Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: LSU

At long last LSU will get their rematch with the Hokies in Baton Rouge. The
Tigers have looked for revenge for their 26-8 loss in 2002 for quite some time.
All of those players are gone, but their fans have certainly not forgotten. A
national audience will be watching as these two defensive powerhouses square off
in the first huge game with national title implications. However, the key to
this game will likely be the performance of the offenses.

Most fans are predicting a low-scoring defensive slugfest with turnovers,
field position, and special teams playing the most significant role. I agree
that all of these factors are certainly critical, but I suspect that we will see
more offense than many fans anticipate. No, I am not foreseeing a shoot out, but
I do believe that we will see some big plays from each offense. Each team has
the potential to make plays on offense, and the team that can make the greater
number of big plays will likely be the winner.

However, both defenses also have the reputation for making big plays, so the
offenses have to limit their mistakes. In other words, the offenses need to look
for big plays without making game-changing errors. I doubt either team will move
the chains consistently, so much of the offensive game plan needs to focus on
setting up opportunities for big plays.

Keys to the Game

When Virginia Tech has the Ball:

1. Maintain the Pocket

For the Hokies’ passing game to work, obviously the offensive line has to
protect Sean Glennon. Glennon is a classic pocket quarterback and he needs to be
able to find a passing lane and step up to make his throws. After watching
Glennon’s mechanics closely, I observed that his passing accuracy is very high
when he is allowed to step up in the pocket. However, when he is not allowed to
set and take a small step into his throws, he becomes erratic. Basically,
Glennon needs enough time and space to ensure that his throwing mechanics are
sound. If Glennon is pressed, whether inside or outside of the pocket, and he is
not allowed to set, then his passing becomes inconsistent and mistakes tend to
happen.

The
difficulty, of course, is holding out the LSU defensive line, particularly the
defensive tackles. The Tigers specialize in collapsing the pocket behind
All-American Glenn Dorsey and talented Marlon Favorite. The key for the Tech
offense will likely be containing the defensive tackles. I suspect that the
Hokies will try a number of different options in containing the omnipresent
Dorsey. Dorsey is a high-energy player who can be extremely disruptive, so look
for him to get some extra attention from the line. Ryan Shuman will likely help
out the left guard on occasion in pass protection, and the Hokies may try some
power-running plays directed at Dorsey with a double-team at the point of
attack.

The play of the left guard has been a focal point for fans with no one
stepping up to take charge at the position. The battle with Glenn Dorsey has
many Tech fans concerned, and the Hokies need improved play at left guard to
have any success on offense. Richard Graham will likely start and he is a
scrapper, but he is undersized and can be pushed backward; Matt Welsh is strong
and solid technically, but he needs to be more aggressive and lacks some lateral
mobility; Brandon Holland has the size and mobility, but his technique breaks
down at times and conditioning is an issue. In other words, Tech does not have a
good answer at left guard. We might see some different options in this game if
Dorsey becomes a major problem. Ryan Shuman might be moved to left guard with
Beau Warren taking over at center. We could even see Nick Marshman moved to left
guard and true freshman Blake DeChristopher stepping in at right tackle.
Basically, the Hokies need to find an answer at left guard in this game if they
hope to have any offensive success.

Another aspect of pocket protection that Tech needs to watch is the stunting
and twisting of the defensive line. In addition, LSU tends to blitz quite a bit,
particularly with weak side linebacker Ali Highsmith. The offensive line needs
to communicate well and maintain their assignments. Tech cannot afford
assignment errors that allow defensive lineman to run free at the quarterback.
If the Tech line can pick up the blitzes and stunts, then big play opportunities
may be available in the passing game.

2. Beat the Press Coverage

Bo

...