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   Welcome to TSLMail #146 - Friday, October 8, 2004    
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Hokie Defense Stepping it Up
by Will Stewart,

Last December, we ran a TSL Pass article titled The State of the Program: The Defense, and in that article, I talked about how the 2003 Hokie defense was the worst defense statistically of the Beamer Bowl era (1993-2003). The article was written in December, prior to Tech's bowl game, and for the defense, the stats got even worse, as they were throttled by Cal for 52 points.

In the 13-game season (regular season plus bowl game), the 2003 Hokie defense gave up more points per game (23.0), more rushing yards per game (136.0), and more third-down conversions (40%) than any Hokie defense in the last 11 years. They surrendered the second-most yards per game (367.5), with only the 1993 defense (380.0) being worse in that category.

To put things in perspective, last year's defense finished 51st nationally in total defense, 45th in scoring defense, 39th in rushing defense, and 80th in pass efficiency defense. That defense just wasn't very good, and it was even worse than that late in the season, as it started to slide and the team started to nosedive.

This year's defense is obviously better, but how much better, and in what ways?

Sure, we're only five games into the 2004 season, but during those five games, the Hokies have played five teams of varying talent levels and potency, not just cupcakes or strong teams. In that respect, the first five games have been almost a mini-season for VT. So it's valid to compare this year's defense to last year's, even though it's early in the season.

In five games, here are the offenses the 2004 Hokies have faced and their national rank in yards per game, plus the yardage they got against VT:

Offensive Statistics, 2004 VT Opponents


Yards per Game


Yards vs. VT

























Just for fun, I ran the same numbers for the 2003 defense and got the following:

Offensive Statistics, 2003 VT Opponents


Yards per Game


Yards vs. VT









Texas A&M
















































The 2004 Hokie defense is a whopping 115 yards better per game than the 2003 defense. Note that 7 of VT's 12 Division 1-A opponents in 2003 exceeded their average yards per game against the Hokies, including the last five in a row. So far, the 2004 opponents are 0-for-5 in that stat and as a group have averaged nearly 100 yards per game less against VT than against their full schedule.

Anyway, back to the topic: this year's defense is vastly improved over last year's defense -- so far. What's the statistical comparison?

Comparison, 2003 and 2004 Defenses
Key Statistical Categories
Category 2003 Stat 2003 Rank 2004 Stat 2004 Rank
Total Yds/game 367.5 51st 262.4 12th
Rush Yds/game 136 39th 119.4 43rd
Pts/game 23.0 45th 14.2 16th

Total defense has improved significantly, by over 100 yards per game, and the Hokies are where their fans feel they belong: in the top 20 in total defense. Points per game is a big improvement, as well. Oddly though, rush defense has not improved by much, and in terms of where they rank in the NCAA, has actually gotten a little worse.

Those stats are nice, but the one stat I'm impressed with, and one that I think is extremely important, is third-down conversion rate. The Hokies gave up an abysmal 40% third-down conversion rate last season, the worst in the Beamer Bowl era. 40% is insane.  If your offense is converting at that rate, you're happy. If your defense is giving that up, you're tearing your hair out.

So far this year, that rate has dropped to 24% (17-of-71). That's a rate that's comparable with some of the great Hokie defenses of the past: 1995 (26.5%), 1999 (25%), and 2001 (22%).

And in the last couple of games, that stat has been incredibly impressive. You have no doubt heard that the Hokies held WVU to 0-for-13 on third downs, but they also held NC State to 4-of-13 and Duke to 1-of-15. So in the last three games, Hokie opponents are 5-of-41, an amazing 12.2%.

Sure beats 40%, doesn't it?

Vinnie Burns Struggling Big-Time

On the other end of the spectrum is punter Vinnie Burns, who as noted in a recent News and Notes has plummeted from #4 in the nation in punting to #46.

Three games into the season, Burns had punted 12 times for a 46.7 yard average. In the two games since then, he has punted 12 times for a 36.0 yard average. That has dropped his overall average to 41.3 yards per kick.

Burns' struggles have led some to wonder if the redshirt senior will be replaced by redshirt sophomore Nic Schmitt, who had a great day in the 2004 spring game last April. In that game, Schmitt boomed his first two punts 60 and 55 yards, and he averaged 52.6 yards on five punts for the day.

