TheSabre.com’s Game Preview, Part 1

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In Virginia’s last road game at Florida State, the Hoos had a punt blocked
that helped start a 33-0 blowout by the Seminoles. If the Cavaliers have a
similar disaster on special teams this week, you can probably expect a
blowout in Blacksburg. The scariest part about that fact? Virginia Tech is
better on special teams than FSU – in fact, the Hokies are among the best in the
business.

Special Teams

Beamerball may be a catch phrase but the Hokies believe in it and after a
couple of sub-par seasons by Virginia Tech standards in the special teams
rankings, the Hokies are arguably one of the best special teams units in the ACC
in 2006.

It starts with the Hokies’ habit of blocking kicks. This season Tech
has blocked three punts and two field goals. Nothing changes the dynamic of a
game like a blocked kick or big play on special teams. The Hokies have also
produced two punt returns in excess of 40 yards and a 55-yard kickoff return.

Tech ranks 8th in the conference in kickoff returns and will be facing the
ACC’s third best kickoff coverage unit. On the other side, Virginia is fourth in
the conference returning kicks and will match-up against the league’s top
coverage unit in the Hokies.

At 6-2, 276 pounds, Nic Schmitt isn’t your prototypical punter. The
left-footed specialist gets excellent loft and is decent at nailing opponents
inside the 20 if needed. Last year, he was named one of 10 semifinalists
for the Ray Guy Award. He is averaging 41.3 yards on 52 punts this year
with a long of 58 yards and 12 downed inside the 20. Surprisingly Tech’s
net punting numbers are down this season as the Hokies are 8th (34.4) in
the ACC just behind Virginia (34.7 net).

Virginia’s punting duo of short-range specialist
Chris Gould and Ryan Weigand averages 38.7 yards per kick. Weigand is averaging
41.5 yards per kick and Gould has placed 27 of his 54 punts inside the 20-yard
line. Opponents are averaging just 2.7 yards per return against the Hoos,
thanks in large part to the play of gunners Vic Hall and Mike Brown.

Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal is a threat in the punt return game, leading the
league in conference play with 14.4 yards per return average. Virginia’s Brown
is fourth at 9.8. Royal’s numbers

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