Balance of Tech offense proving tough for opponents to stop
The Kroger Roth Report
October 2, 2000

"Ya know," the writer from Boston quipped the night before the game, "what you've really got in Virginia Tech is a running football team."

The long Michael Vick-to-André Davis passes and blocked punts returned for touchdowns make SportsCenter on a seemingly weekly basis, but what the Beantown scribes had noticed - what Tech fans have known for years - is that head coach Frank Beamer likes to run the ball. He likes to control the clock, wear down the other team and -as the coach has preached to his team during countless passionate pregame speeches - "go out and hit 'em in the mouth."

Wanna really demoralize a team? Knock the wind out of 'em a few times and buckle their knees by halftime.

Virginia Tech is not a West Coast, 'spread-ya-out-on-defense', five-wideout, pass-happy, run-and-shoot team. Nor is it a one-dimensional wishbone, option, grind-it-out team.

What are the Hokies? They are balanced. They are unpredictable. And they do a lot of things. But at the core of this offense- what Beamer and his offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle have developed - is a sensational ground game.

In a nutshell, Virginia Tech is a big, physical, power running football team with great speed in its backfield. It's a team that will smash you in the chops when the ball is snapped and then send a lightning-quick back like Lee Suggs or Michael Vick zooming into the secondary before you can lick the blood off your lip.

Last week, Suggs (18th in the NCAA in rushing) and Vick (20th) torched Boston College for a combined 355 yards and five touchdowns. That's the most success anyone's had running in New England since the Kennedys.

But this is nothing new.

In 1999, Virginia Tech set an all-time Big East record by averaging 253.9 yards per game on the ground. Tech totaled 2,793 yards and 35 touchdowns, both Big East records.

Those numbers, however, pale in comparison to the 2000 Hokies who are averaging 327 yards per game on the ground and 6.6 yards per carry through four games. Suggs is second in the conference in rushing, averaging 108.3 yards per game and 6.9 yards per rush. He has also scored nine touchdowns in his first four college starts.

Meanwhile, Vick is third in the conference in rushing at 107.3 yards per game and gets 10.5 yards every time he runs the ball.

Amazingly, Tech has rushed for 19 touchdowns already this season. Remember, the school and league record is 35.

More gaudy numbers:
  • Tech is averaging a nation's-best 6.57 yards per rush and is second only to Nebraska in rushing yards per game.
  • The 420 yards Tech gained on the ground last week at BC marked the highest output for the Hokies since they totaled 453 yards against Akron in 1995. Interestingly, of the top six rushing games in Big East history, Tech now has three of them (1993 vs. Pittsburgh, 1995 vs. Akron, and 2000 vs. BC).

This, of course, all goes back to having a big, physical offensive line that is explosive at the snap of the ball and has good quickness to get out on sweeps and the tailback isolation play, which Tech continues to run with success a half-dozen times each week.

It goes back to having unselfish fullbacks who can sacrifice their bodies to lead the way. Having receivers who are also terrific down-field blockers helps too.

Rewind your VCR and check out the key blocks on the long runs in the ECU, Rutgers and BC games. No. 88 and No. 18 can do more than just catch the football.

So what's a defense to do? It can't cheat to stop the run because of the passing threat. It can blitz often - as BC did - but risk giving up the big plays.

You've got to stop the run and the pass. And Vick adds the extra dimension through his amazing ability to create and ad-lib.

That - along with the potent contributions of Tech's special teams - is why Beamer's 14th squad is averaging 48.5 points per game.

Coaches and alma maters
A recent e-mail from a Tech fan asked about which coach in NCAA history has won the most games coaching at his alma mater and pondered where Tech's Frank Beamer stands on that list. Some quick research found that Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama Class of 1936, compiled a record of 232-46-9 during his 25-year tenure as the coach of the Crimson Tide. Beamer, Tech Class of 1969 is 92-69-2 as coach of the Hokies.

Other notable coaches on the list include Notre Dame's Knute Rockne (ND Class of 1914) who compiled a 105-12-5 record in South Bend and Jock Sutherland (Pittsburgh Class of 1918), who won 113 games as Pitt's coach from 1924-1938. Paul Hoerman (Heiderberg Class of 1938) won 102 games as his alma mater's head coach.