But Coach Beamer noted on that he will not replace Burns with Schmitt.

Info From the Tidewater Hokie Club


The Tidewater Hokie Club will be hosting a bus trip this fall to the VT vs UNC football game on Saturday Nov 6th.

Cost for the trip is $50 per person, which includes round trip transportation, cups, ice and sodas. Game tickets are not included!

Space on the bus is LIMITED and subject to SELL OUT so make your reservations early.

The only way to ensure your place on the bus is to make your Reservation Payment online using your credit card or print out a Reservation Form from our website and mail it along with your check made out to Tidewater Hokie Club to: Tidewater Hokie Club - 260 Bridgeview Circle - Chesapeake VA 23322

The buses will leave from the Park and Ride at Greenbrier Mall and return to Tidewater immediately following the games.

For more info, contact: Hunter DeJarnette - 482-4087 (H) or 382-6644(W)

We reserve the right to cancel the trips if sufficient reservations are not received in time to secure a full bus. No refunds will be given unless the trip is canceled.

See the following link for all the details on the UNC bus trip:

for a chance to win a 15-inch Hokie Bird Statue valued at $1600.

The Tidewater Hokie Club is sponsoring a raffle for one 15-inch Bronze Hokie Bird Sculpture. This is a genuine bronze replica of the 10-foot Hokie Bird that stands in Cassell Coliseum and will eventually make its home in expanded Lane Stadium. It is mounted on an onyx and walnut base and weighs in at almost 20 pounds.

Tickets are just $5 each with all the proceeds going to the Hokie Club.

Drawing will be held at a date to be announced.

If you would like to purchase some raffle tickets just drop your check in the mail made out to the Tidewater Hokie Club with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to:

Tidewater Hokie Club (HBR)
3812 Goose Bay Dr
Portsmouth VA

or you can purchase your raffle tickets online on our website at using your credit card.

Your raffle ticket numbers will be e-mailed to you upon receipt of payment. At this time this raffle is only being offered online!

All proceeds from both of this raffle will go towards the Tidewater Hokie Club's $40,000 pledge towards the Expansion of Lane Stadium!

Thanks in advance for helping support the Tidewater Hokie Club. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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For more info on TechSideline Pass, and to subscribe, click here. To give TSL Pass as a gift (one-year subscriptions only), click here.

-- Will Stewart Updates From the Past Week

Keys to the Game: Wake Forest
by Raleigh Hokie, 10/8/04, 10:30 am
With West Virginia in the rear-view mirror, the Hokies move on to bigger and more important targets with a conference road game against Wake Forest.  This will be Tech's first true road game of the season, and it comes against a conference foe that is vastly underrated by many fans, media, and other college football observers. Wake Forest may be limited athletically at some positions, but they play smart, tough, physical football and they will not beat themselves.
in TSL Pass

Wake Forest Game Preview
by Jeff Ouellet, 10/7/04, 2:15 pm
With the Black Diamond Trophy in tow after a hard fought and well deserved 19-13 win over West Virginia, the Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 1-1) travel to Groves Stadium to play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-2, 0-2) on Saturday. Wake has lost two heartbreaking overtime games in the conference – the opener at Clemson (37-30, double OT) and last week at N.C. State (27-20), and won three games in between, most notably a 17-14 victory over Boston College at home.
in Football Recruiting Report Archive, 10/6/04 (Audio)
by, 10/7/04, 11:50 am
Here's the second audio archive of the " Recruiting Report," which comes to you every Wednesday night at 7:00 on the "Tech Beat With Mike Harris" radio show on ESPN Radio 950 AM in Richmond, Virginia. Will Stewart talks with Mike Harris about basketball recruit Hyman Taylor, football recruit Steven Friday, and general recruiting topics. Also discussed: Brandon Pace and Mike Imoh (time: 23:15).
in TSL Pass

Watch Out for Land Mines
by Jim Alderson, 10/6/04, 4:45 pm
Please disregard my last column. It seems the team did not, however. After having spent a chunk of last week’s column pointing out Tech’s recent difficulties against good teams as well as their problems coming out on the long side of close games, the Tech team proceeded to go out and win a close game against a good team. I stand corrected. It was a very good win against a quality team from WVU. Tech was obviously ready to play against what will very soon be a former rival and had taken not only my chiding to heart but, it would seem, those hints coming from the WVU coaching staff that the Tech team was ‘soft.’ It was good to see Tech winning again, along with playing what used to be a Tech staple, smash-mouth football.
in TSL Pass

