2008 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008, 7:30

TV: ESPN

Forecast (from WeatherBug.com):

Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 2:00 pm Tuesday: Partly cloudy, temperature in the
mid-high 50s. Winds 6 mph, chance of rain 10%.


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


Game Preview: Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2 ACC) vs. Maryland (6-2, 3-1)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

After playing four of their last five games on the road, Virginia Tech
returns to Lane Stadium for a huge Thursday night showdown with Maryland. This
should be strong medicine for a wounded Tech team that has lost two games in a
row. On the other hand, how well can the Hokies play if they have to go with
third string quarterback Cory Holt?

There are many unknowns heading into this game. Who will start at quarterback
for the Hokies? Will Maryland tailback Da’Rel Scott play? Or linebacker Dave
Philistin? What we do know is that this is the beginning of a four game season
that will determine whether or not the Hokies play in the ACC Championship Game.

The Maryland Offense

Thursday night, the Hokies will face one of the most balanced offensive teams
they have played this season. The Terps have one of the best offensive lines in
the ACC, a talented running back, and a good wide receiving corps. A
much-improved Chris Turner at quarterback has helped quite a bit.


The Maryland Offense

Category

Stat

ACC Rank

National Rank

Rushing

166.75 ypg

3

44

Passing

199.88 ypg

5

72

Total

366.63 ypg

2

63

Scoring

23.38 ppg

9

75

Pass Efficiency

127.27

3

54

Sacks Allowed

1.38 per game

3

32

Average

4.17

56.67


Chris Turner (6-4, 210, r-Jr.) has completed 59.1% of his passes for 1,428
yards, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s not a flashy
quarterback, but he has limited his mistakes this year and he is capable of
hooking up with some of Maryland’s playmakers at receiver for big gains. Turner
isn’t very mobile, so the Hokies would ideally like to force him to leave the
pocket.

Turner and the passing game will feed off the running game. In the backfield,
the Terps have Da’Rel Scott (5-11, 192, r-So.). Scott is averaging 102.6 yards
per game, which is tops in the ACC. However, he is suffering from a shoulder
injury and may not play on Thursday against the Hokies. Maryland would miss his
5.5 yards per carry. They’ll need all their weapons to go up against a stout VT
defense.

If Scott can’t go, the starter will be Davin Meggett (5-8, 210, Fr.). Meggett
is a true freshman and the son of former NFL running back Dave Meggett. For the
season, he has rushed for 266 yards on 50 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per
carry. Meggett looks like he has a bright future at Maryland.

The Tech secondary will have to go up against a solid group of wide
receivers. They are led by future NFL receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (6-3, 206,
r-Jr.). Heyward-Bey is a big target with the speed to make big plays in the
passing game. For the season, he has just 25 catches, but he is averaging 16
yards per catch, including one for 80 yards. The Terps will also use him in the
running game. He has 202 yards on the ground, including a 76 yard touchdown on a
reverse.

Call
Garrett Weddle at 540-320-7571 and make an appointment to see
Kent Square Condominiums when you’re in town for the game!

Danny Oquendo (6-0, 190, Sr.) is the #2 receiver. He has 15 catches for 223
yards and a touchdown. Other threats at receiver include Ronnie Tyler (5-10,
190, r-Fr.), Torrey Smith (6-1, 200, r-Fr.) and Isaiah Williams (6-3, 200,
r-Sr.). Although this group doesn’t wow you with stats, the Terps do a good job
of spreading the ball around. Also keep in mind that Maryland’s offense is
dependent on establishing the run first and foremost. The wide receivers are
actually more talented than their stats indicate, as has been the case at
Virginia Tech for many years.

Another favorite target for Chris Turner is huge tight end Dan Gronkowski
(6-6, 255, r-Sr.). Gronkowski has 22 catches on the season, which is second on
the team. He also has three touchdowns.

The offensive line makes the offense go. This is a big, experienced group.


The Maryland Offensive Line

Pos

Name

Ht

Wt

Year

Experience

LT

Bruce Campbell

6-7

285

So.

1st Year Starter

LG

Jaimie Thomas

6-4

330

r-Sr.

2nd Year Starter

C

Edwin Williams

6-3

315

r-Sr.

3rd Year Starter

RG

Phil Costa

6-3

300

r-Jr.

2nd Year Starter

RT

Scott Burley

6-5

335

r-Sr.

2nd Year Starter

The line is anchored by three fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior.
Center Edwin Williams is perhaps the best center in the ACC. This is a physical
offensive line that will punch you in the mouth. They aren’t like Boston
College, Georgia Tech and UNC. Those teams rely on leverage, positioning and
angles. Maryland will go right after you, so Tech’s front seven needs to be
ready to play a very physical football game.

Bud Foster’s first priority each week is stopping the running game. That will
be very important this week. If the Terps can manage to run the ball on the
Hokies, they could open up their passing game. Balanced offenses are tough to
stop, and Tech will want to keep Maryland one-dimensional.