As of today, Beamer stands fifth on the all-time list. However early century records are sketchy - many teams didn't have official 'coaches' per se - and there was no distinction between Division I and I-AA for example. Thus, the NCAA doesn't keep such records.

Among today's active coaches, Beamer is the winningest college coach currently coaching at his alma mater. Here is a list of the winningest current NCAA Division I coaches and their respective alma maters.
  1. Joe Paterno, Brown
  2. Bobby Bowden, Samford
  3. Lavel Edwards, Utah State
  4. Lou Holtz, Kent State
  5. Don Nehlen, Bowling Green
  6. John Cooper, Iowa State
  7. George Welsh, Navy
  8. Jackie Sherrill, Alabama
  9. Dick Tomey, Depauw
  10. Ken Hatfield, Arkansas
  11. Larry Smith Bowling Green
  12. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Beamer can certainly pass Knute Rockne on the all-time list, but to pass 'The Bear's' record of 232 wins at 'Bama, he needs to average nine wins per season for the next 16 years at Virginia Tech.

Fourth quarter leads, streaks and notes
  • Virginia Tech has held the lead in the fourth quarter in its past 28 games, the longest such streak in the country. Tech is 24-4 in those games. The last time Tech failed to hold the lead in the fourth quarter was in its loss to North Carolina in the Gator Bowl following the 1997 season.
  • The Hokies have now won 15 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak of its kind in Big East history. Miami won 31 straight games in the early 1990s before losing to Florida State 28-10 on October 9, 1993. You may recall that Tech also won 12 consecutive regular-season games in 1995 and '96 before losing at Syracuse.
  • Tech has won 10 consecutive Big East games dating back to 1998. The league record for consecutive wins in conference games is held by Miami, which won 12 straight before losing in 1993.
  • Among those in attendance at the Tech-BC game last week was former Hokie Jon Jeffries, a star tailback at Tech in the late 1980s. Like most ex-Tech runners, Jeffries stays in touch with Hokies' assistant head coach Billy Hite.
  • Florida State vs. Miami. The Hurricanes will try to beat their rivals for the first time in the Butch Davis era when the teams play at the Orange Bowl Saturday (Noon, CBS).

    The 'Canes have exploded offensively in the past two games and are playing with great confidence. And if you watched FSU play BYU and Georgia Tech, you'd likely surmise that Miami has a great chance to win this game on its home field. Bobby's bunch does get bored, doesn't it?

    But remember, FSU has that ability to turn its game up a notch when it needs to. It would be a great win for Davis and the Big East (not to mention Virginia Tech's positioning in the national polls) if Miami were to win this game. So, heart says Miami, but head says Florida State in a close one.
  • We learned in Boston that West Virginia agreed to play Temple at Penn's Franklin Field instead of balking over the Owls' stadium issue. WVU coach Don Nehlen was given two dates - both Thursday nights -to choose from and he opted for September 28th, although nobody is happy with this ongoing Temple stadium issue.

    The problem is the Phillies have first call on Veteran's Stadium and had a home series last weekend. The Vet was not available, so once again, Temple had to play a game at the University of Pennsylvania's field. But since Penn had a game too, it forced Temple to move the game to Thursday night.

    WVU squeaked out a close 29-24 win. But making WVU travel to Philadelphia on a 'short week' (following the Mountaineers' game with Miami) because Temple didn't have its own stadium was a clear disadvantage for WVU.

    Nehlen is a good guy and WVU is understanding to Temple's plight. However, as Temple's program improves, opposing teams are going to be less willing to compromise and play the Owls at odd times in unusual venues.

    You'll recall last year Pittsburgh was less flexible and Temple was forced to play the Panthers on the road two years in a row. Pittsburgh was able to pull that off last year because the Panthers already had two non-conference home games for 2000 (Kent and Notre Dame) and could travel to Philadelphia this season and still play the desired six home games.

    WVU did beat Temple. But you know the close call will increase the pressure on the Owls somehow to solve this stadium issue.

    The Roth report appears weekly in hokiesports.com-the newspaper and is posted for the general public on hokiesports.com.

    The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virginia Tech Athletics Department, hokiesports.com, or it's advertisers.