Four-game, 24-day stretch in November could make for quite a treat
The Roth Report
October 29, 2007
By Bill Roth There is much to like about the month of November. We honor our veterans on the 11th, and this year, Veteran's Day means more than ever, doesn't it? We celebrate Thanksgiving on the 22nd. And, November 28th is National French Toast Day. Bet you didn't know that, did you? We elect our public officials in November, making it the most important month in politics. The November sweeps determine television ratings, making it the most critical month in the entertainment industry. And in college football, we play the most meaningful regular-season games. Virginia Tech has four games during the month of November and the story of its 2007 season will be written during a 24-day period. The Hokies play at Georgia Tech on the 1st, vs. Florida State on the 10th, vs. Miami on the 17th, and at Virginia on the 24th. Those four games in 24 days will essentially determine the season. The loss at LSU was a downer. The rip-your-heart-out crusher that was BC was worse. But what happens during these 24 days starting in Atlanta will tell the story of this season for the Hokies. Tech needs to win three of these four to reach the ACC championship game in Jacksonville and get a potential rematch with BC. Not that this helps ease the pain in your gut, but even had the Hokies beaten Boston College, Tech still would've needed to win three of four to get to Jacksonville. The only positive coming from the BC heartbreaker? It was a non-divisional game. So what should we look for in November? More late-game drama like we saw recently in Blacksburg, plenty of hard-hitting physical football, and tremendous anxiety for all involved. It's serious football, of course, but it's meant to be enjoyed and savored. For 24 days, we're in for quite a treat. Here's a look ahead: November 1st: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
Opponent in 50 words or less: After losing quarterback Reggie Ball and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Jackets are dead last in the ACC in passing offense. The Jackets lead the ACC in rushing, but the team's best player, ACC rushing leader Tashard Choice, and his backup, Rashaun Grant, are out with injuries. Georgia Tech has the ACC's top defense.
Key questions: Can the Jackets move the ball without Choice and Grant? Quarterback Taylor Bennett has thrown just two touchdowns all season and Georgia Tech hasn't been able to throw it consistently. Can the Hokies emotionally bounce back from the BC loss to play a road game that will be even more physical than last week?
The Crystal Ball says: A 12-10 game, either way. Both teams have great defenses that stop the run and don't allow many points. They are 1-2 in the ACC in sacks and in scoring defense. Injuries to key players (Tyrod Taylor, Choice and Grant) limit the offenses. Good thing The Varsity is open 24 hours because this could be an overtime game that comes down to the kickers.
Official French Toast of the Jackets: Celebrate National French Toast Day with orange-scented French Toast with raspberry sauce and crème anglaise at the Flying Biscuit Café in Midtown. November 10th: Florida State at Virginia Tech
Opponent in 50 words or less: New offensive coordinator, same rotation at quarterback, similar results. The 2007 season looks a lot like 2006 for the Seminoles, who are 5-3 (2-3 in the ACC) heading into this week's game against Maryland. Statistically, Tech and FSU are nearly identical, but Tech has the better pass rush and FSU leads the ACC in penalties.
Key questions: Can the Hokies beat Bobby Bowden for the first time ever? Coach Bowden celebrates his 78th birthday on November 8th but his team is young up front and inconsistent offensively. Can they get it going in Blacksburg or will the MV's be playing "Happy Birthday to You" in the waning seconds of the game?
The Crystal Ball says: A 13-10 game, either way. If Vince Hall is back in the fold for the Hokies, it's tough to see FSU moving the ball consistently. Tech needs a healthy Taylor to help its 'O.' FSU beat Alabama, showing that when the Seminoles get up for a big game, they can really play. Something tells you that FSU will give a 'Bama-like effort in Blacksburg on November 10th.
Official French Toast of the Seminoles: Settlers sent by Gen. Marquis de Lafayette immigrated to an area north of downtown Tallahassee still known as Frenchtown. Celebrate National French Toast day with vanilla-maple French Toast with warm berry preserves. (Yes, I know French Toast isn't actually French. It was invented by a guy named James French near Albany, N.Y., in the 1700's.) November 17th: Miami at Virginia Tech
Opponent in 50 words or less: New coach Randy Shannon and the 'Canes have N.C. State and Virginia at home in the next two weeks. If the 'Canes win those final two games at the Orange Bowl, they'll be 7-3, 4-2 in the ACC coming to Blacksburg with the same goals as the Hokies. Don't count Miami out at all here. They've got great speed all over the place, but have been inconsistent during the course of this season.
