2005 Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Ohio

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Saturday, September 17th, 2005, 3:30


TV:
ESPNU


Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):


Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 2:00 pm Wednesday: Partly cloudy, high 74, chance of
rain 7%, cloud cover 37%, wind from the NE at 3 miles per hour.


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Preview: #4 Virginia Tech (2-0, 2-0 ACC) vs. Ohio (1-1, 0-0 MAC)


by Chris Coleman

The fourth-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies look to move to 3-0
on the season when they host the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday afternoon in Lane
Stadium. The Hokies are coming off a 45-0 rout of the Duke Blue Devils in
Durham, while the Bobcats are sky high after knocking off defending Big East
Champion Pitt 16-10 on Friday night.

Ohio is coached by Frank Solich, who took over the
Nebraska program after Tom Osborne retired. Solich led Nebraska to six bowl
games in six seasons, including the National Championship game following the
2001 season, and was twice named Big 12 Coach of the Year. Despite this success,
Solich was fired following the 2003 season, and he is in his first season as
Ohio�s head coach.

The Bobcats began the season by getting flattened on the
road by Northwestern 38-14 in a game that wasn�t as close as the score
indicated. Ohio�s second quarter touchdown came on a 62 yard fumble return for
a touchdown by Dion Byrum (more on him later). The Bobcats also tacked on a
meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter when they were down by 31.

Despite the opening game loss, Ohio defeated the Pitt
Panthers 16-10 in overtime for Frank Solich�s first win at his new school. The
game was highlighted by two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Bynum,
including one in overtime that sealed the victory.

The Ohio Offense

Despite Solich coming from a background that featured high
octane rushing attacks, the ground game for the Bobcats has produced very few
yards through their first two games. In fact, Ohio can�t seem to get anything
going on the ground or through the air. As a team, Ohio has scored four
touchdowns on the season, and three of them have come from cornerback Dion Byrum.

The offense is led by junior quarterback Austen Everson.
Everson is limited physically, but he is Ohio�s most experienced quarterback.
He isn�t much of a thrower, but he can move effectively. He rushed for 130
yards and three touchdowns against Central Florida in 2003. He also came off the
bench to lead Ohio to a victory at Kentucky in 2004. He is not an accurate
passer (46.9% this season), so expect the Virginia Tech defense to generate some
turnovers.

Everson�s top target is junior wide receiver Scott Mayle.
Mayle is a big play receiver, averaging 17.7 yards per catch on the season. He
also averaged 17.7 yards per catch in 2004, and 20.6 in 2003. He has been
clocked at 4.23 in the 40 yard dash has a 39 inch vertical jump. Mayle has also
competed on Ohio�s track team, where he ran a 10.53 in the 100 meters in the
MAC Outdoor Championships. He also placed 14 nationally in the long jump, so
Mayle is a very good athlete who the Hokies will have to keep in front of them.

Ohio�s running game has been very poor in the first two
games of the season. The Bobcats are only averaging 78 yards per game and 2.7
yards per carry. Kalvin McRae is the leading rusher, carrying the ball 23 times
for 84 yards on the season. The only offensive touchdown of the season for Ohio
came via the running game, with quarterback Austen Emerson scoring at
Northwestern on a four yard touchdown run.



The Ohio offensive line isn�t very big and isn�t
particularly experienced. The Bobcats start one senior, two juniors and two
sophomores, and the lone senior is listed as a co-starter with a sophomore. From
left to right, they go 288, 316, 280, 301 and 284. Despite having little success
in the running game, they have been able to protect the quarterback thus far.
Everson has been sacked only three times this season for a loss of 15 yards.

Averaging only 223.5 yards per game, the Ohio offense
simply isn�t very good. Everson is physically limited at quarterback, the
offensive line isn�t big enough or talented enough to establish a running game
and there are no weapons on the outside, with the obvious exception of Scott
Mayle. And despite Mayle�s speed, his big play potential is largely untapped
because of Everson�s limitations in the passing game.

This offense is probably a little better than Duke�s
simply because Ohio has a playmaker on the outside, and they appear to be a
better pass blocking team. The Hokies won�t hold them to 35 yards, as they did
Duke, but the Bobcats will be hard pressed to score. Virginia Tech could be
staring at its second shutout in a row.

The Ohio Defense

The Bobcats defense was abused in the season opener
against Northwestern. The Wildcat offense lit up the Ohio secondary for 356
passing yards and two touchdowns while completing almost 75% of their passes.
Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton was able to have a big game on the
ground as well, running for 104 yards on just 17 carries.