Tech Talk Tuesday Archive, 10/5/04 (Audio)
by, 10/6/04, 10:20 am
This week, the Tech Talk Tuesday gang reviews the WVU game and previews the Wake Forest game. Mike, Steve, and Morris talk with Stan Cotten, the voice of Wake Forest Football, and Dave Glenn, the editor of the ACC Area Sports Journal. TSL Pass is the only place you can listen to Tech Talk Tuesday archives, so log on and enjoy the show!
in TSL Pass

Brandon Pace, Tech Defense Climb in National Rankings
by Stefan Adams,, 10/6/04, 12:05 am
Despite facing the potent offense of West Virginia last Saturday, the Virginia Tech defense improved from 15th to 12th overall in total defense. The Hokies are giving up 262.4 yards per game, and in addition to that statistic ranking #12 in the country, there are other team and individual stats worth noting, not just for Tech but around the ACC.
Also: Parking for Saturday's Game; Fuller Up for ESPN's "Game Changing Performance" Award; VT/Wake Forest on the Internet
in News and Notes

WVU Game Analysis
by Will Stewart,, 10/5/04, 2:25 pm
Don't let the peripheral stuff fool you: Vinnie Fuller's return of a blocked field goal, WVU's John Pennington dropping a pass on the Hokie 2-yard line, Bryan Randall missing three receivers open deep and throwing a horrible pick for a TD, Brandon Pace kicking four field goals, two teams combining for 25 penalties … that's all just window dressing. This game was decided in the trenches, pure and simple. VT manhandled WVU up front, just like WVU had done to VT in 2002 and 2003, and that's why the Hokies won this ball game.
in TSL Pass

Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Notes
by Phil Noftsinger, 10/5/04, 10:00 am
Roth introduced Coach Foster by reviewing that Tech’s defense shut down the 9th rated rushing offense in the nation. Roth asked Foster when he knew that his defense was ready to take on West Virginia. Foster said that he knew that on Monday, possibly Sunday a week ago. Foster said that the Hokie squad was ready for this WVU team, after falling to the Mountaineers the last two years. Roth pointed out that the defense pitched a shut-out on third down. Foster said that this was two weeks in a row where the defense put up a good effort on third down.
in Hokie Hotline Notes

Revisiting the Keys: WVU
by Raleigh Hokie, 10/4/04, 3:15 pm
Seeking redemption for an embarrassing showing a year ago in Morgantown, the Hokies earned a tough, hard fought victory over sixth-ranked West Virginia primarily by winning the battles in the trenches.  In doing so, the Hokies regained a measure of respect from the college football world, while sending the Mountaineers off to face a flurry of questions from an ever-increasing collection of doubters.   
in TSL Pass

Virginia Tech 19, West Virginia 13
Hokies Knock out #6 WVU With Heavy Dose of Beamerball

by Will Stewart,, 10/2/04, 1:30 am
Blacksburg, VA -- It doesn't take a night game to bring out Beamerball. Just turn on the lights. On a cloudy, sometimes rainy day in which the Lane Stadium lights were on, Virginia Tech hit 6th-ranked West Virginia with defense, special teams and the running game to sew up their second victory over a top 10 team in the last two years, 19-13. Brandon Pace kicked four field goals, Vince Fuller returned a blocked field goal 74 yards for a touchdown, and Mike Imoh ran 30 times for 115 tough yards to lead the Hokies.
in Football

Keys to the Game: WVU
by Raleigh Hokie, 10/1/04, 12:30 am
After a tough home loss to NC State, the Hokies now must get ready for West Virginia. The sixth ranked Mountaineers come to town undefeated, with confidence and a ton of experience on both sides of the ball. WVU has won the last two games in this rivalry primarily because they have won the physical battles at the line of scrimmage. Reversing those results this Saturday will be a tough challenge for the Hokies, but it is something they must do in order to pull off the upset over the talented Mountaineers.
in TSL Pass

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