'Show' Time For Virginia Tech

Hokies, off a poor performance, ready to face LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday

Sept. 7, 2007

By Adam Caparell




Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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As far as "show me" games go, there might not be a bigger one for Virginia Tech this season than Saturday night's showdown with LSU.


After the Hokies' performance against East Carolina that could conservatively be described as lackluster, Frank Beamer's ninth-ranked squad enters its meeting with the No. 2 Tigers searching for answers to their many murky questions.




"Playing an opponent like this, you find out a lot about your football team, that's for sure," Beamer said.


So under that premonition, Beamer can expect to find out whether his rushing attack was really as bad as the measly 33 yards it produced against the Pirates. Or whether the offensive line, which allowed four sacks against ECU, is really that inept at protecting the quarterback. Or whether the defense, the No. 1-ranked unit in the nation the past two seasons, is the kind of defense that will regularly allow 100-plus yard rushing efforts.


And to make matters worse, Beamer gets to find out the answers to those questions at one of the toughest places to play in all of college football -- Tiger Stadium, Death Valley, Saturday night, under the lights against what very well could be one of the few defenses better than his own.  


"There's no question as you look at the tape of this football team that we're playing one of the two best teams in the nation, and that's no slight to Nos. 3, 4 and 5," Beamer said. "But I firmly believe we're playing -- I know they're ranked second, but I'm not sure they're not ranked first."


That's high praise for a Tiger team that didn't exactly look like No. 1 material in their opener. Sure they shut out Mississippi State on the road eight days ago to the tune of 45-0, but LSU was far from perfect in its first game.


The Tigers weren't particularly great on offense as new quarterback Matt Flynn was far from overwhelming. Ball distribution left something to be desired as the Tigers basically won because Bulldogs quarterback Michael Henig had trouble keeping the ball out of hands of LSU defenders, throwing a record-tying six interceptions -- three to Craig Steltz alone.


That stout Tigers defense, which allowed just 146 yards of total offense to Mississippi State, is led by Glenn Dorsey and his three battery mates on the line of scrimmage. Arguably the best defensive tackle in the country, the Tigers front four create havoc for offensive lines and fluster quarterbacks maybe better than anyone -- precisely the last thing the Hokies want to deal with.


"Glenn Dorsey is a great, great player," Beamer said, "but he's got a bunch of other good guys right around him that makes it hard. What makes it hard is that they're so many of them that kind of look the same and play the same."


Dorsey could very well feast on the developing Tech offensive line that features its fair share of young players who allowed quarterback Sean Glennon to face plenty of pressure from ECU. With LSU's penchant for blitzing and loads of speed, Tech's front five could be in for a rough, rough night.  


"We better be really, really better if we expect to hang in this game," Beamer said.


To say it is imperative Tech establish some semblance of the running game with Branden Ore would be an understatement. Quite simply, if the Hokies fail to make any headway on the ground and put it all on Glennon's shoulders, then they figure to be toast.


Glennon will feel heat all night long and the only way to alleviate it -- albeit sparingly with the Tigers -- is to get the running game going, something the Hokies failed miserably at against ECU. Beamer chalked up the struggles to individual breakdowns earlier in the week and it is something LSU coach Les Miles knows full well he can take advantage of.


"Watching the East Carolina game, it appeared they weren't great at controlling that game and what might have been the score," Miles said.


But that was Week 1, the one week of the season where teams always look better or worse than they really are. One of the oldest coaching clichés is about how teams improve the most from Week 1 to Week 2, so for two Top 10 teams, with expectations that seemingly extend from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, the site of this year's BCS championship game, we should see much better play Saturday evening.


"I think you iron out a lot of bugs between one and two," Miles said. "I think the guys that are first-time starters are no longer first-time starters. They've run through a series of first-game issues. Now they've had a practice week to point at and improve and I think you find that happens pretty regularly.


"For coaches, there are some things that you didn't know that were going to happen and you have an opportunity to coach and coach aggressively. It is a coaching cliché, but I believe it very fully."


There is no preseason in college football, so teams are forced to work out the kinks when it counts. There were some kinks with the Tigers, even more so with the Hokies last week.


"I think we came out of the game last weekend with some ideas of what we needed to do better to play a team as good as LSU," Beamer said.


That is good news, because the Hokies are about to face the most talented team they have ever played in the Beamer era, according to the coach. And unless they fix what is broken, Saturday's "show me" game could quickly become unwatchable.