2008 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Western Kentucky

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Saturday, October 4th, 2008, 1:30

TV: ACC Select

Forecast (from WeatherBug.com):

Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 2:00 pm Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower
70s.


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Game Preview: #20 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) vs. Western Kentucky (2-3)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

The Hokies return home to Lane Stadium to play their sixth game in as many
weeks. This time the opponent is Western Kentucky, a team in the middle of the
transition from 1-AA to the 1-A ranks. The Hilltoppers have not been successful
against the 1-A teams they have played this year.

Western Kentucky is 2-3 on the season, with two wins over 1-AA competition.
They defeated Eastern Kentucky 37-13 and Murray State 50-9. They lost to Indiana
31-13, Alabama 41-7 and Kentucky 41-3. On paper, this isn’t a team that can
compete with Virginia Tech.

The Western Kentucky Offense

Western Kentucky runs the spread offense. They lean more heavily towards the
run, with 188 rushing attempts to 123 passing attempts. Those rushing numbers
include eight sacks. Six freshmen or sophomores see a lot of playing time on
offense. They are Western Kentucky’s most recent recruits, brought in to play
1-A football.

The Hilltoppers have used two quarterbacks this year. The starter is David
Wolke (6-2, 205, Sr.). He has completed 56.9% of his passes on the season for
461 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has split time with
K.J. Black (6-4, 215, So.). Black has completed 56.2% of his passes for 277
yards, with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Black got the start last
weekend against Kentucky, and he could get the nod against the Hokies as well.

Open
House This Saturday at Kent Square Condominiums
10:00 a.m. to noon

Both players have some mobility, so it will be important for the Hokies to
keep containment. Judging from what we’ve seen from Western Kentucky against 1-A
opponents, they aren’t going to be able to get much done against the Tech
defense in conventional ways.

Western Kentucky has used a rotation of three running backs this year. The
starter is Tyrell Hayden (5-10, 190, Jr.). Hayden has rushed for 141 yards and a
touchdown, but he’s averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Marell Booker (5-9, 215,
Jr.) is similar, gaining 104 yards and averaging 3.2 yards per carry.

Bobby Rainey (5-9, 205, r-Fr.) has been their best ball carrier so far this
year. He has just 20 carries, but he’s run for 129 yards, an average of 6.4
yards per carry. He looks like the Hilltoppers’ best back with the ball in his
hands.

Western Kentucky will use five wide receivers, and they’ll all play quite a
bit in their spread formations. Here is a quick look at their wideout production
so far this year.


Western Kentucky Wide Receiver
Production

Name

Height

Weight

Year

Catches

Yards

TDs

Derrius Brooks

5-10

180

r-Fr.

13

140

0

Jake Gaebler

5-11

185

Jr.

11

126

1

Quinterrance Cooper

6-0

185

So.

10

151

1

Wenquel Graves

5-9

185

So.

10

67

0

Jessie Quinn

6-1

195

Sr.

8

89

0

No other player for Western Kentucky has more than four catches on the season.
The wideouts are their primary targets in the passing game. Tight end Tristan
Jones (6-3, 260, r-Fr.) has two touchdowns in four receptions, so it seems the
Hilltoppers like to try and get him the ball in the red zone, where tight ends
are always so useful in the play action passing game.

The Western Kentucky offensive line is small, and the Tech front seven
shouldn’t have any trouble with this group.


Western Kentucky Offensive Line

Pos

Name

Height

Weight

Year

LT

Greg Ryan

6-4

295

Sr.

LG

Cody Hughes

6-1

300

Jr.

C

Lloyd Pressley

6-3

290

Jr.

RG

Shelley Anthony

6-1

280

Fr.

RT

Preston King

6-4

280

So.

This offensive line is blocking for a running game that is averaging just 3.2
yards per carry. Tech has an obvious advantage here, especially Cordarrow
Thompson, who gets to line up over true freshman Shelley Anthony. The Western
Kentucky line has allowed 33 tackles for loss this year, so the Hokies should be
able to dominate up front.

The Western Kentucky Defense

Western Kentucky lists their base defensive scheme as the 3-4, but the
reality is they use multiple sets on that side of the ball. They will employ the
3-4, but they’ll also use the more traditional 4-3 at times. Because of all the
different ways they line up, the Hilltoppers are somewhat difficult to prepare
for.



Open House this Saturday, 10:00-noon!

Western Kentucky’s top defender is junior outside linebacker Blake Boyd (6-2,
250, Jr.). He is listed as an outside linebacker, but he’s big enough to put a
hand on the ground and play defensive end. So far this season, he has 29
tackles, five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception.

The leading tackle for Western Kentucky is inside linebacker Alonzo Higgins
(6-3, 240, Sr.). He has 35 total tackles, with one tackle for loss. The other
starting linebackers are Darvis McBride (5-10, 225, Jr.) and Ben Sowders (6-0,
225, Sr.).

The Hilltoppers’ defensive line doesn’t make a lot of plays. Defensive end
Dan Cline (6-6, 265, Sr.), nose tackle Terald Clark (5-11, 290, Sr.) and
defensive end Robert Dark (6-1, 270, Sr.) have combined for 25 tackles, 4.5
tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. Three of the tackles for loss come from Dark.
Cline and Clark don’t play in the backfield much.

Western Kentucky has a better secondary than front seven. Senior cornerback
Marcus Minor (6-0, 200, Sr.) and senior free safety Travis Watters (5-10, 185,
Sr.) anchor the secondary. They are solid, experienced players. Both have an
interception on the year, and Watters is third on the team in tackles with 28.

