2005 Game Preview: #5 Virginia Tech vs. Florida State, ACC Championship Game

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Saturday, December 3rd, 2005, 8:00

TV: ABC National

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “JAX Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 2:30 pm Wednesday: Clear, 57 degrees, chance of
precipitation 0%, cloud cover 21%, wind from the South at 3 miles per hour.


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Preview: #5 Virginia Tech (10-1, 7-1 ACC) vs. Florida State (7-4, 5-3)


by Chris Coleman

Fifth-ranked Virginia Tech will be a part of history this weekend when they
participate in the first-ever ACC Championship Game this Saturday night against
Florida State. The game will kick off at 8 pm and will be nationally televised
by ABC. The Hokies and Seminoles were picked by the ACC media in the preseason
to meet for the ACC Championship, but no one could have foreseen the way each
team would make it to Jacksonville.

Virginia Tech was harboring national championship hopes up until November 5,
when the Miami Hurricanes came to Blacksburg and won 27-7. At that point it
looked like the Hokies had to hope for an at-large BCS bid, but two weeks later
Miami slipped up in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech, falling to the Yellow
Jackets 14-10. The Canes lost to Florida State in their first game of the
season, so all the Hokies had to do was win out to clinch the Coastal Division.

Tech went on to answer all questions about whether or not they were capable
of responding well to a loss by beating UVA and UNC by a combined score of
86-17. Tech’s offensive line is playing as well as ever in recent years, as the
Hokies rushed for 333 yards against the Hoos and 277 yards against the Tar
Heels.

While the Hokies are rolling into Jacksonville filled with confidence,
Florida State has crawled their way in. The Seminoles have lost three games in a
row and four of their past six. They have suffered numerous injuries, have
problems with youth in the secondary and have a terrible discipline problem.
Whatever the reasons, it is safe to say that things have been falling apart in
Tallahassee in the past month. Let�s take a look at the Noles� last six
games in further detail.

Florida
State in Their Last Six Games

Team

Result

Yards Gained

Yards Allowed

Penalty Yards
Virginia L 26-21 472 326 13-123
Duke W 55-24 539 243 11-98
Maryland W 35-27 400 332 9-91
NC State L 20-15 227 281 7-50
Clemson L 35-14 226 354 7-45
Florida L 34-7 334 284 7-55

Average

L 27.7-24.5
366.3333 303.3333
9-77

First, let�s take a look at the discipline issue. Obviously, the Seminoles are
penalized a lot. FSU ranks next-to-last in the ACC in penalty yardage, ahead of
only Miami. They are penalized an average of 70.5 yards per game. Virginia Tech
ranks second in the ACC in penalty yardage at only 41.9 per game, making the
Hokies a much more disciplined team than the Seminoles.

As another example of a discipline problem, look no further than true
freshman wide receiver Fred Rouse. Rouse was a big time wide receiver prospect
who spurned every other school in the nation to attend Florida State. He was
suspended for one game earlier in the season for an outburst on the sideline and
was quoted
by reporters
this past weekend as saying he regrets not attending the
University of Florida.

According to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Rouse put his
arm around (Florida coach Urban Meyer), walked a few yards, exchanged
whispers and walked away smiling.

“I can’t believe that man recruited me as hard as he did, and I
dissed him,” Rouse said of Meyer. “I regret it now.”

Just the fact that Florida State has lost four of their past six games,
including three in a row, has to put some doubts in the heads of their players.
This is a proud program that is not used to losing. They obviously have not
handled it well. And to be honest, the Noles are lucky they haven�t lost four
in a row. Maryland led FSU late in the game, and a highly questionable (or bad,
if you�re a Maryland fan) pass interference call on fourth down gave the
Seminoles a first down deep in Terrapin territory. From there they scored the go
ahead touchdown and escaped by the skin of their teeth.

