Posted: 8:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
Marshall comes to Blacksburg stinging after an embarrassing loss to Ohio University. But, they are also coming with a swagger. Folks, this team is not to be taken lightly. Each week is going to get tougher, and this Saturday is no exception. As Chris Hatcher noted in the Q&A; post, Marshall can do damage on the ground with their rushing attack, and their running quarterback, Rakeem Cato.
The task for the defense has gotten a bit challenging. Defensive line coach, Charley Wiles, does not want his defensive line to develop big heads after grounding ECU's version of the Air Raid offense. The defensive front, led by Monster of Terrors, James Gayle, needs to continue their stout pass rushing and create pressure to force Cato into making throws he does not want to make. The linebackers need to keep their head on a swivel, looking for ways to shut down the Herd's running backs, and neutralizing Cato in open space. Finally, if those two things happen, the secondary should have plenty of opportunities to feast on interceptions.
Meanwhile, I believe that the offense will finally get things together, and that means they need to do a better job in the running game, where ECU basically shut down the Hokies a week ago, forcing Loeffler and Thomas to take the game to the air. Surprisingly, it worked very well. The receiving corps should be gaining more confidence by now with how well they have performed after a poor showing in the Georgia Dome to open the season. Look for Willie Bryn and Joshua Stanford to continue be contributors. D.J. Coles, somewhat limited by his knees, should continue to be a threat to score touchdowns inside the red zone, and look for Demetri Knowles to steadily stretch the Herd's defense with his speed. Logan Thomas is getting better at going through his progressions and hitting his check downs. I expect to see that continuing this Saturday. Trey Edmunds and the rest of the running backs figure to get more carries and have some role in the passing game.
Naturally, folks will be keeping an eye on Cody Journell. Reports surfaced that Journell had dealt with a back spasms during the week of preparation for ECU, and it kept him out of most practices. Some folks wondered if Beamer should have sat Journell and entrusted the kicking game to a back-up. I certainly do not fault Beamer for his trust in Journell, since the kicker has usually been very reliable in converting field goal attempts, but I expect that Journell will take advantage of opportunities to redeem himself. Special teams need to be sharp. The Herd are above average (52nd in punt returns and 40th in kick off returns) whereas Virginia Tech is 121st in kickoff returns and tied for 81st in punt returns.
The weather forecast is rain on Saturday. Now, it could be like when Miami came to town and Virginia Tech took them to the woodshed, or like that awful day when a certain FCS team came and upset the Hokies and Hokie Nation. Hopefully, it is the former, and not the latter.