2010 Football Game Preview: #13 Virginia Tech vs. Virginia

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  • Date: Saturday, November 27, 2010
  • Time: Noon
  • TV: The ACC Network

For weather information and a roster card link, see the Info Center to the

Virginia Tech has won six straight games against in-state rival UVA, and
they’ll look to make it seven in a row this Saturday in Lane Stadium. This isn’t
just a warmup game for the December 4th ACC Championship Game against either
Florida State or NC State. It’s Senior Day for Tyrod Taylor, John Graves, Rashad
Carmichael and several other great seniors.

The following seniors will get their last shot at UVA on Saturday. They’ve
never lost to the Hoos.

Name Pos.

Ron Cooper


Rashad Carmichael


Andre Smith


Josh Eadie


Steven Friday


John Graves


Prince Parker


Brian Saunders


Rob Stanton


Chris Hazley


Beau Warren


Kenny Younger


Zach Luckett


Jeff Wardach


Tyrod Taylor


Davon Morgan


Starters in Bold/Italics

The Hokies don’t have a lot of seniors in the starting lineup this year, but
there are some important players on that list. They have defeated UVA three
years in a row, and the Hokies as a program have knocked off the Hoos for six
consecutive seasons, five times by double figures. This just hasn’t been a close
series recently.

Virginia is 4-7 on the year, with one rousing win over Miami, two wins over
1-AA programs and one win over an Eastern Michigan team that has won three of
their last 23 games. For the most part, the Hoos are getting bombed by anyone
with they play who is halfway decent. There hasn’t been a lot to be excited
about in Charlottesville recently, though if you look close enough, there are a
few bright spots.

The Virginia Offense

Virginia’s offense has been better than most people would have reasonably
expected this year. That’s mostly due to a much improved offensive line, quality
tailbacks and receivers who are finally productive.

Virginia Offense
Category Stat Rank

145.6 ypg 77

269.6 ypg 25

415.2 ypg 34

27 ppg 61

Pass Eff.
126.1 74

1.73 spg 49

Third Downs
39.38% 65

The Virginia offense is led by quarterback Marc Verica (6-3, 215, Sr.). No one
will mistake Verica for an All-ACC quarterback, but he’s made strides during his
senior season. He has completed nearly 60% of his passes for 2,631 yards, with
14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s thrown a few too many interceptions,
and the Virginia coaching staff would probably like to rely on their running
game more, but because the defense is so bad they find themselves in many
situations where they have to throw the ball because they are behind on the

With -57 rushing yards on the season, Verica is not a running threat. The
Hokies can expect him to stay in the pocket all day long.

Virginia could also get some reps for Ross Metheny (6-2, 200, r-Fr.) and
Michael Rocco (6-3, 210, Fr.). These two players are very close on the depth
chart, and are expected to have a good battle in the spring for the starting
quarterback position. Rocco probably has a slight lead right now, but there is
still plenty of time for Metheny. Real reps in a game situation would help both
players heading into the spring.

The Hoos have finally gotten some reliable wide receiver play this year.
Dontrell Inman (6-3, 200, Sr.) and Kris Burd (5-11, 195, Jr.) have combined for
103 receptions for 1,502 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. They are the
first wide receiver duo in Virginia history to each have over 700 yards
receiving in the same season. Matt Snyder (6-4, 205, Jr.) has also been
reliable, with 28 catches for 356 yards.

That said, as long as Rashad Carmichael (ankle) can play on Saturday, this
group of wide receivers doesn’t pose as big a threat as some of the other
wideouts the Hokies have faced this year, such as Dwight Jones, all the Miami
receivers, and the Boise State wideouts. The Tech secondary matches up very
well, as usual.

Tight end Colter Phillips (6-6, 250, So.) has 17 catches for 154 yards and
three touchdowns. He makes for a very good target in the red zone. Starting
tailback Perry Jones (5-8, 185, So.) is a very good receiver out of the
backfield, with 28 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown.

