2006 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Virginia Tech vs. Southern Mississippi

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Last week’s Boston College game seemed eerily similar to an October visit
to Morgantown, West Virginia in 2003, at least to me. Critical mistakes on
offense, defense, and special teams, stupid penalties, players sniping at
players, ESPN announcers criticizing the program, fans calling for a new
quarterback, fans calling for coaching changes, not to mention a humiliating
loss to a rival in a hostile environment bring back some horrible memories. Will
this Virginia Tech team rebound from the last couple of losses like the 2004
team, or will this team collapse like the 2003 team? We should get some answers
this week against a very capable Southern Miss team.

With the regular season half over most, if not all, of Virginia Tech’s fans
have been disappointed by the performance in the last two games, and
particularly in the self-destruction in Chestnut Hill. Does Frank Beamer need to
make massive changes in the program as Kirk Herbstreit suggests? Or do the
Hokies simply need to regroup and execute better? I lean toward the latter
strategy, but some changes need to be made to put players in the best position
to win games.

The Hokies have their backs to the proverbial wall, so we shall see how much
character this team has beginning this Saturday against Southern Miss. Tech does
have some luck in its favor with the recent rash of injuries suffered by the
Golden Eagles. Freshman sensation running back Damion Fletcher is out for this
game because of a knee injury, preseason all-CUSA guard Travis Cooley will be
out this week with another knee injury, and starting defensive backs Caleb
Hendrix and LeVance Richmond are both listed as questionable with ankle
injuries, so Virginia Tech may be catching Southern Miss at the right time.

Even with the injuries, Southern Miss is still a dangerous team. The Golden
Eagles are athletic and aggressive on both sides of the ball. USM will look to