The other members of the secondary are cornerback Erik Jones (5-9, 175, So.)
and strong safety Ryan Beard (6-0, 175, r-Fr.). This secondary is allowing just
203.7 yards per game through the air against 1-A competition. That’s not a great
number, but it’s not a bad one either.

Let’s throw out Western Kentucky’s games against Eastern Kentucky and Murray
State, and concentrate on what they did against the 1-A competition they faced.


Western Kentucky vs. 1-A
Competition

Opponent

Points
Allowed

Total Yds

Rushing Yds

Passing Yds

Yds Per Rush

Indiana

31

450

297

153

7.2

Alabama

41

557

281

276

5.7

Kentucky

41

398

216

182

5.7

Average

37.67

468.33

264.67

203.67

6.2

This isn’t exactly a rock solid defense against the run. 1-A teams are averaging
264.7 yards per game on the ground, and averaging over 6.2 yards per carry. That
bodes well for a Tech running game that is averaging 179.4 yards per game on the
ground, ranking 42nd in the nation. Darren Evans, Kenny Lewis and Tyrod Taylor
should all find running room against the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky has fared pretty well against the pass. Of course, when you
are running for so many yards, what need is there to throw the football?

The only thing about this game that gives me pause is that the Hilltoppers
use a multi-front defense. Tech’s offensive line is good individually, but they
sometimes seem easily confused. If Western Kentucky gives them a lot of
different looks, I could see the Hokies struggling a bit early in the game.

Special Teams

Western Kentucky is solid in some parts of the kicking game, but not so good
in some other parts. First, let’s look at the field goal unit.

The Hilltoppers use two different kickers. Zac Minturn (6-2, 190, Jr.)
handles field goals from within 30 yards. He is 2-of-2 on the season. Tanner
Siewert (5-10, 185, Sr.) handles the long field goals. He is having a good year,
going 5-of-7 on his kicks, with a long of 50 yards. One of his two misses was a
block.

Jeremy Moore (6-1, 190, Jr.) is a solid punter, averaging 38.8 yards per
boot. However, Western Kentucky nets just 32.8 yards per punt. Their opponents
are averaging 13.3 yards per return, a big number. Macho Harris could have a big
game returning punts against the Hilltoppers.

As we mentioned above in the section on Western Kentucky’s offense, Bobby
Rainey is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He is averaging 35.4 yards
per kickoff return this year, with a long of 92. He is averaging 3.8 yards per
punt return, but he only has four tries so far. Rainey is Western Kentucky’s
most dangerous player, on offense and special teams.

Conclusion

Saturday’s game will be Tech’s sixth game in as many weeks. The accelerator
has been mashed to the floor thus far, but after Saturday, we can let off the
gas a bit, put it in cruise control for the bye week, and assess exactly where
this football team is.

So far, they look young, but they also look fast and eager. They should
continue to get better. A win over Western Kentucky will put the Hokies one game
away from bowl eligibility, and with remaining home contests against Maryland,
Duke and Virginia, you’ve got to like Tech’s chances of heading South for the
postseason.

Things will move a little slower as the Hokies get into the meat of
conference play. Instead of six games in six weekends, the Hokies will only play
six games throughout most of the month of October and all of November. There’s a
bye week, as well as a couple of Thursday night contests, as usual.

This is a game that Tech should dominate. Western Kentucky is a team made up
of 1-AA recruits and low level 1-A recruits. The Hokies have a huge talent
advantage. The offense should continue to look better, and should have their
most efficient outing of the season. I think the starting defense will play
great, but with so many true freshmen playing backup roles, the reserves will
give up a shutout late, spoiling Bud Foster’s shutout.

Chris’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, Western Kentucky 7

Will Stewart’s Take: One thing about this game stinks: When it’s over,
the Hokies’ regular season will be half gone.

The good news is, Tech should emerge from that stretch with a 5-1 record.

It has been an intense half-season. The loss to ECU, the musical chairs with
Tyrod Taylor’s redshirt, the preparation for GT’s funky offense, road trips to
UNC and Nebraska … it makes me tired just to type all that. A rest is needed,
and the Hokies will get one after this Saturday, as they get October 11th off
before traveling to Boston College on the 18th.

Virginia Tech is coming out of the Nebraska game with growing optimism and
confidence, and an offense that is waking up. This game against Western Kentucky
is a chance to continue to develop that offense and to get some backups some
playing time, if the game goes as expected.

The Hokies have trimmed their DL rotation down to six players, and it’s an
opportunity to get the #7 and #8 players, DE Steven Friday and DT Justin Young
(or Kwamaine Battle) some experience and playing time. On the other line, the
Hokies didn’t sub their OL for a single play in Lincoln, so look for backups
like Richard Graham, Greg Nosal, Beau Warren, Jaymes Brooks and others on the
field.

And cross your fingers that no Hokies get hurt. Tech has been lucky so far in
that department, with the exception of Davon Morgan. Fortunately, VT has a more
than suitable replacement in Dorian Porch, but there are others that the Hokies
cannot afford to lose.

These are the things you think of when an opponent like W. Kentucky shows up
on the schedule: Hone your skills, get the backups some PT, and nobody get hurt.
VT should start this game out strong, but as more subs come in, things could get
choppy. It should be an easy win, though.

Will’s Prediction: VT 38, Western Kentucky 6

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