Speaking of running backs, the Hoos have a couple of good ones in Jones and
Keith Payne (6-3, 255, Sr.), and Raynard Horne (6-0, 210, Sr.) is capable as
well. They have put up good numbers this season behind their improved offensive
line. Payne leads the team with 153 carries for 741 yards, 4.8 yards per carry
and 14 rushing touchdowns. He has great size and is a perfect short yardage

Jones lacks size, though he runs like he’s 220 rather than 185. He hits the
hole hard, and he’s explosive and strong. He has 126 carries for 635 yards, and
he averages exactly five yards per carry. Payne missed the Boston College game
because of a leg injury and is questionable for Virginia Tech. He would be a big
loss. If he can’t go, then Raynard Horne will get some carries. He has 34
carries for 149 yards on the season.

The Virginia running game has been successful this year because the offensive
line has been one of the few bright spots in Charlottesville.

UVA Offensive Line
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Oday Aboushi
6-6 295 So.
Austin Pasztor
6-7 320 Jr.
Anthony Mihota
6-4 280 Jr.
B.J. Cabbell
6-6 310 Sr.
Morgan Moses
6-6 350 Fr.

That’s a big, physical group. Morgan Moses was one of the top recruits in the
country, and he’s very similar to true freshman offensive tackle Seantrel
Henderson of Miami, whom the Hokies faced last week. Austin Pasztor has been in
the starting lineup since he was a 17 year old true freshman. Anthony Mihota is
the smallest player up front for the Hoos, but perhaps the toughest.

The real reason that UVA upset Miami was because of their offensive line. The
Miami front seven was constantly blown off the ball that day, as the Hoos racked
up 185 yards on the ground and controlled the football for four quarters. With
the way Virginia Tech has stopped (or not stopped) the run recently, this is a
unit that could give the Hokies plenty of trouble.

Virginia would probably like to run the ball a lot more and play to their
strengths, but thanks to a very bad defense they are constantly playing from

The Virginia Defense

With Al Groh gone, the Hoos have switched back to a 4-3 defense. The changed
hasn’t helped, as UVA is one of the worst defensive football teams in the

Virginia Defense
Category Stat Rank

203.9 ypg 106

193.4 ypg 29

397.3 ypg 80

27.5 ppg 71

Pass Eff.
127.7 64

1.64 spg 87

Third Downs
42.21% 85

Throw out games against two 1-AA opponents (Richmond, VMI) and a game against a
team with 1-AA talent (Eastern Michigan), and UVA is allowing 220.4 yards per
game on the ground and 217.6 yards per game through the air. That’s 438 yards of
total offense allowed per game against teams they don’t completely outmatch in
talent. They obviously don’t outmatch Virginia Tech in talent, and they are
going to have a lot of trouble slowing down the Tech offense with all of its
star power.

Part of UVA’s troubles in stopping the run stems from a major lack of size on
the inside at defensive tackle. John-Kevin Dolce (6-2, 250, Sr.), Nick Jenkins
(6-3, 275, Jr.), Matt Conrath (6-7, 270, Jr.) and Will Hill (6-4, 265, So.) make
up the playing rotation at defensive tackle, and there’s just not enough mass in
that group. Dolce is UVA’s version of Demetrious Taylor, except he’s even
smaller. Conrath is a former starter at defensive end when UVA ran the 3-4.

The defensive ends are more productive, with Cam Johnson (6-4, 265, Jr.)
headlining this group. Johnson is a former outside linebacker in the 3-4, and he
has 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He has more plays in several individual
games as a defensive end than he did all of last season as a starter at outside

The other defensive end is Zane Parr (6-6, 275, Jr.), who has seven tackles
for loss as a run stopping specialist. Jake Snyder (6-4, 255, r-Fr.) will also
see time at defensive end. He is a former Virginia Tech recruiting target, one
of the few players that the Hoos beat the Hokies for over the last several
years. He is the brother of wide receiver Matt Snyder.

LaRoy Reynolds (6-2, 220, So.) is an impressive young prospect at linebacker.
He would probably be starting at backer for the Hokies this year. He has seven
tackles for loss and a sack, and he leads the team with 65 total tackles.
Reynolds has an impressive work ethic and has a bright future in college.

