Virginia Tech Football: Previewing the Marshall Game

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Bruce Taylor #51 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts against the Stanford Cardinal during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40-12. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Virginia Tech is off to their best start since 2006. What's ironic about that is the Hokies had a similar schedule to this year, as far as the first four games are concerned.

In '06, the Hokies opened against Northeastern, on the road at North Carolina (remember the Tar Heels came on to the scene in '08), Duke and Cincinnati. They then lost their next two games against 24th ranked Georgia Tech and then to unranked Boston College.

The '06 Hokies went undefeated the rest of the way until their bowl appearance where they lost to Georgia. If that's not a typical season for the Hokies, I don't know what is.

Frank Beamer's 2011 team will look to avoid that type of letdown. The difference between the 2011 and the 2006 team is offensive playmakers. The Hokies were abysmal on offense in '06, but in 2011 the Hokies have a stud-running back in David Wilson and a very athletic, up-and-coming quarterback in Logan Thomas.

In fact, Thomas is the key. The sophomore quarterback will be making his fourth start, second on the road this weekend against the Thundering Herd. Thomas is coming off his best performance as a starter completing 21 of 33 passes for 292 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Thomas still struggles with accuracy at times, but he seems to be easing into his role. He's helped out by Wilson, who has 388 yards and four touchdowns so far this season, and a veteran group of wide receivers.

However, the wide receiving corps has struggled at times this year catching the ball, and it's something the coaching staff is probably focusing heavily on in practice. The Hokies did lose senior wide receiver, and All-American caliber kick returner Dyrell Roberts for the season after he broke his arm against Arkansas State.

Roberts is expected to receive a medical redshirt and return next season. Offensively, the Hokies have enough weapons in that group where they shouldn't miss a beat. Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale lead the way, and the emergence of D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis is underway.

Defensively, the Hokies are probably the fastest that Bud Foster has worked with since '07. They're a young group with a lot of speed, a very solid defensive line, a strong linebacking corps and an extremely athletic secondary that give the Hokies one of the top defenses, if not the top defense in the ACC.

There should be another week of conservative play-calling on both sides of the ball as Marshall shouldn't provide much of a threat. The Thundering Herd are coming off a 44-7 loss against Ohio, and are 1-2 on the season, with their lone win against Southern Mississippi.

That being said, Marshall did stick with West Virginia for three quarters before Jarrett Brown and company pulled away. This is not a gimme game by any stretch for the Hokies.

The coaching staff likely has a game plan set for Thomas, who will be facing a much faster and athletic defense the following week against Clemson. The Hokies will take care of business on Saturday and then they will turn their attention to the meat and potatoes of their schedule.

If the Hokies want to avoid a typical Virginia Tech letdown this year, they need to make sure Thomas takes another step forward against Marshall. If not, the Hokies could have a rough October.

Virginia Tech 52, Marshall 10