The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
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Tech Sports Tonight (football season only)
Monday, September 16, 2002
Much was made on this show of the stadium atmosphere that Virginia Tech will play in Saturday at Texas A&M. It will be a loud crowd and the highest road attendance (around 87,000) that VT has ever played against Ė previous high was around 80,000 at Clemson in 1988. The Aggies have not lost a non-conference home game, going 29-0, since R.C. Slocum became the A&M coach in 1989.
Bill Roth offered up some stats about the Hokiesí strong play away from Blacksburg in the past decade: Tech is 12-1 in non-conference road games since Big East round robin play began in 1993, and 32-9 in its past 41 road games overall. "If any team non-league is going to go in there and beat them, itís ours," Roth said.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said the team will work some against the noise factor at its final practice on Thursday. The offense will go inside Rector Field House where the stereo will be cranked up full blast. "Normally we get a lot of things done that way, and I get a headache." The game plan will purposely not include a lot of checkoffs for the young VT quarterback to make in that environment, he said.
Practices earlier in the week are preparing for a "schematically different defense than weíve seen in a while," Stinespring said. The last opponent to use the scheme against the Hokies was Commonwealth Cup-less Virginia. Coach Beamer later said itís not so much the scheme that VT has to be concerned with as the quality of the players on A&Mís defense.
Stinespring was complimentary of A&M offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, who spent four years on the VT staff before joining the Aggies in 1998. Stiney said they are very good friends who usually talk weekly.
Will a youthful Tech team be intimidated at Kyle Field on Saturday? he was asked. "No. The mentality of our football team is not to get intimidated," although the players may be anxious and have more butterflies than usual. The team will have to count on its older players, who have been through such situations.
As for the Marshall game, it was noted that VT threw four times in its first series and just eight times the rest of the night. Stiney said the plan was to come out early and back the Herd off as they crowded sometimes nine defenders up front. The offense didnít execute two opportunities for big pass plays and the protection didnít hold up well at times for Bryan Randall, he said. The offense didnít adjust well to the blitz when it had opportunities to connect.
Stinespring was adamant that VT isnít going to shy from trying to run the football -- the Hokies will play to their strengths, yet will throw when the opportunity is presented. "Weíre not hesitant to throw it." Practices have shown the staff that VT can throw whenever necessary. "We can throw the football and know there are situations when we will have to throw more." He praised the team for the statement it made in stopping Marshall on three and out early in the second half and then mounting a scoring drive that consumed 7:15 off the clock.
On the last series before the half, VT wanted to throw to Richard Johnson who was one on one. But it didnít get completed, the second down play didnít work, and "third down was not a very good call," Stiney explained.
He was asked about VT seemingly playing more true freshmen than usual. With a 14-game season, there are a lot of snaps ahead to be taken and "those who have played so far, we are counting on becoming significant contributors to our program." The staff is using the first 3-4 games to let the rookies adjust to the speed of the game and learn their roles.
A caller asked about the appearance that Bryan Randall seems more at ease throwing while rolling out. Randall is comfortable either way, Stinespring said, although when you move the quarterback around his reads become less of an issue. When you sprint him out the reads are easier, he said, and Randall is comfortable with his athleticism in getting to the corner.
Bill Roth asked Stinespring for the highlight of his playing career at Clifton Forge High School. After MUCH thought, he claimed it to be when he "raced" 80 yards with an interception, only to be caught and tripped up at the 4 by an opponentís lineman.
Coach Beamer said officials made the right calls among those in question in the Marshall game. On the pass interference against Willie Pile, the official said Pile held the receiver as he made his move. That wasnít the case at all, Beamer said: Manning gave the receiver a little shove right as the ball was in the air. It was pass interference on VT, but the original explanation wasnít correct.
The roughing the passer call on Hardee was correct. Beamer said the same thing should have been called several times against Marshall. Shots to the head are supposed to get emphasis on calls this year and Randall took three of those, he said, without a penalty being called. On the blocked field goal attempt, Fuller had the ball and made a forward lateral that was correctly flagged, Beamer said. The player could have "unintentionally" batted the ball forward, but not control it and then send it forward, as Fuller did.
A caller asked why so many underneath passes were open for Marshall. Beamer said the Hokies were playing more zone late in the game. In zone, you canít contest some passes when they get zipped in there the way Leftwich threw them.
Beamer said it was an emotional experience to have his jersey retired in the pre-game ceremony. He said it was special to have his family there to share the moment. He was honored and thanked Jim Weaver for how it came about. "Iím not in the same athletic boat with the other guys up there" on the stadium banners, he said. Bill Roth said Shane Beamer, who wore the same number as a VT player, can now bring his girlfriends to the stadium and try to impress them by saying thatís HIS name and number displayed on the banner.
Back to A&Mís defense Ė Beamer said this bunch is "real legit" with three All-Americans, claims of their best secondary ever and leading the country thus far in rushing defense. The A&M offense has a lot of weapons, even though it has had trouble moving the ball so far. A&M opened the season against Rickey Bustleís ULL team. Beamer said he hasnít talked to Bustle about playing the Aggies but that Stinespring has talked to Bustle this week.
JUCO DT Jimmy Williams finally started practice Monday and looked OK. They will see how he does with his conditioning status and learning the defense and then make a decision about whether he plays this year. I think there was some banter I missed about whether he could be ready in three weeks for the BC game or if it would be better to redshirt him if he had missed so many games by then. Beamer was vague and just said they would go day by day and see how quickly he can play.
Beamer was asked about using Jones and Suggs in the backfield together more often as runners, rather than shifting Suggs to the slot when they are in the game together. The coach indicated he was leery of getting away from using his crew of fullbacks. All of them are good receivers and you have to keep your protections in mind when deciding what personnel is best, he said. Sometimes you could overdo it by playing Suggs and KJ together.
Another caller asked about Chris Clifton getting another look as the backup at quarterback. Beamer said the possibility of working Clifton at QB some more was actually talked about a few weeks ago, but he thinks that leaving him at receiver is best. And Noelís knee should come around . As the coaches see Vick develop in practice, they think maybe he should play this year, Beamer said. But then, they still want to redshirt him for now.
Redshirt receivers Lee, Malone and Parker were asked about. Beamer said Malone catches the ball very naturally and that tall guys like him usually pick up speed in the strength program to go along with the long strides they take. Parker: "In another yearÖI bet heíll really help us next year." Lee made a nice catch in a scrimmage Monday and will figure in in another year. True freshman Darryl Tapp is playing on five different special teams. Beamer also talked up the play of true freshmen J. Lewis and Jimmy F. Williams, and redshirt sophomore Jason Lallis.
Beamer was unable to say whether he thought the Lane Stadium crowd was louder for LSU or Marshall. He wears a headset that blocks some of the noise. He did take it off at one point in the MU game and said "Wow, is it loud!" He pointed out how the noise affects not just the offenseís timing but also the opponent when punting, because the deep snapper is bent over the ball and can neither hear the cadence nor see the personal protector calling the signal.