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Last week’s loss to Pitt was terrible, but it’s time to move forward. The Hokies get a home game against Bowling Green this weekend to try and get back on the right track.
Bowling Green is 1-2 on the season. They lost to Florida 27-14 on the road in a game that was very close until the end. They defeated Idaho 21-13 in their second game, and then fell to cross-town rival Toledo 27-15 this past weekend.
Despite the record of the Falcons, this is a game Virginia Tech could lose if they don’t play well. The Falcons have enough defensively to hold back VT’s struggling offense (ask Florida), and they have a veteran quarterback who put up big numbers a year ago.
Bowling Green is coached by Dave Clawson. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Clawson was the head coach at Richmond from 2004-07. He reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals once, and the semifinals once. The year after his Spiders made the semifinals, Mike London took over and won the 1-AA National Championship with Clawson’s players.
The Offense: A Veteran Quarterback Surrounded by Young Players
Bowling Green has a young offense. They start four r-freshmen, a sophomore tailback, and there is only one senior starter on the entire unit. They have struggled thus far this season, but better days are ahead in the future. However, we are talking about 2012, and this is exactly the type of offense you want to see the Tech defense go up against after struggling against Pitt.
Rushing offense: #101
Passing offense: #58
Total offense: #95
Scoring offense: #112
Passing efficiency: #109
Sacks allowed: #72
It’s hard to win football games when you can’t move the football, and you can’t score. The Falcons haven’t been able to do either this year. They have lots of youth all over the offense.
Left tackle: Fahn Cooper (6-4, 300, r-Fr.) is starting at this key position for Bowling Green. He is backed up by another very young player, Christian Piazza (6-7, 281, r-Fr.).
Right guard: Alex Huettel (6-3, 291, r-Fr.) is the starter at right guard. His presence gives Bowling Green two r-freshmen starters on the offensive line.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Falcons also start two r-freshmen at receiver. Ryan Burbrink (5-8, 181, r-Fr.) lines up in the slot, and he leads Bowling Green with 18 receptions. He hasn’t been much of a playmaker thus far, averaging only 7.3 yards per reception. Chris Gallon (6-4, 221, r-Fr.) is the other young starter, and he has 15 receptions for 180 yards.
That’s quite a bit of youth at critical positions, and it explains why veteran quarterback Matt Schilz (6-3, 220, r-Jr.) isn’t putting up the same numbers he put up in 2011. Last season, Schilz threw for 3,024 yards, with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his second year as a starter. Through three games in 2012, he has only one touchdown pass and three interceptions, and Bowling Green’s passing efficiency ratio is one of the worst in the country.
That’s understandable. He’s getting his timing down with young receivers, and his offensive line is young. Schilz is a good player who originally committed to Kansas State out of high school, before a coaching change sent him to Bowling Green instead. He’s a very capable passer, when he has the pieces around him.
The only senior starter on offense is right tackle Jordan Roussos (6-4, 303, Sr.). He started every game a season ago. Left guard Dominic Flewellyn (6-3, 293, Jr.) also started a year ago, and was an Honorable Mention All-MAC player.
The final starter up front is David Kekuewa (6-2, 308, Jr.). He is a Junior College transfer who, like the two starting r-freshmen, is trying to make the adjustment to 1-A college football. When you’ve got three starters new to 1-A football up front, and two r-freshmen at wide receiver, then it’s tough to get into any kind of a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball.
Matt Schilz does have a couple of veteran targets he can rely on. Alex Bayer (6-4, 253, r-Jr.) is very reliable catching the football at tight end, while Shaun Joplin (6-2, 197, r-Jr.) played a lot last season. Overall however, the passing game of Bowling Green is struggling.
Dave Clawson would be advised to stick to the running game against the Hokies. Tailback Anthon Samuel (5-11, 188, So.) has 218 yards on the season. He’s averaging 72.7 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. John Pettigrew (5-8, 178, Sr.) is undersized, but he’s an experienced runner as well.
I doubt Bowling Green’s running game will do much against Tech, but the objective should be to shorten the game, play field position, and force the Virginia Tech offense to consistently drive the ball down the field and score. Through three games, Virginia Tech hasn’t shown the ability to do that against anyone.
The Defense: Tough Up Front
David Wang is highly unlikely to play on Saturday. Even before Wang got hurt, the Hokies’ interior run blocking was sub-par, and that’s putting it mildly. The last thing they need to face right now is a dominant defensive tackle who is capable of playing in the backfield all afternoon. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they’ll face on Saturday.
Chris Jones (6-1, 293, Sr.) is arguably the best defensive lineman in the MAC. He’s very disruptive up front, and he’s capable of giving a VT interior line that has been blown off the ball the past two weeks a very hard time.
Jones has six TFL’s and 3.5 sacks through just three games in 2012. He was a First Team All-MAC defensive tackle in 2011 (14 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 3 FF), and Third Team in 2010 (11 TFL, 6 sacks). Against Central Michigan in 2010, he recorded five TFL and 3.5 sacks, earning National Defensive Lineman of the Week honors in the process. In short, if the same VT offensive line that showed up the last two weeks shows up again on Saturday, then Jones is going to make camp in the Virginia Tech backfield.
Unfortunately for Bowling Green, they lost defensive tackle Jairus Campbell to a foot injury during last week’s game, and he is out this weekend. Campbell is a solid player in his own right. Ted Ouellet (6-2, 282, r-Jr.) will start in his place, and the Falcons have no depth behind their starters. Taylor Royster (5-9, 252, r-Fr.) and Mike Minns (5-10, 317, Fr.) are the backup defensive tackles, and neither guy has made a tackle this season.
If you ordinarily skip over the heights and weights, go back and look at those figures for Royster and Minns in the previous paragraph. Look for Chris Jones to play every single snap at tackle this week.
