ACC action for the Cavaliers has officially arrived. After a tune-up game against Richmond that didn't go disastrously but didn't go as well as we had hoped, and a squeaker by Penn State in which Virginia was beneficiaries of whatever higher being you believe or don't believe in, the first huge test of the season is upon us -- a battle against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
To help us preview the Ramblin' Wreck, we sat down with Matt Mills of From The Rumble Seat, who was kind enough to answer some questions for us. And actually, they asked us questions too, but we haven't answered them yet, so that's kind of unfair for them. That should come out, with any luck, later today.
Streaking the Lawn: As a Georgia Tech fan and writer, do you believe in this theory that GT's offense is easy to beat if you have a few extra days to prepare? I ask because Virginia spent both spring practice and fall camp working, at least in part, on defending GT's triple option attack. So, does GT win because they're tricky, or because they're just better than other people?
From the Rumble Seat: I think that From The Rumble Seat has properly dispelled this myth here and here. I have done my own research on it and when Georgia Tech's opponent has more than 7 days to prepare for our team we have only won 5 games out of 16 since CPJ started. However, judging by Vegas lines and SRS we were only supposed to win.....5 times out of 16. There is nothing to compare to the speed and precision that Georgia Tech runs the option no matter how many times you rep against it in practice so I would say that no, our offense is certainly not easy to beat if you have extra time to prepare. To answer your last part I wouldn't say that our offense is tricky. There is nothing tricky about reading a defender to keep or pitch the ball (just like what happens on the zone read in nearly every offense these days), nothing tricky about the line blocking down and the guards pulling another way on a counter (classic football), and play action is devastating when its unexpected in every offense. We just go about it in a different way, but its all football.
STL: Virginia head coach Mike London said that Al Groh's always got something up his sleeve -- a "Blitz of the Month," is how he described it. What new things have you seen out of Groh's defense this year that has come as a little bit of surprise?
FTRS: We really haven't seen many new things from our defense in the limited games we have played. Our DB's are playing great in their zones but they are not really doing anything special. The 3-4 will always try to disguise their blitzes and we certainly have run many zone blitzes this year but so far there hasn't been any crazy surprises. Whats been a surprise is how WELL we are playing. Our Linebackers are wrecking havoc in the run game and our defensive backs have done a great job disrupting passes and challenging routes. We got burnt deep once at VT but were playing aggressive all game, VT got lucky with the timely play call.
STL: The Yellow Jackets put together a whopping 712 total yards last week, most of which, as expected, came from rushing yards. But 247 of those came in the air, too. Is this a sign of what could be a more balanced offense this year, or was that just Presbyterian State doing its thing (which is to say, nothing)?
FTRS: After two games there is no doubt to me that Tevin Washington has turned a corner in his passing game. He seems to be reading coverages, checking down to the open man, (and in this offense there is almost always an open man), and delivering the ball at least in the general vicinity of his receivers. But against Presbyterian we had alot of deep balls that quite frankly we probably wouldn't complete, or would not have had an easy of time completing, vs better defensive backs. Our offense doesn't need to be balanced, it needs to be able to complete passes that are open. That would be an improvement over years past.
STL: Are Vad Lee and Zack Laskey the key guys to watch? If so, how does Virginia contain them? Who else should UVa keep an eye out for?
FTRS: Uh-Oh, the Vad Lee discussion. Vad has been a huge fan favorite since he was signed by Tech because of his recruiting rankings and because Tevin Washington was not playing very well. Vad played 3 series against Presbyterian and really impressed with his passing and running, it was awesome. But, I would be cautious to say he will continue to make that impact. His huge run came on a QB draw and there are rumblings that he is not really running the option, just making plays with his feet. Paul Johnson might continue to use him in situations but I wouldn't expect Tevin to be 2nd string quite yet. Laskey has come out of nowhere this spring and fall to take the starting B-Back (fullback) job from the more touted Charles Perkins and David Sims. Laskey runs well and hits the whole hard and also is a much better blocker than either of the two other B-backs. I think that has been the biggest reason he has played so much. We will see if he continues to play as much and as well but this early it is hard to tell. Someone I would look out for is A-back B.J. Bostic. He had a half-back pass that was a pretty good throw called and continue's to make plays with his feet. As he becomes more comfortable blocking in the offense I could see him making some big plays this year.
STL: What are Georgia Tech's three keys to playing a solid game and pulling out a win?
FTRS: Blocking, Blocking, and getting off blocks. Is that a cop out? Our offensive line has to block better than it did at Virginia Tech. Our guards continually missed blocks on the outside on our counter plays and our backside scoops (which seal off any penetration) were really lacking. Our wide receivers also need to block much better. Multiple times in the Virginia Tech game we got the ball to the outside on the option only to have the corner standing there while the receiver was behind him doing nothing. And finally if our defensive line can shed their blocks a little faster and not be held up one-on-one our run defense will be able to force the runs to the outside where our linebackers and DB's can make plays. If we can improve on those three facets then I believe we can pull out a win on Saturday.
STL: GT opens at a 10.5 point favorite on Saturday. Will they be able to cover? What's your prediction?
FTRS: A two touchdown victory doesn't appear to be a wild scenario. Our defense has been playing very well and as long as our offense shores up its fumbling issues we had vs Presbyterian I think we will continue to execute well. Virginia always plays us tough and you can never just assume a two touchdown victory vs a conference opponent. But, I like how well we have played and think the crowd will really help us out this weekend. I say Georgia Tech wins 28-17 and covers.
Thanks to Matt and From The Rumble Seat for entertaining our questions, and good luck Saturday! (I don't mean that.)