Virginia Tech 37, UAB 0
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 11/1/97
This game report will be relatively short (when compared to that huge column I wrote on the WVU game last week), because Im saving my energy for the Miami game and game report.
This game was a pleasant surprise in more ways than one. The weather was good, the team was sharp, and the coaching staff had obviously made an effort to make some adjustments and improve performance. The defense was aggressive again, and the offensive line played well (0 sacks, 5.5 yards per rush) with Coach Grimes back in the box.
I certainly didnt expect us to romp 37-0. I was telling anybody who would listen to bet the house that Tech would not cover the 25-point spread. I just couldnt see where the Hokie points were going to come from, and this was before I found out that Al Clark was not going to play.
Sheesh. You folks ought to know by now that Im awful when it comes to predictions. Thats why I dont bet. Not real money, anyway.
But I digress. Another thing that made the game enjoyable was the crowd. Thats right, the crowd. Although the crowd was small - the attendance was announced at 37,000, and that was probably a little generous - it was made up of hardcore Hokie fans. The weather was supposed to be rainy, and the opponent was "only UAB," and the Hokies had just gotten hammered by WVU the week before, so the fringe fans stayed home.
The only people who showed up were the intelligent, dedicated Hokie fans, and it was fun to watch the game with them. Most people in the stands knew what was going on in the game and knew what to look for, and the cheering was boisterous and enthusiastic, although not very loud, since there were at least 13,000 empty seats. It was a remarkably good atmosphere on what was supposed to be a slow day.
Overall, I had a good time, much better than I expected. Now, lets move on to discussing the game.Offense
Redshirt freshman Nick Sorensen got the start at quarterback due to Al Clarks injury, and everyone who watched the game agreed that Sorensen was sharp. He is poised, makes good decisions, and makes them quickly. Nick is an excellent runner with good speed, and he seemed to have good field vision and good confidence.
Sorensens stats were not eye-openers. He was 7-15 for 84 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The only real black mark on his day came when he underthrew a wide open Ken Handy and was picked off. Handy was on his way to a touchdown, having beaten his defender by at least five yards on a post route. I would have considered my game ticket to be money well spent if Id gotten to see a Sorensen-to-Handy bomb for a touchdown. Oh, well, maybe later.
The good performance is nothing new for Sorensen. This is the third time this year that he has seen significant playing time (its obviously his first start), and he has done well every time. Too bad it has been against Rutgers, Arkansas State, and a decent UAB team that was being dominated at the line of scrimmage. But at this point in his career, this is the best thing for him, to work in games that the Hokies are controlling, so he can become comfortable with the offense and with playing in major-college games.
If Clark, whose injury status is not settled yet, is unable to return in time for the Miami game, then Sorensen will get another start. Then well find out what hes really made of.
The coaching staff has obviously seen something in Sorensen that they like, because from a physical standpoint, I dont think he stood out over Dave Meyer coming out of Spring practice. He has simply matured a little quicker than Meyer, and according to Beamer, Sorensen has a sense of timing and a presence on the field that sets him apart from the other backups.
And another thing about Spring practice - Sorensen and Meyer were getting mauled all Spring, because they were playing behind a second-team offensive line that was younger and less talented than the second-team and first-team defensive lines that they often had to block in scrimmages. After the Spring game, the media wasted Sorensen and Meyer, saying that Techs backup QBs were terrible. I said in my Spring game report that calling them terrible when they were running for their lives was grossly unfair, and as far as I was concerned, the jury was still out on both of them.
So there Im right, and theyre wrong, again. Sorensen is not terrible. Hes pretty good for a redshirt freshman, actually.
Hey, Nick, I like the fact that youre 6-3, but 195 pounds is too light. Keep lifting those weights until you weigh about 230. It worked for some guy named Druckenmiller.
At receiver, all week long, the coaching staff had been saying that the three main receivers were going to be Handy, Gildersleeve, and Brian Remley. The fourth receiver was supposed to be freshman redshirt walk-on Wimberly, who is so far down the depth chart that Im not sure I spelled his name right, and Im not even sure what his first name is (I heard him called "Brian" and "Marcus" on two separate occasions last week).
Wimberly did not play (the rumor was an injury), so Hokie fans got to see something that some of them have been calling for: Ike Charlton at receiver. Ike turned out to be a mixed bag. The first pass to Ike bounced off his shoulder pads and into the arms of a nearby UAB defender, a result of the old looking-to-run-before-he-caught it routine. Ike caught a pass later for a 6-yard gain, and he turned in a great run on a reverse that saw him come one yard shy of scoring.
