2006 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Kent State

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Saturday, November 11th, 2006, 3:30 pm

TV: ESPNU

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 2:30 pm Wednesday: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent
chance of rain. Temperature 60.


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


Game Preview: #21 VT (7-2, 4-2 ACC) vs. Kent State (5-4)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

A week after knocking off the hated Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl,
Virginia Tech will return to the friendly confines of Lane Stadium for a rare
November game against a MAC team. Kent State will be the opponent, and the
Hokies will be looking to fine tune their game as they head into final quarter
of the season.

Kent State started off the year by losing 44-0 to Minnesota and 17-14 to Army
in overtime. It looked like a repeat of last season, when the Golden Flashes
went 1-10, with their only victory coming over 1-AA Southeast Missouri State.

Then something funny happened. Kent State started winning. In fact, the
Golden Flashes pulled off five consecutive victories over Miami (OH), Bowling
Green, Akron, Temple and Toledo. It looked like they were going to be players in
the MAC race.

But then Frank Solich and Ohio came to town and knocked off Kent State 17-7.
Even with that loss, Kent State was still set up to have a great season, and it
looked like they were rebounding against Buffalo last week when they got up 14-0
early. But the wheels fell off, and Buffalo blew out the Golden Flashes to the
tune of 41-14.

At 5-4 and with two losses in conference play, Kent State doesn’t have much
of a chance of heading to a bowl game. But they have made tremendous strides
from last season. That said, they are going to have a very hard time dealing
with the Hokies on Saturday.

The Kent State Offense

The Kent State offense revolves around quarterback Julian Edelman. Edelman
has thrown for 1,490 yards on the year, completing 56.1% of his passes. He has a
bad passing ratio of eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he can also
make things happen with his feet.

Edelman has 589 rushing yards on the year, which is second on the team. If
not for taking 155 yards in losses from sacks, he would easily be the team’s
leading rusher. As it stands, he is still averaging 4.2 yards per carry on the
year, with seven rushing touchdowns. Kent State likes to use him by running the
option.

But Kent State might have to play this game without Edelman, who suffered a
bruised sternum in the Golden Flashes’ loss to Buffalo last weekend. If
Edelman can’t go, Michael Machen will get the start. If that happens, Kent
State will have to totally change their style of play. Machen is 6-6, 235, and
he is not an option quarterback. On the season, he has (-23) yards on the
ground.

Machen did start in 2005 for Kent State, but he did not have a good season
and was replaced this year by Edelman, who is much more mobile.

If Kent State has to start Machen and go to the drop back passing game, they
will be in serious trouble. Leading receiver Najah Pruden is doubtful for the
game on Saturday with an injured ankle. Pruden has 32 catches on the year, while
Marcus Hill, the second leading receiver, has 13. Pruden is in fifth place
all-time at Kent State in receptions with 105. His loss would severely limit the
passing game of the Golden Flashes.

If Kent State is without their starting quarterback and their top receiver,
they’ll have to rely on the ground game. The team’s leading rusher is Eugene
Jarvis, who has 592 yards on 120 carries this year, a 4.9 yards per carry average.
Kent State averages 178.2 yards per game on the ground, 22nd in the nation, but
that is with Edelman in the lineup.

Jarvis won’t be able to carry the load by himself. He is a scatback who
measures in at 5-5, 158. No, that’s not a misprint. He’s a quick player, but
to beat the Hokies in the running game, you need a guy who can run between the
tackles and break some tackles. Jarvis doesn’t fit that mold, although he is
having a fine season for a r-freshman.

The Kent State offensive line seems to be hit or miss. Obviously they have
blocked well enough for the offense to have the #22 running game in the country.
But they have also allowed 70 tackles for loss on the year, including 24 sacks.
The Virginia Tech defensive line and linebackers, which are known for their
ability to penetrate into the backfield, should have a big day against the
Golden Flashes.

The most experienced part of the offensive line is the right side, where
senior right guard Craig Rafdal and junior right tackle Joe Marafine anchor the
line.

The best out of conference team Kent State has played this year is Minnesota,
who is a below average Big Ten team. The Golden Flashes’ offense hasn’t
encountered the defensive speed that they will see on Saturday, or the type of
atmosphere that Lane Stadium will provide. The Hokies have a chance to record
their third shutout of the year on Saturday.

The Kent State Defense

The Golden Flashes need to sell out to stop the running game if they want any
hope of slowing down the Tech offense. Kent State ranks just 86th nationally
against the run, giving up 154.4 yards per game on the ground. Virginia Tech
will likely be without the services of left tackle Brandon Frye, who sprained an
ankle against Miami. But they will get bigger on the offensive line.

Nick Marshman will be Frye’s replacement at left tackle if Frye can’t
play, and Marshman checks in at 6-5, 351. He will line up next to left tackle
Brandon Gore, who is 6-5, 357. That’s a lot of beef on the left side of the
line for the Hokies.

