2006 Football Game Preview: VT vs. Northeastern

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Saturday, September 2nd, 2006, 1:30

“TV”: ESPN360

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 3:00 pm Wednesday: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent
chance of showers. Highs in the upper 70s.

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

Game Preview: #16 Virginia Tech vs. Northeastern

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

There certainly was a lot more hype over the last two season openers, wasn’t
there? In 2004 the Hokies took on #1 USC in FedExField in Landover, MD, a highly
anticipated game by Tech fans. Last season Tech played at NC State in a Sunday
night nationally televised game to open the season. This year’s opponent,
D-1AA Northeastern, doesn’t inspire the same sort of excitement.

The Northeastern Huskies managed only two wins during the 2005 season. They
knocked off Towson 56-41 and beat Rhode Island 17-14 in the season finale. They
lost blowouts to Youngstown State (35-16), Villanova (38-20), UMass (27-0) and
New Hampshire (52-21). They lost five other games by a total of 15 points. They
were close to being fairly successful on the D-1AA level, but not quite.

The Northeastern Offense

Northeastern will more than likely use two quarterbacks against the Hokies.
Anthony Orio is listed as the starter against Tech. The sophomore didn’t have
a very successful campaign in 2005, completing just 49.2% of his passes for
1,198 yards. He threw eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

The other quarterback, sophomore John Sperrazza, was much more effective than
Orio. He completed 57.5% of his passes for 663 yards. His had a very impressive
TD to INT ratio, with six touchdowns and just one interception. You’ll
probably see both Orio and Sperrazza against the Hokies on Saturday.

Northeastern’s best player is junior tailback Maurice Murray. Murray is a
bruising runner at 6-0, 220. He carried the ball 222 times for 998 yards last
season, scoring 10 touchdowns. The Huskies will probably try to establish the
run against Tech to try to keep the Hokies’ offense off the field and to hold
the score down.

Northeastern’s offensive line is going to struggle against Tech’s
defensive front. The Huskies return just two starters, and start two sophomores
and a freshman at guard and center. Their biggest offensive lineman, right
tackle Tim Avery, stands 6-7, 345. However he has been a career backup until
this year, his senior year. He is not equipped with the skill to hold off the
Virginia Tech defensive ends. If Chris Ellis doesn’t hit the quarterback every
other play, it’s because Chris Ellis just doesn’t feel like it.

To make matters worse for Northeastern, they are going to start two freshmen
at wide receiver, which is a terrible matchup against Tech’s very talented
secondary, despite the VT depth problems caused by preseason injuries.

If the Huskies want to score against Tech, they’re going to have to wait
until very late in the game.

The Northeastern Defense

Northeastern runs a 3-4 defense, and they have a solid linebacking corps and
one good defensive end. Matt Campopiano, the only returning starter on the
defensive line, led the team with six sacks last season.

Northeastern returns three starters at linebacker, and they are led by
outside linebacker Jamil Young. Young is the biggest playmaker on the
Northeastern defense and is a solid athlete. He led the team with 95 tackles
last year, including 9.5 behind the line of scrimmage. He also added two sacks.

Joe Mele and Craig Kenney return as starting inside linebackers for
Northeastern. Mele recorded 76 tackles and six tackles for loss last year, while
Kenny had 53 tackles and three tackles for loss.

Don’t expect the Northeastern pass defense to challenge Tech’s passing
game. The Huskies picked off just eight passes in 11 games last season.
Linebacker Jamil Young and safety Lamar Gay had two each.

Everybody on Tech’s offense should be able to make some big plays against
the Northeastern defense. They have a couple of good players, but overall their
talent level is low and there is no depth.


Pretty short preview, huh? I tried. I read Northeastern’s game notes, but
couldn’t find anything that will make this matchup more intriguing. Frank
Beamer revealed on Hokie Hotline Monday night that Northeastern coach Rocky
Hager was part of the Temple staff whose team upset the Hokies back in 1998. And
seriously, that’s the most dramatic thing I could come up with.

It’s tough to get fired up about the actual game. We all know what’s
going to happen. I’m going to watch the quarterbacks, and I’m going to wait
anxiously for everybody’s (well, mine anyway) favorite walk-on, Dustin Pickle,
to score his first collegiate touchdown.

Other than that, I’m just going to enjoy the tailgating and my friends, and
be glad that Hokie football is finally back.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 65, Northeastern 0

Will Stewart’s Take: Virginia Tech goes down to shocking defeat in a
storm of turnovers and penalties.

Will’s Prediction: Northeastern 28, Virginia Tech 24

Ha-ha, right. I won’t jeer at Northeastern too hard, because in the five
years that I played football, I played for two really bad teams, both of them
winless. The first year I played little league football, my team went 0-6-1 (the
tie was a 2-2 tie, if you can believe that), and the last year I played, my team
went 0-8, or maybe 0-9 (go Albemarle High School ninth grade football!). Despite
playing for those bad teams, we had a lot of pride, though why, I can’t say.
Football is a bonding experience, win or lose, and those who play it shouldn’t
be sneered at. All players work hard and have to sacrifice some things from
their lives for the privilege of strapping on a helmet.

This one will not be close, though, and the only drama for Tech fans will be
to watch the quarterbacks — post-game breakdowns of the QBs will be prime
message board fodder — and hope that no Tech players get hurt. The last time
Tech played an opener with this type of blowout potential was the 2002 Hispanic
College Fund Classic against Arkansas State, where the only thing that got
injured were the redshirts of Mike Imoh and Danny McGrath.

The score of that 2002 game was 63-7, and as the old saying goes, it
wasn’t that close
. DeAngelo Hall returned the game’s first punt 68 yards for
a score, and Tech held a 56-0 lead at half time before calling off the dogs and
giving career third-string QB Will Hunt some playing time. (There’s a “That
dog Will Hunt” joke in there somewhere, but I can’t put it together.)

This game will be a chance for many of Tech’s backups to play, some for
perhaps the only time ever. Hunt, for example, may have taken some kneel-down
snaps later in his career, but he never got to hand off or throw a pass again,
except in JV games. If nothing else, it’s a chance for those guys to have their
day in the sun, and a chance for Tech fans to see some players they might never
see again.

Anyway, I have typed my allotted four paragraphs. See you at the tailgates.

Will’s Prediction: What the heck, 63-7 works.

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