Supposedly, from what more astute observers have told me, on Ikes very first play, he blew past the corner and was wide open on a post route, but he was not the primary receiver, and Sorensen went to an equally open Ken Handy for a nice gain.
It was fun to see Ike at receiver, although its a tough switch this time of year. Beamer said after the game that Ike will see more work at the receiver spot, and with Stuewe and Harrison both being questionable for the Miami game, we may see more of Charlton. This time, I hope they bring him in when Tech has more field to work with. On Saturday, for the most part, he only came in near the red zone, when Tech was trying to spread the field with the four-wide set, and so he didnt have much room to run.
Lastly, for the offense, offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was back in the press box to work the game, and it showed. Sure, UAB is no Michigan when it comes to defense, but I dont think they are as bad as the Hokies made them look. Any time you rush for 5.5 yards a carry and post a zero-sack day (and in reality, Sorensen was hardly threatened at all when he dropped back into the pocket), its better than what was exhibited against Miami of Ohio, Boston College, and West Virginia.
Look for the offensive line to continue to improve from here on as Coach Grimes is able to work with them. Hes the one with the master plan for their development, and hell bring them along.Defense
First of all, in case you havent heard, the Hokies held UAB to 65 yards total offense, which is a Tech record. I dont care who youre playing, thats a heck of an accomplishment.
Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster said after the game that Tech pretty much decided, "To hell with the short passing game that our opponents have been using. Were going back on the attack."
The result was eight sacks, but dont be fooled into thinking that the Hokies were calling blitzes left and right. A lot of the damage was done by the basic front four. Yes, there was more blitzing than what weve seen lately, but it wasnt like we sent the kitchen sink on every play. We picked our spots carefully, and with a healthy John Engelberger consistently embarrassing the tackle who was trying to block him, just a single linebacker coming on the blitz can be devastating.
Of note is the fact that of our eight sacks, cornerback Anthony Midget had two of them. We dont usually get sacks out of our cornerbacks. Also of note is that Philip Summers played some at Rover, with Pierson Prioleau shifting to Whip, where the Hokies are one man short with the injury to Korey Irby.
There can no longer be any doubt that John Engelberger is the key to this defense. When he is healthy, as he was against Syracuse and Rutgers, this defense is a terror to behold. When he is not 100% healthy, this defense is pretty good but not great. Big John had three sacks on Saturday, and his total disruption of the opponents offensive backfield leads to greater opportunity for the Tech linebackers and DBs.
We need another player like him, because its scary that were so dependent upon one guy. If Engelberger is this teams Cornell Brown, then were still looking for our J.C. Price. But give the young fellas like Carl Bradley some seasoning, and the next J.C. will show up soon.
The Hokies appeared to solve the "short passing game" problem this week by bringing the safeties up in tighter coverage, not the cornerbacks. Keion Carpenter and Pierson Prioleau were very active in defending the slant routes, while the corners continued to play somewhat soft.
I thought we would see more of Ike Charlton at cornerback, because he outweighs Loren Johnson, Anthony Midget, and Larry Green by 15-20 pounds each and would be able to play more of a physical, up-close, bump-and-run style than those guys. I guess that Coach Foster took a look at his personnel and decided to defend the short passing game with his safeties, and not his corners. Hey, whatever works is fine with me, and it worked against UAB.
All in all, we saw shades of the early-season defense returning. It will be interesting to see what happens Saturday night against the Canes.Next Up: the Canes
Geez, I want to beat these guys bad. I was talking to a buddy tonight, and I realized that I would rather beat Miami and lose to Virginia than vice-versa. Im not sure what that means, so Ill have to give it some thought and figure out what in the heck is happening to my brain.
The kickoff is scheduled for 6:00, and the game is on ESPN2. Dont kid yourself, though with Michigan/Penn State on ABC at 3:30 and Florida State/UNC on ESPN at 7:30, no one will be watching our game.
Hey, you know what? I dont care. Ill be there in Lane Stadium with 53,000 of my closest friends, having a hell of a time.
Ill be back later this week with a preview of the Hurricane game. Once you do some digging, you find out some interesting things about this years version of the Canes. And be sure to check out my preview, because Im going to do something rare: Im going to predict the outcome, right down to the score.
That finishes this brief game report. I wish I could stay longer, but I gotta run. Kudos to Shayne Graham, Jimmy Kibble, and Lamont Pegues, who all had good games, but I didnt have enough time to discuss them.