The Florida State Offense

The Florida State offense is blessed with an exceptional amount of talent at
the skill positions. They are the #1 offense in the ACC in terms of total yards
per game, averaging 394.55 yards per game. But to show you how good defenses are
in the ACC, that number ranks only 42nd nationally. The FSU passing attack is
very dangerous, averaging 290 yards per game, good for 16th in the nation.

Drew Weatherford is the starting quarterback for the Seminoles. Weatherford,
a r-freshman, beat out the highly touted Xavier Lee for the job back in August.
Weatherford is a prototypical pocket quarterback and has a lot of talent, but he
has struggled at times this year. He has thrown for 2,725 yards, which leads the
ACC, and completes 59.1% of his passes. However he has thrown 17 interceptions
and just 16 touchdown passes, and in the last six games, during FSU’s 2-4
stretch, Weatherford has thrown just six touchdowns and 13 picks. Weatherford�s
turnovers have killed FSU in some games this season, particularly the loss at
Virginia.

The biggest weapons on the team are tailbacks Lorenzo Booker and Leon
Washington. They are the best one-two punch at tailback in the ACC. Washington
is an all-around good player, while Booker could be the fastest offensive player
in the conference. Washington has missed two games with injuries and has 370
yards on the ground, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Booker has rushed for 519
yards and 4.9 yards per carry.

Despite the talent of Booker and Washington, they mysteriously disappeared
from the gameplan of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden this season. The two have
combined for just 185 carries on the season, which has sent the Florida State
fan base into an uproar. Instead of relying on two proven junior and senior
tailbacks, Bowden has elected to put the game into the hands of a r-freshman
quarterback who would not even be playing were it not for Wyatt Sexton missing
the season due to Lyme Disease.

Fans are so displeased with playcalling this year that some left a sign that
read �Fire Jeff Bowden� at Doak Campbell Stadium this past weekend. The
bright side of letting Weatherford throw the ball is that he gets to throw to a
deep and talented wide receiver corps. This is probably the best group of
receivers the �Noles have had since their 1999 group of Peter Warrick, Ron
Dugans, Snoop Minnis, etc. Wide receiver was supposed to be a weak spot for FSU
this year, but it hasn�t been.

Junior Chris Davis is FSU�s leading receiver. He is dependable in his
routes, catches the ball well, and is very shifty after making the catch. He has
good acceleration and can run by a defensive back. Davis has 44 catches on the
season for 590 yards and four touchdowns. Willie Reid is the other starting
wideout. He is a converted tailback who is trouble in the open field. Reid has
41 receptions for 500 yards on the season. De�Cody Fagg has developed into a
good receiver for the Seminoles this season. A true sophomore, Fagg is a big
target at 6-3, 203. He has 31 catches for 364 yards on the season.

The biggest threat on the outside for FSU could be true freshman Greg Carr.
Carr is the tallest wide receiver in Florida State history at 6-6, 203. He is a
big play threat for the Seminoles, averaging 22.4 yards per catch this season.
He has 23 catches on the season for 515 yards and an amazing nine touchdowns.
Whenever FSU gets near the goal line, look for Carr to be main target.

Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington will also be major targets for Drew
Weatherford out of the backfield. Booker is third on the team with 35 catches,
including a long of 71 yards. Washington has 18 receptions.

You might have noticed in the table above that the Seminoles offense has been
struggling recently. That�s because they have had major problems along the
offensive line. Right guard Matt Meinrod was their best offensive lineman, but
he was lost for the season during the Wake Forest game. John Frady took his
place, and was promptly injured as well.

To make it worse, r-freshman Cornelius Lewis, who replaced Frady at right
guard, will be suspended for the first half of the ACC Championship game for
fighting during last week�s game at Florida. Replacing Lewis will be left
tackle Ron Lunford, who has been starting at tackle only because starter Cory
Niblock was injured during the Clemson game. And replacing Lunford at left
tackle will be Mario Henderson, who has not started a game all season.