The Crystal Ball says: Senior day for Hall, Adibi and the rest? Even the most ardent 'Cane would have a hard time picking against Tech in this one. Like the last two, this one comes down to the fourth quarter.
Official French Toast of the 'Canes: Celebrate the big holiday with torrejas, which are really good. Torrejas, the Cuban version of French Toast, has kiwi, mango, papaya, mint, and orange juice. It's served with salsa and powered sugar. November 24th: Virginia Tech at Virginia
Opponent in 50 words or less: UVa wins the 'Close Shave' award for 2007. They've won close games, which is the sign of a team with tremendous character and togetherness, if not fortune. Defensive end Chris Long will be the ACC's defensive player of the year and, along with LSU's Glenn Dorsey, among the best defensive linemen Tech will have seen. He is one tough dude.
The Crystal Ball says: Games against Wake Forest and at Miami will set the tone for UVa, which, like Tech and the 'Canes, has its sights set on winning the division. While the game is just three weeks away, what happens in the interim determines the mindset of both VT and UVa going into the game. This game could mean a lot, or it could be insignificant in the division race. Tech's won seven of the past eight against UVa, and if the division is on the line, it would be hard to pick against Tech. However, unlike recent games in the series, this one is likely decided in the final minutes.
Official French Toast of the 'Hoos: Oh you Hokies just can't wait for this line, can you? The jokes about 'powered sugar' getting all over one's bow tie, or how the Wahoos enjoy a foie gras terrine with their grilled gingerbread French Toast. [Cue British-sounding falsetto voice now.] "Oh Lancaster, this White Zin is absolutely marvelous with my foie gras." However, National French Toast day is no joking matter, regardless of how deliciously tempting it might be in this particular instance. In all seriousness, Tech, UVa, and Miami control their own destiny (cliché No. 1) in their quest for glory (cliché No. 2) and a chance to win the ACC's Coastal Division. Who wouldn't like to see Tech play BC again with Hall and Taylor on the field? But for that to happen, the Hokies need to win three of the next four. Four games in 24 days. Likely all four decided in the fourth quarter. The BC game had high drama, but there's lot more to come starting Thursday. Sounds like a thrilling November is about to begin. D-Line doing the job
For Virginia Tech to have success in the next month, it must continue to get great play from its defensive front. Barry Booker, Chris Ellis, Orion Martin, and Carlton Powell have been real warriors over the past month. Clemson (67 attempts), Duke (28) and Boston College (53) combined to throw the football 148 times in the past three games. In fact, through just eight games, opponents have thrown 302 passes this season. To put that in perspective, Tech foes attempted 314 passes in 13 games last season. That's a lot of times rushing the passer for the starters, plus Nekos Brown, Jason Worilds and the rest of that second group. Tech has 29 sacks on the season, which is tied for fourth nationally with Georgia Tech. That's a big improvement over last year when the Hokies had a total of 30 sacks for the season in 13 games. Last year, the Hokies had 99 quarterback hurries in 13 games. This year, they have 96 hurries through their first eight games. Something to keep in mind: It's possible (hopeful?) Tech could play six more games and having depth on that defensive line is really critical in the month of November. That group's performance is critical to the team's hopes down the stretch. Run for Hokie Spirit
Over 100 Hokies, Tech employees, and others, raised over $200,000 for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund this past Sunday by competing in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. The Hokie Spirit Memorial Run was created to raise the funds necessary to endow a scholarship in honor of the Virginia Tech students and faculty who lost their lives on April 16th. Among the runners from Tech's athletics department: Brian Thornburg (VTAF), Chris Helms (SAAS director), Jon Jaudon (associate director of athletics), Mike Brizendine (men's soccer assistant coach), Oliver Weiss (men's soccer head coach), RaeLynn McAfee (director of sports marketing), Megan Rittler (sports medicine), Jamie Meyer (sports performance) and Stacey Vidt (assistant cross country/distance coach). I apologize to anyone omitted from that list, but congratulations and a hearty Hokie 'Thank You' to the dozens of Hokies who ran this past Sunday in Washington.
Have a question for Bill? Submit it on-line The Roth report appears weekly in hokiesports 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.