Things to watch as Hokies conclude non-conference play with ODU game

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech and Old Dominion square off in a few hours in what will be the first meeting between the two in-state programs.

The Hokies, ranked No. 13 nationally, enter the game at 3-0 and looking to go 4-0 for the first time since 2011, while the Monarchs, who lost to ACC foe North Carolina last week, are 2-1. The game marks the last non-conference game of the season for Tech, which opens ACC play next weekend with a monumental game against No. 2 Clemson.

But Tech better not view this ODU game as a simple tune up for the Tigers. The college football landscape this season has been littered with upsets. In fact, the Northern Illinois-Nebraska resembles the Tech-ODU matchup – and everyone knows how that ended.

With that said, here are some things to watch when the Hokies and Monarchs kick off at 2 p.m.:

• Scoring first – Tech needs to take the starch out of the Monarchs quickly, and scoring first in front of a sellout crowd would be a nice first step. Nothing builds momentum for an underdog quicker than hanging around. The Hokies gave up two early touchdowns against East Carolina last Saturday and overcame that, but it’s not a way to live in college football. Score first, score often and take control quickly.

• Protect Josh Jackson How many of you knew the Monarchs are tied for the national lead with 16 sacks? Thought so. The Monarchs’ defensive line gets after the quarterback, though most of their sacks came against Albany and UMass – they only recorded one against North Carolina. In contrast, the Hokies have done a great job of protecting quarterback Josh Jackson, allowing just three sacks. That trend needs to continue because the Hokies aren’t built for success on third-and-long.

Be a nightmare for Steven Williams – ODU has turned its offense over to true freshman quarterback Steven Williams, who played well in relief last weekend against North Carolina. At 17 years old, Williams stands as the youngest quarterback in FBS. Tech’s defense usually feasts on inexperienced quarterbacks, and that group needs to make Saturday afternoon a long one for Mr. Williams.

Stay focused – Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Tech’s players said all the right things this past week after hearing about a primetime kickoff against Clemson. They spoke very complimentary of ODU, saying that the Monarchs had received their full attention and focus. Now, they need to play like it.

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