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Game Preview:
Central Florida at Virginia Tech
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 9/27/01
Click here for Blacksburg Weather

UCF at Virginia Tech
Saturday, September 29th, 2001, 12:00 noon
TV:
Sunshine Network (live); Fox 21/27 in Roanoke (tape delay, approx. 4:00 pm); NOT on ESPN GamePlan; available on both Dish Network and DirectTV, but you must subscribe to sports channels to receive it.

Last year, Hokie defenders pummeled UCF quarterbacks Ryan Schneider and Vic Penn for six sacks, and Tech took advantage of six UCF turnovers to win this game easily, 44-21.

The game was a study in contrasting styles, as Central Florida passed for 362 yards and ran for just 21, while the Hokies ran for 313 and passed for just 55 (all of it coming on one completion from Dave Meyer to Emmett Johnson).

The Hokies, playing without the injured Michael Vick, started backup Dave Meyer. When Meyer went down with separated ribs in the third quarter, seldom-used QB Grant Noel was inserted, and the Hokies ran 20 straight running plays to finish the game. The result was 61 rushes against only 8 passes for Tech, but the Hokies had very little trouble dispatching of the Knights. Tech tailback Lee Suggs scored five rushing TD's, setting Big East records for TD's in a game and points scored in a game.

But there was much more to this game than a lopsided Tech win, according to Jimmy Robertson's "From the Editor's Desk" article in the November 17, 2000 issue of the Hokie Huddler. During the week leading up to the game, UCF head coach Mike Kruczek reportedly questioned whether the Hokie players could rebound from an emotionally draining loss they had suffered the week before at Miami.

After Tech had thrashed UCF, Tech Coach Frank Beamer brought the comments up. "That's a challenge to the character of these (Tech) kids, and I thought they bounced back and played very hard. They showed a lot of character."

David Pugh said, "They disrespected us. All that talk made Coach Beamer mad, and he wanted us to show Mr. Kruczek what Virginia Tech football is all about. I think we did that."

VT running back Andre Kendrick, a senior last year, was more direct. "They disrespected this staff, the scheme, and the players ... You could tell Coach Beamer was irritated. We wanted to make them respect us by ramming it down their throats."

Not mentioned in Robertson's article was a report that Kruczek also said that his players were upset Vick wasn't playing, because when UCF beat the Hokies, they wanted to say they had beaten Tech at their best.

Kruczek hasn't provided any primo bulletin board material this year (other than saying in a UCF press release, "I donít think there is any team in the nation that can stop us with a four man rush"), and it's hard to say if bad feelings from last year's game will spill over into this game. But it does give the fans something to talk about, and a reason to get fired up.

Central Florida Fast Facts: The Golden Knights were 7-4 last year, playing as a Division 1-A independent. UCF (not CFU) fielded their first team in 1979 at the Division III level, and they moved up through Division II and 1-AA before finally becoming Division 1-A in 1996. They were preseason ranked #76 by Athlon Magazine.

Head Coach: Mike Kruczek (pronounced Krew-zek), now in his fourth year at UCF, is 21-15 overall. UCF is his first head coaching job. He was the Golden Knights' offensive coordinator for 13 years prior to taking over as head coach. Kruczek played football at Boston College, where he was an All-American QB and graduated in 1976.

UCF's Last Game: UCF beat Tulane 36-29 in Tulane. Tailback Alex Haynes rushed for 148 yards and a school-record four touchdowns, while QB Ryan Schneider hit on 20-of-29 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown. On the season, the Knights are 1-2, losing at Clemson 21-13 and at Syracuse 21-10.

Depth Chart: This season, UCF returned just four starters on offense (RG, RT, and TE, plus QB Ryan Schneider), plus six on defense. On defense, the returning starters are nicely spread around: two each on the DL, LB's, and DB's. UCF's starting lineup for Tech includes 12 seniors, 8 juniors, 2 sophomores, and 1 freshman (only 23 players, because their punter doubles as the placekicker).

Best Offensive Players: QB Ryan Schneider (#17), a sophomore who is a pocket passer, is 25th in the country in total offense per game (259.33 yards per game). Tailback Alex Haynes (#4) is a redshirt freshman who scored a school-record 4 TD's against Tulane and averages 95 yards rushing per game in UCF's pass-oriented offense. Three receivers have caught 10 or more passes: Tavaris Davis (11 for 155 yards), Thad Ward (11 for 128), and Jimmy Fryzel (10 for 191).

Best Defensive Players: UCF's top three tacklers are SS Ricot Joseph (#9), LB Tito Rodriguez (#44), and DE Elton Patterson (#97). Joseph and Rodriguez are not active behind the line of scrimmage (0 tackles for loss -- TFL -- between the two of them), but Patterson has 8 TFL's on the season, including 3 sacks.

Special Teams: Senior Javier Beorlegui doubles as the placekicker and punter. As a PK, he is 1-2 on field goals with a 22-yarder to his credit. As a punter, he has averaged 44.9 yards per punt on 17 kicks.

UCF's Punishing Ground Game? UCF is pass-oriented, throwing for 296 yards a game (13th in the NCAA) and rushing for just 106 yards a game (85th). But in a statistical oddity, the Knights have just 2 passing TD's in 110 attempts, but 6 rushing TD's in 96 attempts.

A "Balanced" Defense: UCF gives up 156 rushing yards per game (71st in the NCAA), and 195 passing yards (57th). They are 65th overall in total defense, giving up 351 yards per game, and 73rd in scoring defense, giving up 23.67 points per game.

The Lowdown

UCF has an improved running game over last season, and Kruczek also has his team running some option plays, both of which he hopes will keep the Hokies from blitzing Schneider, as Tech did relentlessly last year. That may or may not happen.

The Knights have to contend first and foremost with the fact that they lost half their offensive line to graduation, while the Hokies lost none of their defensive line, and they're playing at home in front of a Hokie crowd that loves its defense.

On the other side of the ball, the Knights will see something from Tech's offense that they didn't see last year: a passing game. Granted, it's a short passing game, but it's one that will throw the ball 20-25 times, much more than the 8 attempts of last year. There's hope for the Knights in the fact that Lee Suggs is out with an injury, and Tech is trying to build a new offensive line, but the Hokies will still line up and try to stick it to UCF. And they'll probably succeed.

Prediction

The Hokies are staying focused in this "September to not remember," and there's no reason to think they're going to slow down now.

There are too many players -- like Grant Noel, Keith Burnell, and Carter Warley -- with too much to prove, not to mention a Tech defensive backfield that remembers getting ripped for 362 yards passing last year. Since then, UCF has graduated two senior receivers who accounted for 14 catches and 209 yards that day, but the Hokies return all of their cornerbacks, and they're cornerbacks with a lot of skill and good memories. And a great front seven to put on pressure.

Tech will be gunning for their third shutout in a row, and that alone will be enough to keep them on top in this game. If Grant Noel continues to show up, complete passes, and not make mistakes, the Hokies will roll in this one, as they have done all month.

VT 38, Central Florida 10.

          

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