Keys to the Game and Game Prediction: Ohio

Virginia Tech is licking its wounds as the Hokies try to regroup from the
bayou bashing received at the hands of the LSU Tigers. Lots of questions need to
be answered as Tech returns to the friendly confines of Lane Stadium to face a
solid Ohio Bobcats team. Will Tyrod Taylor provide the answer to a dormant
offense? Can the Hokies find a running game? Was the defensive performance in
Baton Rouge an aberration or do more fundamental issues exist? The Hokie Nation
is looking for answers, and the game with Ohio has taken on surprising
importance for a football team that appears to be in search of an identity.

I doubt many preseason prognosticators would have predicted that the game
with Ohio University would be critical for the Hokies, but Virginia Tech is at a
dangerous juncture of the season right now. Under Frank Solich, the former
Nebraska head coach, Ohio has become a solid, tough, physical team that is first
and foremost disciplined. Despite suspending over a half a dozen key players
last year (including former Hokie Michael Hinton), Ohio won the MAC East title
last year behind a good running game and a stout defense. If Virginia Tech plays
an undisciplined game, the Hokies could actually lose; just ask Ron Zook, whose
Illini squad lost at home last year to the Bobcats, triggering a seven-game
regular season winning streak for Ohio.

Now I do not expect an upset this Saturday, but Virginia Tech is facing an
unusual number of questions for this stage of the season. Whereas most Keys to
the Game look at scheme or personnel match-ups focused on the opponents, this
article will be much more introspective and focused on the Hokies. Ohio is
basically a given with a solid program, but lacking the speed, size, and power
to compete with Virginia Tech. The Hokies will likely dictate the outcome of
this game with the simple ability of the team to execute in all phases —
defense, offense, and special teams.

Keys to the Game

When Ohio has the Ball:

1. Back to Fundamentals – Tackling

Virginia Tech defense has long been recognized as being fundamentally sound, but
in the first two games this year the Hokies have missed an unusually high number
of tackles. Tech has demonstrated poor tackling technique, poor gap control, and
poor pursuit angles on far too many occasions this season. Look for Bud Foster
to get back to basics and focus on the fundamentals of his defense in the Ohio

The Bobcats will provide a good test with running back Kalvin McRae (#5,
5-9.5 207, Sr., 4.57), who has rushed for over a 1,000 yards in each of the last
two seasons. McRae runs hard and breaks tackles, so the Hokies need to wrap him
up and bring him down after the initial hit. He is, by far, Ohio’s biggest
offensive weapon and the Hokies must stop him to control this game. McRae can
run inside and outside, plus he is a threat receiving out of the backfield,
leading Ohio in receptions last year.

Wide receiver Chris Garrett (#28, 5-8 177, r-So., 4.53), a former all-state
running back at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, is also a dangerous
open field runner. Garrett played running back last year but he has moved to
receiver to provide another threat outside for the Bobcats. Watch for Garrett on
reverses and misdirection plays, as well as bubble screens and quick hitches. He
is also one of the top return men in the country and is a threat on kickoff and
punt returns. Garrett is extremely quick and Tech’s defenders need to break down
and make solid tackles.

Fans should pay particular attention to the tackling of Tech’s all-star
linebackers, Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. While both players have been
aggressive in the first two games, too many tackles are being missed, gaps are
not being filled properly, and poor pursuit angles have been taken. While these
problems are endemic of the entire defense, Hall and Adibi need to set the tone
on the defense and both should have a huge number of tackles against Ohio’s
basic offense.

2. Maintain Base Responsibilities

LSU’s game plan was obviously to exploit the youth at two of Tech’s biggest
playmaking positions on defense — Whip and Rover. While both Cam Martin and Kam
Chancellor certainly have considerable talent, both are starting at new