other hand, BC isn’t exactly dangerous in the return game. DeJuan
Tribble returns punts, and he is averaging just 7.2 yards per return on four
returns. As a team, BC has just six punt returns this year. With Tech’s
outstanding punt coverage team, this is a major advantage for the Hokies. They
have a chance to gain some field position in the kicking game.

Steve Aponavicius (5-10, 183, Jr.) is handling field goals for BC this year.
He is 7-of-9 overall, with a long of 45. He is a solid kicker with good range,
though I like Tech’s chances if this becomes a field goal battle.

Aponovicius will also handle the kickoff duties. Billy Bennett normally
handles kickoffs for BC, but he is down with back ailments. Aponovicius is
averaging 3.4 yards per kickoff less than Bennett. Again, this could favor the
Hokies and give them a slight field position advantage. BC has just four
touchbacks on the year, and Aponovicius just one. Royal and Josh Morgan will get
a chance to make some plays on special teams, but it wouldn’t surprise me if BC
elected to kick short at times, as LSU and Duke have done against the Hokies.

Conclusion

A wise man once said, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re
the bug.” I think on Thursday night, the Hokies are going to be the
windshield, and BC the bug. I’ll admit, I’m not putting a tremendous amount of
thought into analyzing this one. However, I do know that the Hokies have yet to
play a complete game this season, and what better opportunity than on a national
stage? Thursday night, under the lights, Lane Stadium, ESPN. It doesn’t get much
better than that.

Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think the Tech fan base has had a chance to
let loose this year either. The opener against ECU was very emotional, but that
wasn’t about football. Thursday is all about the tailgate, as well as a huge
football game between the two highest ranked teams in the ACC. Tech fans know
what this one’s all about. I know they’ll be ready to roll.

Another thing that apparently has caused a bit of a ruckus in the fan base is
a comment from BC coach Jeff Jadogzinski about how well his players handle big
time crowds and atmospheres. To be honest, I think Tech fans have blown the
comment out of proportion, and I’ve yet to see in quotes Jadogzinksi say
“the crowd won’t affect us”, like we’ve read so much on the message
boards. But that’s okay. The fuse has been lit. It’s slowly burning, and it’s
timed to set off the powder keg at about 7:40 on Thursday night. Whether it was
Coach Jagz who struck the match, or someone on a message board, it doesn’t
matter.

In short, I think BC is walking right into a hornets nest, and I don’t think
they fully realize it.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 13

Will Stewart’s Take: BC is about to run into Virginia Tech’s Thursday
night Lane Stadium buzz saw. Are the Eagles man enough to survive it?

The Hokies are undefeated at home on Thursday nights since 1995, when BC beat
the Hokies 20-14 in Jim Druckenmiller’s debut. The Hokies have won seven
straight Thursday night home games. None of this really means anything; it’s
just history. History didn’t count for anything last year, when BC broke an
11-game Hokie Thursday night win streak.

I guess there are two ways you can look at this. You can break it down
analytically, go with matchups, and project logically which team will come out
on top. I do that all the time. Or you can go with your gut. My gut says
“Hokies.”

Yes, BC has a great quarterback, a guy who can play well on the road and
carve up a defense that isn’t operating at top efficiency. The Eagles protect
the quarterback (just six sacks given up in seven games), which will serve them
well against Tech’s pass rush, ranked fifth in the nation in sacks per game at
3.7. Boston College has a defense that can easily stop what has been an anemic
Hokie attack, and BC’s pickmasters can make Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor pay
for mistakes with critical turnovers.

That’s all stuff that should be worried about. But I’ve got a vibe going
here. I think things are going to go right for the Hokies, and I don’t mean in a
foaming-at-the-mouth, ten-thousand-people-in-the-street, Enter-Sandman kind of
way. It’s more of a quiet confidence. Those of you who have read my stuff all
season long know that I haven’t felt very confident in these Hokies, even as
they were defying me by fashioning a 6-1 record. But I feel confident about this
game.

Beyond the gut-feel aspects of this matchup, one thing that is important is
crowd noise. Under new offensive coordinator Steve Logan, Matt Ryan has been
allowed to call more audibles this year. Hokie fans need to make it difficult
for the offensive tackles, tight ends, and wide receivers to hear those
audibles.

Communication along the offensive line is key to setting up protections and
protecting the quarterback. Offensive linemen are literally talking to each
other right up to the moment the ball is snapped. Hokie fans need to make it
difficult for the offensive linemen to hear those protection calls and
communicate, because if one OL gets it wrong, there’s a Hokie defensive lineman
running unblocked to the quarterback.

If you want to get to Matt Ryan, get to the guys around him. Make it hard to
run that offense. Crowd noise can’t affect the opposition’s defense, but it can
affect their offense, and the Hokie crowd noise has the potential to be a great
equalizer Thursday night.

It’s prediction time, and as I said, I’m going with my gut on this one. All
week long, I’ve been telling people, “Tech’s going to win. I don’t know how,
but Tech’s going to win.”

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Boston College 10

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