If you are confused by all of that, don�t worry about it. It was confusing
to write it. To sum it up, the Seminoles will start their fourth string right
guard, Ron Lunford, a player who happens to also be their second string left
tackle, but was starting because of an injury to Cory Niblock. As a result of
Lunford moving to guard, Mario Henderson will start at left tackle. Henderson
was the third string left tackle before injuries began hitting the team.

In short, the Florida State offensive line is in disarray. There are backups
in the starting lineup and players playing out of position. They shouldn�t be
able to block the Hokies on Saturday night.

Tech’s front seven should have a dominating performance Saturday night, and
the Seminoles shouldn’t be able to move the ball very well. FSU might hit a
couple of big plays because of their speed, but the Hokies should consistently
stop them.

The Florida State Defense

The FSU defense is very Hurricane-like. Miami Lite might be a good term to
use. They have the same type of athletes as their rivals to the south and they
can run from sideline to sideline. But because of a couple of missing pieces,
they aren�t quite as good.

The FSU front seven is very similar to the front seven the Hokies faced on
November 5, except they might be better. The Seminole defense has amassed an
incredible 107 tackles for loss on the season. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley,
one of just two tackles on the eight-man All-ACC first team defensive line (VT’s
Jonathan Lewis is the other) has totaled 20.5 of those tackles for loss. Bunkley
is a very productive defensive tackle, with 53 total tackles and team leading
7.5 sacks. Bunkley will be the best defensive player on the field for the
Seminoles, and Tech�s first team All-ACC interior linemen, Will Montgomery and
Jason Murphy, need to have a good game.

The good news for the Virginia Tech offensive line is that defensive end
Kamerion Wimbley will miss the game due to a knee injury. It was reported
earlier in the week that Wimbley would play, but Bobby Bowden revealed on
Tuesday that Wimbley will not. Wimbley has 10.5 tackles for loss and is tied for
the team lead in sacks with 7.5. He has put up impressive numbers despite
playing in only nine games.

The Seminoles have an outstanding corps of linebackers, possibly the best in
the nation. A.J. Nicholson, Buster Davis and Ernie Sims are great players who
are always around the ball. The three linebackers have combined for 28.5 tackles
for loss, 4.5 sacks and four interceptions. Nicholson is third on the team in
quarterback hurries with ten.

Florida State is deep at linebacker, with senior reserves Marcello Church and
Sam McGrew seeing a lot of playing time. McGrew has 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks,
while Church has 24 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Sophomore
Lawrence Timmons also has 25 tackles on the season. There is no dropoff when any
of the starting linebackers leave the game.

The Seminoles are allowing 111.8 yards per game on the ground and just three
yards per carry. Virginia Tech has run the ball well in four of the past five
games, but it will take great effort to move Florida State off the line of
scrimmage. Tech must use the pass to set up the run, and when they run they must
go between the tackles. They will not beat the athletic Seminole defense to the
outside.

The Florida State secondary has a pair of good safeties in Pat Wakins and
Kyler Hall. Both are seniors and very experienced players. However, the �Noles
struggle big time at the cornerback position.

Antonio Cromartie was supposed to be an All-American CB this year, but he
tore his ACL in the preseason. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Tony
Carter, a 5-9, 160 true freshman. When is the last time you saw a player of that
size starting for a Florida school? To make matter worse, Gerald Ross, the other
starting cornerback, was lost for the season with a knee injury. Replacing him
is true sophomore J.R. Bryant.

Behind Carter and Ross are two more freshmen, Michael Ray Garvin and Trevor
Ford. Garvin is another undersized true freshman at 5-8, 179. These players are
talented, but they are too young and too inexperienced to be starting for a team
of the stature of Florida State.

FSU has gotten very little production from these cornerbacks this season.
Tony Carter has registered four tackles for loss, but none of the corners have
had an interception the entire season. The Hokies need to challenge this group
of corners with their talented wide receiver corps and first team All-ACC
quarterback Marcus Vick.

