October 25, 2010
Tech now gears up for critical November stretch

Having recovered from its rough opening week, Virginia Tech’s football team has ripped off six straight wins and heads into November atop the ACC’s Coastal Division. The Hokies and Florida State are the league’s only unbeatens (both 4-0 in conference play) heading into the final month of the regular season.

It was November – specifically the next three games – that appeared to be the biggest obstacle for the 2010 Hokies when the schedule was initially released last spring. Regardless of the outcome of any non-conference game, the story of the 2010 season in the ACC would come down to the next three weeks.

Tech will play:

Georgia Tech: The defending ACC champions and a team that gashed the Hokies for 309 rushing yards last year in Atlanta. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who led the Jackets to a 28-23 win by rushing for 122 yards that night, returns.

• North Carolina: A team that beat Virginia Tech 20-17 in Lane Stadium last year and held the Hokies to 256 total yards – just 95 yards rushing.

• Miami: While Tech has beaten the ’Canes three out of the past four years, a road trip to Miami is never easy.

Now consider this: If you polled the fan base of any of those four schools, including the Hokies’, and asked “Has this season gone the way you expected?” you’d get a resounding “No.” (Except at North Carolina where you’d get “Heck, No!” Or perhaps “#*$*#&@ … no!”)

Seriously, each team has had its run-off-the-track moment. For the Hokies, it was JMU. For the Jackets, it was Kansas. For the ‘Canes, it was FSU. And for the Tar Heels, the suspensions and NCAA investigations have been well documented.

Each member of this Coastal quartet has churned out an unexpected tune. But nothing ever goes as planned. Even pharaohs turn to sand (Styx, 1981).

Yet despite the various missteps, meltdowns and gaffes, one of those teams is going to win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC championship game on December 4 in Charlotte. Virginia Tech and Miami control its own destinies: win out and the division is yours.

Virginia Tech will have a little extra time to prepare for both Georgia Tech and North Carolina, which is huge this time of year. The extra time will help in terms of game prep for the Jackets’ option offense and to let some banged-up Hokies, like Eddie Whitley, spend an extra day or two in the training room. Plus, this time of year, an open weekend is huge – for both coaches and players.

Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been tremendous in recent weeks both running and throwing the football. “Right now, I don’t know if there’s a quarterback playing any better than Tyrod,” his coach Frank Beamer said following Tech’s 44-7 win over Duke last Saturday.

His season statistics have Taylor in serious running for ACC Player of the Year honors. And his past four games have been simply spectacular.

GAME Att-Comp Yards TD-INT Rush Yards TD
NC State 12-of-24 123 3-1 121 0
Central Michigan 13-of-23 161 1-0 127 2
Wake Forest 19-of-27 292 3-0 31 1
Duke 13-of-17 280 3-0 47 0

Taylor and Tech’s offense are clicking now, but the defensive units in the coming weeks are tougher and the stakes obviously get higher.

The Hokies’ offensive line is coming together, Ryan Williams is back after missing four games with a hamstring injury, Tech’s receivers are making big plays, the defensive line is getting a good push and the team’s punting and kicking units, a preseason unknown, both are terrific.

If Tech’s defense can get a handle on preventing big plays – it needs more consistent linebacker play – the Hokies will be in good shape in the coming weeks.

But it starts with Georgia Tech next Thursday night. Remember the days when the Hokies were virtually invincible in these ESPN Thursday night games? At one point, Virginia Tech had won 11 straight Thursday night games. But surprisingly, Virginia Tech has now lost a Thursday night game in each of the past four seasons (BC, 2006; BC, 2007; Miami, 2008; UNC, 2009), and a couple of those have been at Lane Stadium.

But Blacksburg remains a simply amazing place to see a game on Thursday nights and the place should be electric next week when the Hokies try to avenge last year’s loss to Georgia Tech. A Hokies’ win is crucial as this team starts the most critical three weeks of the 2010 season.

No, the 2010 season hasn’t gone as planned for anybody in the Coastal. But November will be a sweet month for whichever team can put it together and finish strong.

Gottlieb great at Basketball Tip-off Banquet

ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb was sensational as the guest speaker of Sunday night’s Basketball Tip-off Banquet at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Gottlieb’s address both to the team and the big crowd in attendance was terrific.

Among his messages to the players: “Guys, you will never play on a ‘team’ again like this. You may play professionally in Europe or the NBA and you might get paid to play basketball with other players, but you will never be on a team where you live together and study together and spend your entire career with the same guys. When it’s over, it’s over. Treasure each day.”

He also encouraged players on the team to take care of their bodies.

“Your body is like a $100,000 sports car. You have world-class bodies and you have to treat it like a 700 series BMW. You’d take care of that car, wouldn’t you?” he asked the Hokies. “You’d put high octane gas in it and take care of it. Same for your bodies. Eat right. Sleep right. If you sleep better, you’ll practice better. And if you practice better, you’ll play better. And that’s the difference between making the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.

“You guys are world-class athletes built to run and jump and make incredible plays. Take care of those bodies. High octane fuel only.”

The Hokies begin their season on Friday, Nov. 12, against Campbell.

For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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