Another season is upon us, and therefore it’s time to embark on the whimsical journey of the weekly opponent Q&A. Sometimes we only gain a little insight, but often our football brethren from across the country share a wealth of knowledge about their respective teams and what we may see when they roll the ball out there in the next few days.
The Cards next opponent is the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Surprising some folks (including their own fanbase) the Hokies are sitting tied for second place in the ACC Standings with your very own Louisville Cardinals. A big game this week, so I reached out to our friends over at ‘Gobbler Country’ to get a read on what this Virginia Tech team brings to the table on Saturday and Bryan Manning was happy to provide his insight into how things changed so quickly for this team. Lets get to it.
After a slow start Virginia Tech appears to be rolling the last few weeks. What’s changed to show the turnaround?
At one point, the Hokies looked like a 1-win team. Then QB Grant Wells got hurt, opening the door for Drones. Look, I don’t want to say Tech’s resurgence is because of Drones, but he is the biggest factor. OC Tyler Bowen is running the type of offense he wants to run with Drones. Drones is an excellent runner, he is fast and strong. But he can also throw the deep ball. And with each passing week, he’s getting much more comfortable. It’s no coincidence that VT’s offense is much better. Now, as for the defense, they can get to the quarterback. It’s a fast group that is playing with confidence. Early in the season, they struggled with run fits at linebacker. Things have improved and the defense looks completely different.
When I think Virginia Tech my mind goes to defense, and so far the Hokies are Top 3 in the ACC overall and first in passing defense. What’s made them so successful this year, who are some of the guys Plummer should be avoiding?
leads the ACC in sacks and he’s in the top five in the country. The Florida transfer is the best pass rusher the Hokies have had in years. He’s outstanding. Norell Pollard and Keyshawn Burgos are two other defensive linemen to watch. Linebacker Keli Lawson is a freak athlete. Lawson just keeps getting better. In the secondary, the Hokies are a little beat up. They could be in trouble if Jalen Stroman misses the game. However, Mansoor Delane, Dorian Strong and Derrick Cantee are a terrific trio at cornerback.
A sneaky stat is the Virginia Tech special teams returning 15 kickoffs and 15 punt returns so far this year. While most teams are playing it safe with fair catches, it looks like the Hokies are stealing 5-10 yards of field position in the third phase of the game at times. What do you see from the specialists? Difference makers?
On kick returns, the Hokies often use starting RB Bhayshul Tuten. Tuten ran a kickoff back against FSU. At punt returner, Tucker Holloway is as good as anyone in the country. He doesn’t fair catch the ball and always gains positive yardage. Holloway is an elite special-teams weapon.
I’m sure there is a joke buried somewhere about the “airing it out” with Kyron ‘Drones’ but what has he brought to the team the last month or so since jumping in as a starter?
His impact has been massive. He started slow, as expected. But each week, he shows a new wrinkle and he is comfortable throwing down the field. As a runner, he’s opened up things for Tech’s talented RB duo, Tuten and Malachi Thomas. Drones is still developing as a passer but he’s quickly established rapport with some of Tech’s wideouts, such as Jaylin Lane, Quan Felton and Stephen Gosnell.
With second place in the ACC on the line, do you think the Virginia Tech faithful will make the trip this week?
Should be decent weather, and avoiding the noon kickoff allows for a same day drive possibly. The Hokies’ fans always travel well. Even in lean years, VT fans travel. I do expect a large number of Hokie faithful in attendance. And when you consider how well they’ve played recently, it makes traveling for the game even more possible. Lane Stadium was still selling out when the Hokies looked like a one-win team.
What do you see happening this week? Think Virginia Tech can pull off the upset on the road?
A few weeks ago, no, I didn’t think Virginia Tech could win this game. Over the past week, my mind has changed. Would I put my money on the Hokies? No. But I think they can win. I do feel the Cardinals are ahead of the Hokies at this point and probably win the game. For Tech to win, it needs to keep pressure on Plummer and keep Jawhar Jordan in check. Can they do both? I am not sure. If they do, I think the offense can do enough to win the game. But my prediction, I think the Cardinals win in a one-score game.
A huge thanks to Bryan for his time and his answers. Feel free to check out the ‘Gobbler Crew’ (dont call them that) over on TwitterX here for all your Hokie wants and needs. I also chatted with the ‘Gobbler Boys’ (don’t call them that) about this game right here so feel free to go check it out and leave a positive comment about how awesome we are. Gotta be honest, I feel pretty good about this game...which in turn makes me nervous. As I told them on our Q&A over there at ‘Gobbler Town’ (don’t call it that) on paper this should be a two score game, but something makes it feel like a tight one late. As with the next four games, do what you can to score at least one more point than the other team and then get the heck out of there. Cards 28-21.