Special Teams

I�m sure everyone remembers the success that FSU has had against Beamerball
in the past. The Seminoles blocked a punt against Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl,
as well as the 2002 Gator Bowl. Peter Warrick also returned a punt against Tech
in the National Championship game. FSU is just as athletic this year, and they
have already blocked five punts this season. That�s something to keep an eye
on this Saturday night.

Florida State�s leading kick returner, Kenny O�Neal, is suspended for the
game for missing the team bus back from the Florida game. O�Neal averages 22.7
yards per return. Lamar Lewis, Willie Reid and Fred Rouse are candidates to
replace Lewis as the primary kickoff returner. Reid is a very dangerous punt
returner, averaging 12.5 per return with one touchdown.

Gary Cismesia has been a solid kicker for the Seminoles this year, hitting 14
of his 19 field goal attempts. He is 12-of-16 from 30 yards or more and has had
one kick blocked. He isn�t the best kicker in the ACC, but he is very capable.
His longest kick of the year was 49 yards. The blocked kick came last week
against Florida, and it was returned for a touchdown.

Chris Hall, from Centreville, VA, is Florida State�s punter. He is only
averaging 38 yards per punt this year, but he has had none blocked and has
pinned the opposition inside the 20 yard line 17 times.

Predictions

I feel pretty good about this game in some ways, and I feel pretty bad about
it in other ways. I like the fact that Florida State is down. It�s tough to
have that famous FSU swagger when you have gotten blown out two games in a row
and lost a total of three in a row. But at the same time, they are very
talented. They are like a wounded animal and can be very dangerous.

I like Tech�s receivers and Marcus Vick going up against the young FSU
corners. But I also have thoughts about the Seminole front seven engulfing the
Tech offensive at the line of scrimmage. I love the Tech defensive line against
the patchwork �Nole offensive line. But I cringe when I remember that Bobby
Bowden is 13-0 against the Hokies, while Frank Beamer is 0-6 against Florida
State.

I think both teams can point to matchups where they feel their team has an
advantage. But I like the Hokies� discipline, defense and the mojo they�ve
worked up in their last two games. The Hokies win a game that is closer than the
experts think, and tack on a late touchdown that makes the game look more
lopsided than it actually will be.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Florida State 16

Will Stewart’s Take: This game is squarely on the shoulders of the VT
coordinators and Marcus Vick. With FSU’s offensive line as shaky as it is, VT
defensive coordinator Bud Foster should be able to take advantage of it, either
via the blitz or by letting his front four take care of business while the back
seven flood the coverage zones and try to confuse Weatherford.

Defensively, the key is pressure. If the Hokies can pressure Weatherford,
they can force him into bad plays and take advantage of turnovers. The Seminoles
are talking about rolling Weatherford out, away from the pressure that Jonathan
Lewis will no doubt bring, because it’s a strategy that worked well late in the
Florida game. If FSU takes that approach, it becomes the responsibility of
Darryl Tapp, Chris Ellis, and Noland Burchette to clamp down on Weatherford
getting outside and getting a good look at the field.

Offensively, I’d like to think that the Hokies can run the football, but I’m
not counting on it, at least not consistently. Running the ball well would make
the offense less dependent upon Marcus Vick having a good game, a proposition
that has been up and down lately. If Vick’s on, as he was against Virginia, WVU,
and Boston College, then forget about it, FSU will struggle to stop Tech.

If, on the other hand, the Noles pressure Vick early and rattle him, as Miami
and North Carolina did, this game will turn into a dogfight.

It’s up to Bud Foster to shut down the FSU offense, and it’s up to offensive
coordinator Bryan Stinespring to formulate a good game plan and adjust it
quickly based on how things are going.

I don’t think Frank Beamer’s blowing smoke when he says that VT will get
Florida State’s best game this Saturday. I believe that, too. Forget about FSU’s
last six games, Hokie fans, and concentrate on FSU’s talent and the fact that
Bobby Bowden has Frank Beamer’s number. This one’s going to be a knockdown,
drag-out affair, but I think Tech will finally break the FSU choke hold on the
boys from Blacksburg.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 20, Florida State 10

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