The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Canes - Hokies Preview

Yeah, I'm late in getting this posted. But here it is. I'll focus on what I think the keys to the game will be.

1. People will talk about how the noise at Lane Stadium will affect the Canes. I know that it will be loud. It was loud in 2003 and it will be louder this year, as the stadium is bigger, and partially enclosed in the end zone. Still, the Canes opened on the road with a night game against Florida State followed by another road game against Clemson. I really doubt that Lane Stadium is going to be any louder than it was in Death Valley, especially during the 4th quarter and overtime.

2. Containing Marcus Vick - over the past four or five years, the only weakness of the Canes defense has been their ability to limit the scrambling of mobile quarterbacks. So far this year the Canes haven't faced any, and the defense has been nearly impenitrible. This is a big first test for the Canes. How well they contain Vick's ground game will go a long way towards who wins this game. Vick could run for a lot of yards, but I don't see him throwing for much. If he throws for more than one touchdown, I'll be shocked.

3. Non-offensive scoring - the Canes and the Hokies are perrenial leaders in non-offensive scoring. This year is no different. Both teams have defenses that can score at any moment and special teams play is always exciting for both squads. The big question in my mind is Devin Hester and the Canes punt returns. So far this year the Canes haven't set up a traditional return at all. The plan has been to let on or two opposing gunners (the first guys down the field) to get past the Miami defenders and right in front of Hester before he catches the punt. Against the likes of Duke and Temple, Hester dances away from the gunners and then has fewer men to beat. That strategy likely won't work against Va Tech, but I don't think the Canes will employ it. I expect to see some returns set up that the Hokies haven't seen on film. That could be interesting.

A blocked kick could be huge in this game.

4. Miami's offensive line - the run blocking has generally been good all year. The pass blocking hasn't been. If Miami is one dimensional, the Hokies will feast.

5. Miami throwing the deep ball - Somewhat related to the previous point, but a little different too: even when Kyle Wright has had time, he has struggled at times (although it may be more due to his hand injury than anything) completing passes on deeper routes. If he's able to complete those balls today, the explosive Miami offense that folks are used to seeing could be back. That's a big if.

6. Devin Hester - I mentioned Hester before, but aside from special teams, he could have a big impact on this game. Devin's not likely to see the field on defense, as others (true freshman) have passed him on the depth chart. That frees him up to see more snaps on offense. In 2003 it backfired, but Coker busted the playbook open (reverses, trick plays, etc). With Hester in the offense, that could make things interesting. Devin also lined up at tailback for a half-dozen or so plays last week against North Carolina. If nothing else that provides a major change of pace for the Hokies, who will likely be used to Tyrone Moss's power game by the time they see Hester.


I'm really not sure what to expect tonight, but I think it should be a great game. Va Tech has played a relatively light schedule so far this year. They have beaten Boston College, but Miami poses their stiffest test of the year. The Canes played two tough games early, but have coasted since (partly because of the Ga Tech postponement due to weather).

No prediction from me. I'm not sure if this is going to be a close game or a lopsided affair (and if it's lopsided, I'm not sure who it will favor). Actually, I can't see it being a lopsided game in the Hokies favor. The Canes have only lost one game in the Coker-era (and you'd even have to go a ways back into the Butch Davis-era) where Miami wasn't winning or had a chance to win up until the last play/possession. That one game, of course, was against Va Tech in 2003 (the last time the two teams met in Blacksburg), but I just don't see the Canes getting blown out tonight.

Go Canes!


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