The Ohio defense rallied and played a great game against a
highly touted Pitt passing attack last Friday. They held the Panthers to 268
total yards and just 120 through the air. They also intercepted Tyler Palko
three times and returned two of the picks for touchdowns.

Along the defensive line, the Bobcats start two seniors
and two sophomores. Most of the starters have not made an impact on the stats
sheet, except for sophomore defensive end Brett Sykes, who has two tackles for
loss in two games. The defensive lineman who appears to be making the most
impact is reserve true freshman defensive end Jameson Hartke. Hartke leads the
team in tackles for loss (three), sacks (three) and quarterback hurries (two).

The Bobcats have the luxury of having an extremely
productive player at middle linebacker. Matt Muncy, 6-2, 234, is a very
instinctive player who is in on a lot of tackles. He made 53 tackles as a
freshman in 2003 and 78 tackles in 2004. He also had ten tackles for loss and
five sacks last season, both team highs. He has been outstanding to begin the
2005 season, posting 32 tackles in just two games. For a comparison, the second
leading tackler for Ohio, linebacker Tyler Russ, has just 18 tackles. The Hokies
can break some big plays in the running game if they can get Muncy blocked.

In the Ohio secondary, all eyes will be on left cornerback
Dion Byrum. Byrum is this week�s Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the
Week for his performance against the Pitt Panthers. Byrum scored both of Ohio�s
touchdowns in the victory over Pitt. He had a 38 yard interception return for a
touchdown in the first quarter and an 85 yard interception for a touchdown on
the first play of overtime. Combine that with his 62 yard fumble return for a
touchdown against Northwestern, and it�s easy to see that he is capable of big
plays.

Byrum is a very good athlete. As mentioned above, he runs
a 4.33 in the 40 yard dash and has a 41 inch vertical jump. He also has solid
size for a corner at 5-11, 192. Look for the Hokies to try and get a mismatch
with the other cornerback, T.J. Wright. Wright is a good MAC player and has led
Ohio in interceptions each of the past two seasons. However, he has less than
ideal size for a cornerback at 5-11, 169 pounds. If Tech can get either Justin
Harper (6-3, 210) or Josh Morgan (6-1, 215) matched up against Wright, then they
should test him.

Ohio starts two sophomores at safety, Tony Ward and Todd
Koenig. They are the weak link of the Bobcat secondary. They also have three
freshmen as second string players in the secondary, so depth will be a serious
issue if any of the starters go down with an injury.

Prediction

For the second week in a row, Virginia Tech not only holds
the talent advantage over their opponent, but the key matchups advantage as
well. The front seven for the Hokies should have no trouble dealing with an
undersized Ohio offensive line. Despite only giving up three sacks thus far,
they don�t have the talent or the size to match up with the Tech defensive
line. I expect that sack number to at least double after the game on Saturday.

To beat the Hokies, opposing teams are going to have to be
two dimensional on offense. Unfortunately for Ohio, they aren�t even one
dimensional. The Hokie defense will shut down the Bobcat running game early on
and force Everson to beat them through the air, which he is not capable of
doing. His inaccuracy will lead to at least two interceptions by the Virginia
Tech secondary. The Ohio offense will give Tech more of a challenge than Duke,
but the Hokies still hold all the matchup advantages on this side of the ball.

Ohio�s defense played very well against Pitt, but I
still see the 550 yards that they gave up to Northwestern on the road and see a
defense that isn�t very good. Marcus Vick and the receivers should have a
field day against the Bobcats, tuning up the passing game for an important game
against Georgia Tech on September 24.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 48, Ohio 0

Will Stewart’s Take: I
admire any team that beats Pittsburgh, and Chris has convinced me that Solich is
a good coach. (I don�t think you’ll see Ohio doing anything like that silly
fake punt that Duke tried early in the game in Durham.) Having said that, I
watched a good portion of that Ohio/Pitt game last Friday, and I didn’t see much
size or speed on the field for the Bobcats.

Whereas Duke was playing at home and the Hokies got off to
a bit of a slow start in that game, Ohio is not afforded the same luxuries. The
Tech players are going to be excited to play in Lane Stadium, and I’ll one-up
Chris with a prediction of seven touchdowns and a field goal. The Hokie defense
will record another shutout, I think.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 52, Ohio 0

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