The Maryland Defense

Maryland’s defense is very experienced, particularly in the front seven, but
this is far from a dominant group. In fact, this defense ranks near the bottom
of the ACC in most major statistical categories.


The Maryland Defense

Category

Stat

ACC Rank

National Rank

Rushing

137.25 ypg

9

58

Passing

228.38 ypg

11

81

Total

365.63 ypg

11

69

Scoring

19.25 ppg

6

31

Pass Efficiency

124.85

10

63

Tackles for Loss

5.38 per game

9

73

Sacks

2.25 per game

6

34

Average

8.86

58.43

The Terp defense isn’t physically tough up front. To make matters worse, the
secondary isn’t particularly talented, and they have lost top cornerback Kevin
Barnes for the season due to an injury.

Maryland runs a combo 3-4/4-3 defense. Trey Covington (6-3, 240, r-Sr.) plays
the LEO position, which is a combo defensive end/outside linebacker. Sometimes
he’ll have his hand on the ground, and sometimes he’ll align as a linebacker.
He’s not much of a playmaker for the Terps, with just two tackles for loss and
one sack this year. However Covington’s backup, Rick Costa (6-1, 225, r-Sr.),
has had a productive season with six tackles for loss and two sacks. Between
these two players, the Terps have solid production from the LEO spot this
season.

Jared Harrell (6-5, 265, r-Jr.) is the other starter at defensive end. He has
four tackles for loss and one sack on the year. Despite being a fourth year
junior, Harrell has never lettered before this season. He’ll team up with Dean
Muhtadi (6-3, 295, r-Sr.), who is a transfer from D-III Christopher Newport.
Muhtadi wasn’t dominant at Christopher Newport, though he’s doing well at
Maryland considering his talent level.

The Terps start two senior defensive tackles. Jeremy Navarre (6-3, 285, Sr.)
has been starting since he was a true freshman. He has four tackles for loss and
2.5 sacks. The other starter is Olugbemi Otulaja (6-0, 285, r-Sr.), a transfer
from Marist. He has just 0.5 tackles for loss on the year.

Maryland’s defensive line has experience, but two of their seniors are
transfers from lower level programs. The talent level up front for the Terps
isn’t up to par with most of the rest of the ACC. Tech needs to pound this group
right in the mouth.



Call Garrett Weddle and make an
appointment to see Kent Square
Condominiums this Thursday or Friday!

The linebackers are a different story. The Terps have good players at this
position, as well as experience. Middle linebacker Alex Wujciak (6-3, 255,
r-So.) is the least experienced of the trio, but he might also be the best. He
leads the team and ranks second in the ACC with 80 tackles. He also has 4.5
tackles for loss.

Strongside linebacker Moise Fokou (6-2, 225, r-Sr.) is the top playmaker at
linebacker. He has 45 tackles, along with a team-high 6.5 tackles for loss and
four sacks. He is a former walk-on who transferred from Frostburg State. The
weakside backer is Dave Philistin (6-2, 231, Sr.), who has 58 tackles on the
year.

Philistin may not play on Thursday because of a shoulder injury. That would
promote Chase Bullock (6-2, 234, r-Sr.) to the starting lineup. Bullock is
already part of the playing rotation, with 33 tackles on the season.

Maryland’s secondary is nothing to write home about. The Terps were
struggling with top cornerback Kevin Barnes in the lineup, and now he is out for
the season. Anthony Wiseman (5-10, 185, r-Jr.) and Jamari McCollough (5-11, 195,
r-Jr.) split time at one corner spot. Wiseman has started all eight games, but
has no interceptions. McCollough actually leads the team with three
interceptions.

Replacing Kevin Barnes at the other corner spot is Nolan Carroll (6-1, 202,
r-Jr.). Carroll has played in five games this year and started one. He has 17
tackles and six passes defended.

The free safety is Terrell Skinner (6-3, 214, r-Jr.), and Jeff Allen (6-1,
190, Sr.) starts at strong safety. Both players are first-year starters, just
like Maryland’s cornerbacks. Overall, this is an inexperienced secondary when it
comes to career starts. Maryland ranks 11th in the ACC in pass defense, and 10th
in efficiency defense.

The Hokies will be facing the Maryland defense with either a third string
quarterback, a quarterback who isn’t healthy, or perhaps both. Tech should be
able to have some success on the ground against the Terps, and they’ll likely
try to work in some simple playaction passes for Cory Holt (assuming he starts).
This will be a conservative offensive gameplan for Tech, but one that could be
effective. The Maryland defense doesn’t have the overall talent of the four ACC
teams VT has played thus far.

Special Teams

Maryland has solid special teams play. Before we get into individuals, let’s
take a look at the following table.