Steve Greer (6-2, 230, So.) and Darnell Carter (6-3, 240, Sr.) split time at
middle linebacker. They’ve combined for 12 tackles for loss and three sacks this
season. The weakside backer spot is filled by Ausar Walcott (6-4, 230, So.), and
he is the weak link of all the UVA linebackers.

With cornerback Ras-I Dowling missing most of the season due to injury, the
secondary hasn’t been as strong as expected. Chase Minnifield (6-0, 185, Jr.)
has six interceptions and has had a good season overall. He is the son of Frank
Minnifield, a former Pro Bowl cornerback with the Cleveland Browns.

Mike Parker (6-2, 205, Sr.) is starting with Ras-I Dowling out of the lineup.
As usual, UVA has a starting cornerback who is probably more suited to safety,
and Parker is that guy this season. Devin Wallace (5-11, 205, So.) also has
starting experience, but neither he nor Parker has any interceptions this

Trey Womack (5-11, 190, Sr.) starts at free safety, with Rodney McLeod (5-10,
180, Jr.) starting at strong safety. Both players are somewhat undersized for
safeties, and could struggle downfield against Tech’s bigger receivers.

Asking this defense to contain the Virginia Tech offense is asking too much.
Four ACC teams have given up 400+ yards per game in conference play this year,
and Virginia’s defense is actually the worst of those four schools.

ACC Defenses, Conference Games

Georgia Tech
177.5 223.9 401.4

Wake Forest
187.1 245.4 432.5

201.1 247.7 448.9

233.7 219.9 453.6

The Hoos have been gashed by pretty much every ACC opponent they have played,
particularly on the ground. It’s tough to imagine them being able to stop a
Virginia Tech ground game featuring Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, Darren Evans
and David Wilson. Those four players have combined for 404 carries for 2,161
yards, 5.35 yards per carry and 24 touchdowns. If ever there was a mismatch this
season, this is it.

Special Teams

To win this game, Virginia will need some help from their special teams and
win the hidden yardage battle.

Special Teams
Category Rank

Net Punting

Punt Returns

Punt Return Defense

Kick Returns

Kick Return Defense

UVA’s special teams have been very average this season. Punter Jimmy Howell
(6-6, 240, Jr.) is a big guy, and he’s averaging 42.4 yards per punt this year.
He has pinned opponents inside their 20 on 12 different occasions. He’ll need to
do that several times on Saturday, otherwise the UVA defense isn’t going to have
a lot of success with the VT offense.

Robert Randolph (5-10, 165, Jr.) is a solid kicker who is 10-of-14 on the
season, with a long of 44 yards. He doesn’t have a huge leg, but in generally he
is very accurate from inside 40 yards. The Hoos have used Chris Hinkebein (6-1,
195, Jr.) for a few of their long field goals this year, and he is 1-of-3 from
beyond 50 yards. He also handles the kickoff duties.

Chase Minnifield and Perry Jones have handled the punt return duties this
year, and both have been ineffective. Minnifiend averages 6.9 yards per return,
and Jones averages 7.5. Jones and Raynard Horne return kicks, and Horne returned
one 87 yards for a touchdown. Tech’s punt coverage team has been excellent this
year, but their kickoff coverage team has been average.

Final Thoughts

Virginia Tech has given UVA a couple of good whippings since ACC expansion:
52-14 in 2005, and 42-13 a year ago. They also shut the Hoos out 17-0 in 2006.
However, this year’s matchup could be the worst of all for UVA thanks to two
reasons: defense and turnover margin.

UVA is 93rd nationally in turnover margin, while the Hokies are #1. Tech’s
defense isn’t as strong up front as they generally are, but they make up for it
by taking the football away.

And of course, we covered UVA’s defense earlier. There’s no way to be kind
… those guys are just bad, particularly against the run, and they’ve also
shown a tendency to give up big plays through the air. The Hokies are very much
capable of pounding the rock, and very much capable of hitting big plays in the
passing game. That smells like trouble for the Hoos.

