Coming off last week’s loss to Miami, the Virginia Tech Hokies have a tall task this Thursday as they play host to the No. 8 ranked Florida State Seminoles.
The Hokies, at 4-5, 2-3 in the ACC, are on pace for their worst season since 1992 and in danger of not competing in a bowl game for the first time in 20 years.
The Seminoles, 9-1, 5-1 in the ACC, had their bye last week. They defeated Duke 48-7 in their last game.
Points will be at a premium for the Hokies, as the Seminoles are No. 1 nationally in total defense. The Hokies have had their own difficulties scoring against teams much weaker on the defensive side of the ball.
Here are five keys for the Hokies this week if they are to have any chance at upsetting the Seminoles.
Last week’s loss to Miami was embarrassing on all fronts for the Hokies. They usually thrive on Thursday nights, but seemingly did nothing right against the Hurricanes.
When they did move the ball, a turnover or errant pass would doom them.
Florida State is a much better team than Miami. The Hokies can afford very few, if any, mistakes against the Seminoles.
Teams have a tendency to let bad losses linger, and the Hokies can ill-afford to fall victim to that. They were bad in all phases last week. This is a new week; forget it and move on.
Manuel is having a solid senior season, but he has been far from perfect.
In Florida State’s only loss of the season to N.C. State, Manuel was sacked four times. That is the most times he has been sacked in one game this season, and no coincidence, the Seminoles lost.
The Hokies pass rush has been terrific for the past three weeks. Defensive end James Gayle and defensive tackle Luther Maddy have led the charge.
If the Hokies get to Manuel early and rattle him, they have a chance to impact field position and create turnovers. This is will be essential if the Hokies are to win this game.
Florida State is terrific statistically on offense and defense. So, the Hokies will have their work cut out for them.
The Hokies have routinely been outplayed on special teams this year. Against Miami, the Hokies missed an extra point and struggled in kickoff coverage.
What happened to the days of going after the punter? The Hokies never block punts anymore. If they want to win this game; they need to be aggressive.
Demitri Knowles give the kick return game life every time he touches the ball. He should be back there in every return situation.
Kyshoen Jarrett has had several great punt returns this year, but inexplicably, the Hokies put Michael Holmes back there at times to return punts.
Too often this season, the Hokies offense has failed to get Marcus Davis involved early in the game.
It happened last week against Miami. Davis had one catch and one target in the first half. This can be blamed on quarterback Logan Thomas and the offensive coaching staff.
At times, Thomas has been too apt to take off and run instead of letting plays develop.
Play-calling has continued to be an issue for Virginia Tech. The coaching staff doesn’t do a good job of putting their best players in position to make plays.
Teams struggle to cover Davis, and the Hokies need to force teams to assign two defenders to cover Davis. This could open up things for the other receivers.
Not only can Davis beat teams deep, he is also terrific after the catch.
The Hokies have long had one of the better home-field advantages in college football. While they haven’t been as dominant recently as in past years, Lane Stadium is still a tough place to play for opposing teams.
Keeping the crowd excited and involved in the game can be accomplished if the Hokies play well. They haven’t given anyone reason to think they can play well for four quarters, though.
If the Hokies can get out to a early lead, the crowd can be a positive factor for them.
Beating the Seminoles will be extremely tough, but this isn’t a juggernaut the Hokies play on Thursday.