Maryland Special Teams

Category

Stat

ACC Rank

National Rank

Net Punting

38.78 ypp

1

11

Punt Returns

6.79 ypr

10

87

Punt Return Defense

2.9 ypr

2

4

Kick Returns

22.69 ypr

4

35

Kick Return Defense

21.32 ypr

7

64

Average

4.8

40.2

The Terps have a terrific punt team. Travis Baltz (6-2, 200, So.) is averaging
42.2 yards per punt, and Maryland’s net punting mark ranks 11th nationally.
Their punt return defense allows just 2.9 yards per return, which ranks fourth
nationally.

Maryland doesn’t do much in punt returns, though Danny Oquendo is more
capable than his 4.5 yards per return average indicates. Torrey Smith is
averaging 24.7 yards per kick return, so the Hokies will have to be wary of him.

Obi Egekeze (6-2, 210, r-Sr.) is Maryland’s placekicker. He is 11-of-17 on
his field goal attempts this year, with a long of 47. He has solid leg strength,
but he is somewhat inconsistent with his accuracy.

Conclusion

I’ve been a little back and forth on this one. Who will play quarterback for
the Hokies? I don’t know. The scuttlebutt says it will either be Sean Glennon or
Cory Holt. If it’s Holt, can the Hokies win with a third string quarterback?
Normally, I’d have my doubts. However, this Tech team is like a wounded animal
that has been backed up against a wall. It’s dangerous. It has no other option
but to strike out at you.

The last time the Hokies were unranked in a Thursday night home game was two
years ago when #10 Clemson came to town. We know what happened that night. Tech
took the Tigers apart on national television. This time it’s #23 Maryland. The
Terps aren’t a very talented defensive team, but they are a team that knows how
to win football games.

These teams are fairly similar. Both teams will look to establish the running
game between the tackles. It could be that the team that best establishes the
running game and limits mistakes in the passing game will come out on top.

I’m not going to try and break this game down too much. There are too many
unknowns. We don’t know which Tech quarterback will start. We don’t know if
Maryland’s 100 yards per game rusher will play.

I’ll just take pure emotion in this one. A Thursday night game is exactly
what this Tech team needs right now, and I’ll pick them to come out with a
narrow win. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a 20-17 game, so …

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 20, Maryland 17

Will Stewart’s Take: Today’s newspaper articles are making
reference to the Hokies’ 1998 Thursday night win at Boston College, because
that’s the last time the Hokies started their third-string quarterback. Nick
Sorensen, who saw action in five games as the backup QB in the 1997 season, was
switched to safety for the 1998 season. When Al Clark and backup Dave Meyer were
both injured, Sorensen was switched back over to quarterback, and he started the
BC game in heavy rain on a Thursday night.

It did not go well for the Tech offense.

The Hokies won 17-0 in Chestnut Hill, but the
storyline of the game
reads like Frank Beamer’s football fantasy (not
fantasy football, mind you — “football fantasy,” in other words, how
Frank dreams about the game being). The Hokies scored on an 85-yard interception
return by Pierson Prioleau and set up their other 10 points with two blocked
punts. The Hokie defense had a goal line stand, stopping BC on five straight
plays from inside the two yard line.

The defensive and special teams plays helped overcome a 72-yard passing
effort by the Hokies, but Tech ran the ball fairly well: 164 yards on 47 carries
(3.5 ypc).

That’s all straight from the Frank Beamer Football Manual (as told to Frank
by Jerry Claiborne, available for $19.95 from Amazon.com and other fine online
retailers). One thing that does NOT sound Frank Beamer-like from the game is
that Tech, due to two INTs and three lost fumbles by Sorensen, turned the ball
over six times. But Tech’s D got four of them back.

Fast forward to ten years later, and the Hokies are facing Maryland on a
Thursday night, again with the prospect of Tech having to start their
third-string QB. This time it’s Cory Holt, and the similarities are eerie.
Sorensen went into the BC game with 24 career passing attempts. Holt enters this
game with 25 career attempts. Sorensen had played QB in seven games; Holt has
played in nine. The two QBs are similar in size and athleticism. Sorensen had
started a game, but Holt has not. Yet.

There are two big differences between the two: Holt is a redshirt senior,
whereas Sorensen was just a redshirt sophomore in 1998, and Holt is a better
passer, with a stronger arm and a better spiral than Sorensen.

Comparisons aside, starting your third string QB is never a good thing, and
the Hokies are going to have to step up on special teams and defense. I would be
very surprised if VT starts Cory Holt and wins a conventional type game, with
nothing but offensive scores. It might take the kind of effort the Hokies had in
Chestnut Hill in 1998 to pull off the win.

If Sean Glennon starts at QB (I don’t look for Tyrod Taylor to play at all in
this one), I like VT’s chances to produce some offensive scores, but a lot of
that will depend upon how much Glennon is able to do on his bum ankle. He might
start, be too gimpy to be effective, and give way to Holt.

There are a ton of variables in this one, but I like Tech’s chances to
somehow put the win together in a Lane Stadium Thursday nighter. The defense
will have to have perhaps its best game of the season against Maryland’s stout
offensive line, and even if they do, a special teams or defensive score might be
necessary.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Maryland 20

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