Thursday, October 23, 1997
Update on Scales
I just received word that Shawn Scales has reinjured his ankle and may be done for the year. He was jogging and his bad tendon slipped out of place again, and the ankle will probably require surgery. It's possible that he'll be able to return for the bowl game, but we'll just have to wait and see.
This is unfortunate not only because Shawn is a team leader and a big-play maker, but because he's a popular player who is well-liked by Hokie fans everywhere who know his story. It's a shame to see a guy like him suffer an injury like this in his senior year. Good luck with the surgery and hurry back, Shawn!
The Trash Man Cometh
Ahh, now this is big-time college football!
All the chatter in the last few days has been about some trash-talking that has come out of Morgantown. WVU defensive linemen Henry Slay and John Thornton one-upped each other earlier this week in their efforts to inform the press about how, uh, "unfair" the Hokies offensive line is in their blocking tactics.
It started with Thornton, who was discussing the Hokies, and here's how the conversation went, as reported by the West Virginia newspaper The Dominion Post: (please excuse the italics)
At first he (Thornton) said they were physical. Then he admitted they held every chance they got. Next in the progression was the way they would lay atop you, hooking an arm or a leg, if they took you to the ground so that you could not get up.
Thorntons description of the Virginia Tech-niques was passed along to his running mate in the defensive line, senior co-captain Henry Slay.
While he may share the same first name as a guy named Kissinger, this Henry is no diplomat.
"I'll go one better,'' said the tackle. "They're dirty. They're the kind of guys that if your back's turned, they'll put you on the ground."
And, once it was said, Thornton, too, came around and said what he was thinking.
If they get a chance, theyre going to cheap- shot you and throw you on the ground or hold you. Theyre not the normal team where they block you and let you go. They block you, theyre gonna let everyone know they blocked you and throw you on the ground .
They went on a little longer, but you get the idea. WVU Coach Don Nehlen probably would have preferred that his players lay off such talk, but once it's said, you can't take it back.
You wanna know what I think? I like it. Finally, after listening to Don Nehlen and Frank Beamer dish out snoozer quotes all week, somebody finally said something worth repeating.
This game already had everything else. It's a key matchup on CBS between two old rivals, both ranked, and the game could decide who wins the Big East championship and goes to a big-money Alliance Bowl. So before Slay and Thornton opened their mouths, this was already a great game in the making.
Now it's got some trash talk to make it even spicier. Now it's personal.
I also think that those quotes don't amount to a hill of beans as far as influencing the outcome of the game. Is there anyone out there who thinks that the Hokies weren't sufficiently fired up before the Slay and Thornton quotes were printed? I assure you, there was plenty of motivation to begin with. I think the trash talk livens things up for the fans, but as far as giving either team the edge, it won't. If the Hokies win, they'll tell you that the trash talk inspired them, but frankly, if they need trash talk to get inspired, then something's wrong.
The quotes won't intimidate the Hokies, although Tech needs to be careful not to get carried away by it. Talk doesn't win games, good coaching and playing does. And if WVU is "talking the talk" in an attempt to help them "walk the walk," then they've got things backwards. You're supposed to do the deed first, and then brag about it later. At least, that's how it works in my book.
Just ask Miami of Ohio Coach Randy Walker. Now there's a guy who knows how to time his trash-talk!
A Statistical Breakdown and Some Thoughts on the Game
As you know, I'm not much of a football tactician, but nevertheless, I'll do my best to give you some things to key on as you watch the game.
Key #1: WVU's D-line versus Tech's O-line. From what I hear, the West Virginia defensive line is the strength of their defense, so it's up to Tech's offensive line to keep the Mountie DL's off of Al Clark and the running backs. Although Tech can't rely solely on the run like they did against BC, it will be necessary for the Hokies to establish the run first to open up the passing game.
Key #2: the Hokie passing game. I firmly believe that for Tech to win this game, the passing game of the Hokies is going to have to excel. This could be difficult, due to the absence of Shawn Scales. I think Angelo Harrison can handle the receiving load if he's the primary receiver, so having a go-to guy shouldn't be a problem. The problem is in protecting the quarterback. If the Hokies can provide good protection for Al Clark by blocking well and softening up the WVU DL with the running game and a quarterback draw or two, then we'll be okay.
Key #3: slow down Amos Zereoue. Well, duh. He's a great back. He's just as fast as last year, and he's bigger and stronger. But I don't think a running back can beat the Hokies. If they could, then UVa would have topped us last year, among others. Notice that I don't say "stop Zereoue," because that's probably impossible. If we can just slow him down and put the Mountaineers into a few third and long situations, then the defense will hold, because WVU has trouble converting third downs, and the Hokies lead the Big East defensively in third down conversion percentage. If, on the other hand, Zereoue pops some runs and WVU is consistently facing third and short, or no third down at all, then we're in trouble.
Key #4: the Hokie pass rush. We haven't been getting good pressure on the QB the last two games, mainly because opposing teams have kept running backs in to block and have gone to short drops and the quick passing game. If we're good enough to slow down Zereoue and force WVU to pass, then we've got to take advantage of the situation and get pressure on Bulger. If not, then the Tech DB's need to continue to play well, as they did against BC.
Key #5: special teams and turnovers. This is a key to every game, not just this one. To win, the Hokies have to hold onto the ball, and they need a big play from special teams. Scales won't be in to return kicks, which really hurts. He's a great returner who makes good decisions and always gets positive yardage. The good news is that superfast Ike Charlton will be replacing Scales. If Charlton can get behind the defense, he's gone.
As you can see, nothing real earth-shaking there. Those five keys are actually some of the keys to winning any ball game, but in this game, I think they're the most important ones. Watch for those things on Saturday, and we will indeed see if they're what decides the game.
I'll leave you now with a statistical comparison between the two teams that may shed some more light on the game. Sorry if the formatting is a little sloppy, but it's a nice stat summary.
Have fun watching the game, whether you're in the stadium, in a sports bar, or in your living room. These late October and November games against rivals and conference foes are what we college football fans live for, so enjoy it!