Virginia is the only team ever to score 48 points on Duke and still
manage to lose to the Blue Devils. Duke has been playing football since 1922,
and no other team has scored 48 points on them and lost. The Blue Devils beat
UVA 55-48, and it was the first time since 1994 (when Duke went 8-4) that
they’ve scored more than 50 points in a football game. Like I’ve been saying …
the UVA defense is horrid.

I think Virginia will have an opportunity to have some success on the ground.
They are averaging 415 yards per game in total offense. They haven’t had a lot
of trouble moving the football. However, the Hokies won’t have any trouble
scoring, and once UVA has to play from behind, they’ll have to throw the ball
into the teeth of VT’s outstanding secondary. That’s when things will start
going south in a hurry.

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 44, UVA 17

Will Stewart’s Take: Frankly, I miss the days when this rivalry used to
make my stomach churn with anxiety. Beginning with Virginia’s stunning 26-23 win
in Lane Stadium my sophomore year (1984), the annual clash between the Hokies
and Hoos was a back and forth affair. During the 15-game stretch from 1984-1998,
the Hokies went just 6-9 against Virginia.

Those 15 years were the modern heyday of Virginia football, and the Hoos
clearly had the upper hand in the rivalry. Gradually, the Hokies pulled even,
and starting with Virginia Tech’s easy 31-7 win in Charlottesville in 1999, the
series has been extremely lopsided. The Hokies have won 10 of the last 11, with
the one loss coming in 2003, at a time when the Hokie football team was playing
some of its worst football of the last decade. The Cavaliers dealt the Hokies a
35-21 loss in the middle of an 11-game stretch over two seasons that saw Tech
win just four games.

The rivalry reached its fever pitch from 1993-1999, as Tech was in the
process of wrestling in-state dominance away from Virginia. Both teams were
nationally ranked in six of those seven games (1997 was the sole exception, when
neither team was ranked), and the Hokies won four of those seven games. The
upstart Hokies were part of the brand new Big East conference, and they were
trying to knock off the Cavaliers of the well-established ACC.

As the balance of power on the field was shifting during those years, the
balance of power off the field — in recruiting, conference membership, and
program prestige — was also shifting in Tech’s direction. The stakes were high,
and the two teams played like it, and the fan bases were energized by it.

Those days are over. Frank Beamer’s Hokies won the war over George Welsh’s
Cavaliers. Al Groh couldn’t reverse the damage, and in fact, made it worse. For
the time being, this is how it is, and the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has
taken a back seat to the Hokies’ rivalries with Miami and even UNC and Georgia
Tech. It’s a shame, but these things run in cycles, and UVa is bound to have
their day in the sun again.

Despite all that, Virginia has made it tough going in the early stages of the
last three games:

  • 2007 (Charlottesville): Leading just 23-21 after three quarters,
    the Hokies score the last ten points of the game to win 33-21.
  • 2008 (Blacksburg): Down 14-7 at half time, the Hokies outscore the
    Hoos 10-0 in the second half to win 17-14.
  • 2009 (Charlottesville): Virginia scores first and trails just 14-13
    at half time, but a 28-0 second half spurs the Hokies to an easy 42-13 win.

If Virginia has a smart, run-based game plan, they can keep this thing close,
perhaps for a while. As Chris detailed, the Hoos have the offensive line and
running backs to pick up yardage on one of the weakest Hokie run defenses in

It’s unrealistic, though, to expect Virginia to go a full four quarters with
the Hokies. And if it comes down to it, there’s no way that senior quarterback
Tyrod Taylor is going to walk off Lane Stadium’s turf the last time as a loser,
especially not to Virginia.

I don’t really need to say a whole lot more than that. I think Virginia will
be competitive early, but it won’t last. The final score will be very similar to
last year, and as the game goes on, the main point of interest will be waiting
to see when Frank Beamer decides to pull Tyrod Taylor from the game and keep him
healthy for the ACC Championship Game. When that happens, there will be
thunderous applause when #5 exits Worsham Field for the last time.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 45, Virginia 17