TSL Round Table #10
by TechSideline.com, 9/4/02

For our "TSL Round Table" feature, we have selected a small panel of site fans and message board posters completely at random and without rhyme or reason (so don't be offended if you're not one of them), and each week, we'll pose them a question and run their answers here on TSL.

This week's TSL Round Table question:  Who's your Hokie MVP from the LSU game, and why?

Chris Schooley: Willie Pile. He didn't rack up a bunch of tackles and didn't have an interception, but with Whitaker out, it was Pile who brought this young defense together.

He did his best Lou Gehrig by playing every defensive snap as his backup, Jimmy Williams, continues to season on special teams. He made two nice tackles when he had one-on-one coverage with LSU's best player, Michael Clayton.

And maybe most importantly, LSU knew there was a head hunter in the secondary, and that may have led to a number of the drops by the Bayou Bengal receivers.

Pile's a great leader, the kind we've needed since Corey Moore left. With a ton of new faces out there, it's Pile making the crucial calls and keeping these guys focused. Now, he has his biggest task coming up in a matchup with Byron Leftwich and his stable of Herd pass catchers....and oh yeah, he now has to keep Ronyell focused too.

Kent LaRoque: Simply...Vinnie Burns. Nine punts that averaged over 44 per punt.

Field position helped win that game for us, and while our defense played an awesome game, Burns was a key factor. It's been a while since VT has had a strong punting game. It actually makes our defense better and I think play more aggressively.

Sunday, we were world beaters...nobody could have beaten us that day, nobody. Sure hope we play with that much emotion the rest of the way. And it's not like we're a team of seniors; we're very young.

Dan Ramsey: Well, there are about 6 or 7 guys who could justifiably be said to have been the MVP for this, one of the biggest wins in school history. Bryan Randall, Lee Suggs, Kevin Jones, Jim Davis, Vegas Robinson ... a convincing argument could be made for any of these guys.

However, I'm going with co-MVP awards for Garnell Wilds and Vincent Fuller for filling in so well for missing All-Big East CB Ronyell Whitaker. Confident that D-Lo would shut down everything on his side of the field (Note to opposing QBs: Throw into Hall's zone at your own peril.), my biggest worry going into this game was how Wilds and Fuller would hold up.

To put it succinctly, they played fabulously. They were tested and kept everything in front of them, didn't get beaten deep, tackled surely in the open field, and were great in run support. The mark of the truly elite teams is that they can overcome the unexpected absence of key personnel when they need to do so.

And Wilds and Fuller weren't just adequate. From what I was able to see, they both played outstanding games. In particular, Fuller really pulled our bacon out of the fire on the kickoff following LSU's lone TD when we had 10 people up to guard against an onside kick and Richard Johnson apparently forgot that he was fielding a kickoff and not a punt. Had Fuller not been on his horse to recover that ball and had LSU instead would up with it on our 20 yard line down by only 16 points with plenty of time left .... I shudder to contemplate what might have happened. It's possible that we might all be singing a VERY different tune today.

So, my MVP props go out to both Vinnie and Garnell. Well done, gentlemen!

Steve Aikens (SteveinBaltimore): This is a tough one. Just as the Heisman voters, All America voters, and Doak Walker voters have to do, it's unfair and difficult to choose between Suggs and Jones when they both play well. So they'll probably get shut out of awards they are otherwise deserving.

Several guys on defense had great games, most notably Robinson and Davis. And while I don't think the game announcer naming him MVP was a bit of a stretch, Bryan Randall did run the offense well enough for us to beat a top 15 team with ease.

But I'm going to go against football orthodoxy and give this one to a player that doesn't even hit...the punter. When you look at the stats for this game, we didn't have significantly more yards or more first downs than LSU. How did we wind up with significantly more points? Field position. And while the block and the two turnovers helped greatly in that department, no one player contributed more to the decisive field position battle throughout the day than Vinnie Burns.

His 44.7 yard average doesn't even begin to tell the story, because several of those punts were intentionally short to get the ball inside the 20, which he did at 4 times. When he had the whole field to work with, he averaged over 50 yards per punt! Compare that with the LSU punter's 35 yard average (which doesn't even count the blocks), and you'll see that we were picking up 10 to 15 yards per exchange.

Each team punted at least 9 times, which means that there effectively 9 such exchanges in the game. That's 100 to 120 yards right there...suddenly you see why our relatively small total yardage advantage can translate into an 18 point win! So I'm going to name VINNIE BURNS as my game MVP, probably the first time I would give a kicking specialist the award since the 1986 Peach Bowl.

Jim Alderson: Bud Foster. This was an outstanding defensive game plan that was classic Tech: shut down the opponent's inside running game and bring a pass rush that takes away the vertical passing game. That does not leave a lot of ways for the other guy to beat you. The rush defense that used our D-line's speed to negate the size of the LSU O-line was excellent coaching.

Chris Hoover: Hmmm. Let's take a look at the MVP candidates.

The cynic's choice: The LSU wide receivers - 6, 8, 10, or 12 drops. However many they had, they definitely helped our cause.

The gutty choice: Bryan Randall - Coming in off the bench against a major opponent, he handled himself pretty well and hit some nice throws in pressure situations.

The workhorses: Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones - For a quarter and a half, we did nothing but run to close out the game against a tough defense. These guys were solid for the whole game and carried the offensive workload.

The Star Wars squad: The defense - Did anyone really, honestly expect our young defense to come up this big against LSU? I didn't. Under 100 yards rushing allowed. No LSU completions over 17 yards. Amazing.

The mastermind: Bud Foster - Granted he's got a ton of talent to work with, but he's taking kids a couple years out of high school and beating SEC champions with them. The guy is a genius.

The guy you'd never think of - Vinnie Burns - Four punts over 50 yards, pinning the Tigers deep all day and averaging a career-best 44.7 yards per punt.

So who gets the award? Beating out the defensive genius that is Bud Foster by a hair is Bryan Randall, who played awfully well is his first major test. When Grant went out with an injury, there was a lot of pressure on Bryan to produce and he did. No small amount of credit should go to Grant, who - to his credit - helped counsel Grant on things to look for in what LSU was doing on defense.

Congrats to Bryan and "thank you" to Grant.

Will Stewart, TechSideline.com: So far, thatís one vote for Willie Pile, one for Garnell Wilds/Vince Fuller, one for Bud Foster, one for Bryan Randall, and two for Vinnie Burns. Now for my choice:

My MVP is Jim Weaver, for scheduling this game.

But seriously, I'll give a huge nod to Vinnie Burns. Field position won this game, and Vinnie had a lot to do with the great field position that VT enjoyed all day long.

My MVP award, though, goes to the defensive end combination of Jim Davis and Cols Colas. If you think about it, in many respects, VT's defense did on Sunday what they've been doing for years: they stuffed the run and the covered the LSU receivers well. But they also did something on Sunday that has been missing the last two seasons: they pressured the QB.

If Colas and Davis donít constantly flush Mauck out of the pocket, then the run defense and pass coverage don't matter -- Mauck just stands there and hits his receivers. But thanks to Davis and Colas (with a big assist from tackle Jason Lallis), Mauck didn't have a chance to get comfortable.

The VT defense is a balancing act that is one part run defense, one part man-to-man coverage, and one part rushing the QB. The QB rush has been missing in action since 1999. On Sunday, it was there (4 sacks, 14 QB hurries), and that's what really made the defense click.

So, my MVP's: Jim Davis and Cols Colas.

Got a suggestion for a question you want our Round Table to answer? Send it to will@techsideline.com!


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