2006 Monday Thoughts: The Southern Miss Game

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Losing this one was out of the question. That wouldn’t do, not with Clemson and Miami next on the docket. Lose this
one, and the Hokies were staring down the barrel of a 4-5 record after nine games. A losing record nine games into the
season? The last time that happened was 1992, and that’s not a time or a place the Hokies want to return to.

VT did what they needed to do, and they did it easily. Southern Miss made some plays in this game, but the Hokies were
in control from start to finish, and their 36-6 victory wasn’t one that Tech sweated out at any point. The key? The
Hokies controlled the line of scrimmage and field position.

There is no doubt in my mind that this game was the offensive line’s best game all season. The measure of how well an
offensive line is doing is whether or not it’s getting second-level penetration into the defense. Is the line just
holding its own, or maybe getting pushed backwards, or is it moving forward and making contact with linebackers and
defensive backs?

It’s that second-level penetration by the o-line that will kill a defense every time. I learned this watching game
film of the 2002 and 2003 Hokies. Those two defenses were stricken with poor defensive tackle play, and the rest of the
defense suffered because of it. If the offensive line is getting a good push, then every running play is worth 2-3 yards
before it even gets started. If the defensive tackles are getting pushed back into the defense, it’s clogging up the
pursuit lanes for the linebackers and defensive backs. If the pursuit lanes are closed off and an LB or DB picks the
wrong gap to attack, then he can’t correct his mistake and he’s out of the play.

I watched too many examples of that a few years ago. I remember one long TD run by WVU’s Quincy Wilson in 2002, where
the Mountaineers’ left tackle effectively blocked three Tech players. The tackle pushed a Tech defensive end back into a
Tech linebacker, stopping both of them. Hokie free safety Willie Pile, who was playing close to the line,