Virginia Tech Searching For Sustained Success on the Ground vs. Pittsburgh

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2016.10.20. University of Miami (Canes, Hurricanes) at Virginia Tech (Hokies). Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA. Final score: Virginia Tech 37, UM 16.
Travon McMillian (34) had himself quite the game on Thursday vs. Miami. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

The 37-16 win over Miami last Thursday was huge, but this game might be even more important for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies travel to Pittsburgh this week for their second-straight Thursday night game. Virginia Tech will play at Heinz Field, a venue where the Hokies are 0-4.

Luckily for Virginia Tech, most of the people who were around for the 2014 loss to Pittsburgh at Heinz Field are gone, including the  majority of the coaching staff. Even at Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech has struggled vs. the Panthers. Since the Panthers joined the ACC for the 2012 season, Virginia Tech is just 1-3 against them.

“It’s not something that we’ve addressed,” said Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente on Monday. “The previous results have no bearing on future outcomes.”

Foster said that playing at Heinz Field has nothing to do with Virginia Tech’s struggles vs. Pittsburgh.

“I don’t think it’s Heinz Field, I think it has everything to do with Pitt,” Foster said. “They’ve played extremely well when we’ve gone up there and we need to go play. It’s not Heinz Field, and we have the utmost respect for Pitt. We’ve had some great games with those guys. They’ve had our number the last few times, whether it’s home or away.”

Pittsburgh a “heavy run-stop” team

Running the ball on Thursday will be paramount for the Hokies. Virginia Tech had their best game on the ground of the season vs. Miami, rushing for 251 yards. Travon McMillian had arguably the best game of his season so far, carrying the ball 18 times for 131 yards.

“I would say part of it was the way we were being played,” Fuente said. “Travon ran as hard as I’ve seen him run since I’ve been here.”

McMillian credited his offensive line for his breakout performance.

“The offensive line did a great job up front,” McMillian said. “They allowed me to see some creases. I don’t know, I was running with a lot of confidence. The hogs just did a great job up front.”

2016.10.20. University of Miami (Canes, Hurricanes) at Virginia Tech (Hokies). Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA. Final score: Virginia Tech 37, UM 16.
Jerod Evans (4) has made more of an impact in the running game in recent weeks. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Jerod Evans had himself quite the day on the ground as well, rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown. Evans said that the running backs are starting get a better feel for Fuente’s offense.

“I think the guys, the running backs, are getting more comfortable with the style,” Evans said. “Trusting what they see. It’s definitely critical in what we want to do, as far as run and pass and not just keying on certain guys. That was definitely beneficial, especially against a talented group like Miami. I mean those guys really are freakish.”

“Yeah this offense, the running scheme and everything, they’re blocked differently,” McMillian said. “You’ve just got to be a lot more patient and see things develop.”

Pittsburgh won’t impress anyone with their passing defense, but they’ve been solid against the run all season. The Panthers are fifth in rushing defense, allowing 96.6 yards per game on the ground.

“The makeup of their team starts with running the football and stopping the run and they’ve been successful at that, that’s why they’re winning ballgames,” Fuente said.

Evans even compared Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme to Boston College, saying that they want to force the quarterback to make plays.

“They’re a heavy run-stop team,” Evans said. “They will force you to throw in man-to-man coverage. I would say a little bit like Boston College, where they force you to throw the football, which I have no problem doing.”

Even though Pittsburgh keys in on the run, McMillian still sees an opportunity for a big game.

“They’re really good up front, their front seven is really good,” McMillian said. “I’ll have one-on-one opportunities with the safeties and things like that, so it’s going to be important for me to make those guys miss and create big runs.”

News and notes

Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds, as well as Woody Baron, all won defensive player of the week awards for their positions due to their performances vs. Miami.

Terrell Edmunds had seven total tackles and a diving interception in the win, while his brother Tremaine led the Hokies in total tackles with 10. Tremaine also registered a sack and two tackles for loss. Baron had the best game of anyone on defense, finishing with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Ken Ekanem and Nigel Williams both missed the game vs. Miami on Thursday and their status for Pittsburgh is unknown at this point. Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster said on Monday that the team would know more after practice on Tuesday night.

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8 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Pitt’s 2nd leading rusher is Quadree Henderson, who is listed as a 5’10” WR. Are they lining him up as a RB or just running a LOT of sweeps? He got roughly 7 carries a game for a 5 game stretch, but was back down to just 1 carry against UVA.

  2. Narduzzi to Pitt team: “Everything you wanted to do at the beginning of the season is sitting right in front of you on this Thursday night”

    They will be ready!

  3. Pitt did not jointhe ACC for the 2012 season. The 2012 game, which I attended (to my utter dismay and Pitt fans’ conplete shock), was a non-conference game. The first of a home-and-home that became a conference game by 2013.

  4. Is part of the reason Pitt is only giving up 97 yds/game on the ground because they are so easy to pass against that teams are electing to move the ball thru the air — the path of least resistance? I’m not saying they don’t have a good run D, but is that #5 ranking a little bit misleading?

    1. I was thinking the same(What kind of offense do the teams they have played run?). We need to make sure to ask CC for this weeks question.

    2. GT ran against them pretty well (45-241). no one else has, and it’s not just lack of trying. Everyone except GT has been held below 4 yards per carry against them.

      Villanova 33-53, 1.61, 0 td
      Penn St 31-74, 2.39, 4 td
      @ Oklahoma St. 32-100, 3.13, 4 td
      @ 20 North Carolina 22-18, 0.82, 0 td
      Marshall 30-104, 3.47, 2 td
      Georgia Tech 45-241, 5.36, 2 td
      @ Virginia 26-86, 3.31 3 td

      1. Are those the rushing touchdowns? They seem to give up a lot of TD’s on the ground for giving up so few yards…

        1. They are indeed rushing TDs. Some of those games were high scoring.

          Villanova 33-53, 1.61, 0 td: 28-7 Pitt
          Penn St 31-74, 2.39, 4 td: 43-39 Pitt
          @ Oklahoma St. 32-100, 3.13, 4 td: 45-38 OKST
          @ 20 North Carolina 22-18, 0.82, 0 td: 37-36 UNC
          Marshall 30-104, 3.47, 2 td: 43-27 Pitt
          Georgia Tech 45-241, 5.36, 2 td: 37-34 Pitt
          @ Virginia 26-86, 3.31 3 td: 45-31 UVA

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