The obvious mismatch here is Kent State true freshman defensive end Kevin
Hogan. Hogan measures in at just 6-3, 210. He is disruptive, making eight
tackles for loss on the season, and leading the team with 6.5 sacks. But Nick
Marshman will outweigh him by 141, and Duane Brown by 80. If the Tech offensive
tackles can get their hands in on his body, it will be a long afternoon for the
true freshman.

Kent State has a defense that can make some plays. They have 69 tackles for
loss on the year, which shows they have a lot of athleticism. But they can also
be blown off the ball, as they generally give up a lot of yardage on the ground.

The Golden Flashes will play strong safety Andre Kirkland up near the line of
scrimmage. Kirkland leads the team in tackles with 75. He also has eight tackles
for loss, and leads the team with 10 passes defended. Without a doubt, Kirkland
is the playmaker on defense.

Linebacker Stevon Moss is capable of making plays as well. He has 9.5 tackles
for loss on the year. Moss is just a sophomore, along with fellow starting
linebackers Cedrick Maxwell and Colin Ferrell, so the Kent State defense appears
to have a bright future with this group.

One player that the Hokies will have to account for up front is defensive
lineman Daniel Muir. Muir has 41 tackles on the season, with 9.5 tackles for
loss and 4.5 sacks. At 6-2, 285, he is a very strong player who is good at the
point of attack.

The Kent State secondary is very good. They return five players from last
year with starting experience. They rank eight in the country in pass defense,
allowing just 147.1 yards per game. They are also 10th in pass efficiency
defense.

We’ve already mentioned Andre Kirkland, the ball hawk at strong safety. The
Golden Flashes also have a senior corner named Usama Young who has good size
(6-0, 189) and who has started since he was a true freshman.

The other cornerback, Jack Williams, lacks size at 5-9, 176, but the junior
from Stafford, VA has started since he was a r-freshman. Williams leads the team
in interceptions with four. That’s quite a bit of experience to have at
cornerback, although the size of Josh Morgan and Justin Harper is a big mismatch
for Jack Williams.

Free safety Fritz Jacques is third on the team in tackles with 56. He also
has 2.5 tackles for loss, but he is undersized at 5-11, 176.

This is a defense with a young front seven that is capable of making plays in
the backfield. But they do get pushed around, and Branden Ore should have no
trouble having a big game this Saturday.

Special Teams

Kent State has a freshman kicker, Nate Reed, and a freshman punter, Jake
Kilroy. That’s never a good thing when you are going up against Frank Beamer’s
Pride and Joy.

The Golden Flashes have actually used two place kickers this season. Reid
Macko is 1-of-6 on the season, with a long of 21. Reed is 1-of-3 with a long of
30. Each kicker has had one field goal blocked. Kent State obviously doesn’t
have much confidence in their field goal kicking right now.

Kilroy hasn’t been much better with his punting. He is averaging just 33.1
yards per punt on the year, and Kent State is 109 nationally in net punting.
Again, big advantage for the Hokies.

In the return game, the Golden Flashes are equally as bad. They are 109th in
kickoff returns, averaging just above 17 yards per return. Their 7.3 average in
punt returns ranks 84th in the nation.

Virginia Tech could easily have their best special teams game of the season
on Saturday.

Conclusion

This one is setting up to be a blowout. Kent State is rolling into town with
injuries to their starting quarterback and best receiver. They are one of the
worst teams in the country in special teams. Their run defense isn’t very
good, and they haven’t played anyone close to Tech’s talent level this
season.

This is a game that the Hokies need. The starters likely won’t need to play
all four quarters. They can get some much needed rest after two physical games
against Clemson and Miami. Tech will need to be as healthy as possible when they
head to Wake Forest next week.

It’s also a good week to rest Branden Ore. Play him in the first half, but
let him sit down in the second half. He has had no less than 29 carries in each
of the last three games, and he’ll need to be healthy and fresh down the
stretch for the Hokies.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Kent State 0

Will Stewart’s Take: Sounds like Kent State might be able to do a little
something on defense if they catch the Hokies a little flat, but the Golden
Flashes are looking pretty meager on offense and special teams.

This is the kind of game where emotion and focus play a big part, and those
things are hard to predict. I can see Tech coming out a little flat, and KSU’s
defense, which has some playmakers on it, causing trouble early, as Cincinnati
did.

I’m not too worried about the Hokies losing (but on any given Saturday…),
but it might take a little time for them to get geared up and take off. Or it
might not. Who knows? I’m going a little bit more conservative with my pick.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Kent State 3

2006 TSL Football Game Predictions
(Through Miami; Closest Prediction Highlighted)

Game

Chris’
Prediction
(3 wins)
Will’s
Prediction
(2 wins)
Phil’s
Projection
(5 wins)

Result

N’Eastern 65-0 63-7 49-3 38-0
UNC 23-10 27-10 24-9 35-10
Duke 34-0 30-3 37-0 36-0
Cincinnati 34-6 31-3 38-3 29-13
GT 13-16 10-17 24-9 27-38
BC 30-17 27-20 20-17 3-22
S. Miss 24-6 23-10 27-6 36-6
Clemson 16-24 10-30 22-21 24-7
Miami 17-13 16-14 20-17 17-10

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