The defensive ends haven’t proven to be playmakers so far this season. Zach Colvin (6-2, 268, So.), Charlie Walker (6-2, 238, r-So.), Bryan Thomas (6-2, 260, r-Jr.) and Ronnie Goble (6-2, 247, r-Jr.) have combined for 1.5 TFL’s and 0.5 sacks this year, all by Thomas.
Of course, the Tech offensive line will have to worry about more than defensive linemen. It’s almost certain that Bowling Green will bring a lot of different pressure packages at Logan Thomas to try and force the Hokies to make plays down the field. Look for Dwayne Woods (5-11, 225, Sr.) to be involved quite a bit. He was a First Team All-MAC player a year ago, racking up 111 tackles, 14 TFL and two sacks. In 2010, he registered 134 tackles. Woods is obviously a very active player, and the combination of him and DT Chris Jones on the interior makes it difficult to run right up the middle against Bowling Green.
Paul Swann (6-0, 230, r-Jr.) is the other linebacker, while Gabe Martin (6-1, 224, r-So.) plays Bowling Green’s version of whip linebacker (actually called a rover in Bowling Green’s system). Martin is a hybrid linebacker/defensive back. Because of their 4-2-5 style of defense, Bowling Green has versatility in their coverages and blitz packages, so look for them to throw the book at the Virginia Tech offense.
Despite the fact that they return four starters in the secondary, the weakness of the Bowling Green defense is pass defense. Opposing offenses are throwing for an average of 273 yards per game against the Falcons. Quarterbacks have gone a combined 64-of-88 (72.7%) for 819 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Here’s a look at the starters:
Cornerback: Darrell Hunter (5-8, 177, So.)
Cornerback: Cameron Truss (5-10, 182, r-Jr.)
Whip: Ryland Ward (5-10, 198, r-So.)
Stud: Booboo Gates (5-11, 213, Jr.)
Hunter is undersized, and Truss is actually the leading tackler on the team. When a cornerback leads the team in tackles, it’s usually not a good sign. Here’s a look at Bowling Green’s defensive numbers:
Rushing Defense: #39
Passing Defense: #95
Pass Eff. Defense: #107
Total Defense: #65
Scoring Defense: #54
Tackles for loss: #62
Bowling Green has struggled to make field goals this season. Stephen Stein (5-11, 187, r-Sr.) is 0-of-2, missing from inside 40 and inside 30. Tyler Tate (5-11, 175, r-Fr.) is 1-of-2, making a kick from 32 yards, while also missing another from inside 40. If the Falcons want a chance to pull the upset, they are likely going to have to score touchdowns.
Brian Schmiedebusch (6-3, 226, r-Jr.) is a First Team All-MAC punter. He boomed 19 punts 50 yards or more last season, and three more for 70+ yards, including a long of 81. He was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter.
Starting safety Booboo Gates is a dangerous return man. He had 981 kickoff return yards a year ago, which is a school record. He also returned one kick for a touchdown against Toledo. He set another school record with 233 kickoff return yards against West Virginia, and that number included a 77 yarder.
Bowling Green is using starting wide receiver Ryan Burbrink as their punt returner. He’s sure handed, but thus far he hasn’t proven to be a playmaker on offensive or special teams. Burbrink is a 2011 DeMatha (Maryland) grad, so some of Virginia Tech’s players will be familiar with him.
Bud Foster vowed to have the defense ready to play this week. He promised we will see a better effort, and he promised the Hokies will get better as a unit. Whenever the defense broke down in the past, Bud has always come back and fixed it. Every single time. (Note from Will: *cough – 2003 – *cough*) I have no reason to take him at anything less than his word. I believe the defense will play a good game on Saturday, and of course they’ll be aided by that young Bowling Green offense.
As far as the Virginia Tech offense goes, I’m not expecting a 180-degree turnaround. We aren’t going to see running backs picking up huge chunks of yards, and don’t expect to see wide receivers breaking open all over the field. Offenses don’t turn around overnight, not usually at least. They won’t look as awful as they did against Pitt (now that I said that … just wait). I’ll be interested to see how the Hokies do running it inside against First Team All-MAC players at defensive tackle and linebacker, and I really want to see Tech make progress in the passing game against a secondary that hasn’t been able to stop anybody.
Tech is favored by 19.5 points, last I checked. In 2011, the Hokies only covered the spread four times. In 2012, they haven’t even come close to covering. The defense will play well, and I think we’ll see a ho-hum performance from the offense. I’m picking the same score that I picked last week, hopefully with better results this time.
Chris Coleman’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Bowling Green 10
Will Stewart’s Take: Last week, I said that the Hokie offense should have a better idea of where they are, and start showing progress. I also said the Hokie defense would be sharp. Wrong on both counts.
So what to expect in this one? Defensively, VT should get more effort from a defense that last week appeared unmotivated and unprepared. If they’re going to kick it in gear, it has to be this week, starting now. It has to come from the players. Bud Foster and Charley Wiles tried to tell their guys to take Pitt seriously, and they didn’t listen, so the motivation must come from within, and from the defensive leaders.
Offensively, it’s going to be interesting to see what the Hokies do. Typically, when faced with a struggling offense, they turn to the running game and go back to the basics. The problem is, Bowling Green is (relatively) strong up the middle and has a decent run defense, but is terrible against the pass. Don’t ask me to predict what the Hokies are going to do here, because the program culture says one thing (run), but film study says another (pass).
Really, this whole game is unpredictable, so I’m going to quit babbling, put on my blindfold, and throw a dart at the wall.
Oh, look, my dart hit the same prediction that Chris made.
Will Stewart’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Bowling Green 10