The First Bank & Trust Company Wednesday Q&A: The WVU Game

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech needs to perform well up front on both lines. (Ivan Morozov)

1) What do you want/need to see in the first quarter on Thursday to bode well for a Virginia Tech win? – Nova Hokie 95

Chris Coleman: Since you can’t predict things like turnovers or special teams, I’ll be looking at the play up front.

First, can the Virginia Tech defensive front get penetration? CJ Donaldson is a load at 6-2, 240. Defensive backs and even linebackers struggle to tackle him when he gets running downhill in the open. It’s critical that the Hokies hit him before he works up a full head of steam, so the defensive line needs to get penetration and hit him at or around the line of scrimmage, preferably with multiple bodies.

If the Hokies can do that, then they can prevent his big gainers. It serves a dual-purpose as well in that it helps keep West Virginia in third-and-long situations. Tech has one of the best third down defenses in the country, and a big part of that is opponents are only averaging 1.52 yards per carry, which ranks No. 3 in the country*

*As a side note, Rutgers ranks No. 2 at 1.09 yards per carry. What do both teams have in common? They both played the Boston College offensive line.

Here’s a good quote from WVU quarterback JT Daniels from earlier this week…

“They’ve been very good on third down, and the best way for a defense to be good on third down is to put you in third-and-long, and the best way for an offense to be good on third down is to stay out of third-and-long,” Daniels said. “The national average on third-and-8-plus was 18 percent two years ago. That’s tough living, no matter who you are or how good your team is. If you’re in third-and-long, you’re not going to be very successful on third down. They do a good job putting you behind the chains and then they make it hard to convert.”

Daniels talks like a coach and spouts stats like a coach, but he’s absolutely right. So, if I see the Hokies getting penetration in the first quarter and putting WVU in third-and-long situations, I’ll feel good about it.

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The most disappointing part of the early season to me is the inability of the offensive line and tight ends to be effective in run blocking. It’s surprising. We know that every scheme changes brings a certain adjustment period. However, these guys have played well in the past, and Tech’s most experienced P5 coaches on the offensive side of the ball (Joe Rudolph, Tyler Bowen) are coaching the offensive line and the tight ends, so these struggles have somewhat come out of left field.

Tech’s inability to run the ball just puts more pressure on the passing game, and as we’ve talked about the Hokies have had some injuries there, and there are new faces at both quarterback and wide receiver. And like Daniels said, offenses that live in third-and-long aren’t