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Game Preview:  VT at Central Florida
by VTHT93, 11/9/00
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The Details:  Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL . Saturday at 6pm, ESPN Gameplan/Regional.

At Stake for Central Florida:  With losses to Northern Illinois and Akron, it is unlikely that Central Florida will be invited to a bowl game, thus making this the biggest game of the year.  It is the regular season finale for the Knights, as they play host to Virginia Tech. The Knights will be motivated  to send their seniors off in style with an upset of a top 10 team. 

At stake for the Hokies:  The Hokies are playing only for style points now.  With the Big East season over, and a bowl game secure, the Hokies want to try to impress the poll voters and sneak into an 8 million dollar BCS bowl as an at large team.  The Hokies also get the chance to rebound from their first loss in 19 regular season games.

Who to watch for VT:  CB Billy Hardee, QB Dave Meyer, TB Lee Suggs, FL Emmett Johnson.

These Knights will shine:  QB Ryan Schneider, WR Tyson Hinshaw, S Damian Demps, OG Kurt Baumann.

When VT has the ball: 

The VT Offense will again be without its two best players, as Michael Vick and Andre Davis are out, as of Wednesday.  This means that the Hokies will look to Lee Suggs to carry the load.  Lee was impressive last week against a very good Miami defense, rushing for 121 yards and a pair of scores.

The UCF defense has done a good job against the run, yielding only 112 yards per game.  The Hokies will try to counter that with a power running game that has been unstoppable this year, averaging a gaudy 267 yards per game. The Hokies should try to pass more this week, as backup QB Dave Meyer will be more comfortable.

Ironically, Tech passed for more yards last week (234) than in any other game this season -- amazing, considering Vick only played about a quarter, and Andre Davis was out. The Knights are giving up 206 yards per game passing, so if Meyer is more accurate than he was a week ago, the Hokies can make some plays in the passing game.

There has been some talk about the play calling in the Miami game.  It looked at times as if the option had no chance, or that the receivers seemed confused about where the ball was going.  Look for  VT Offensive Coordinator Rickey Bustle to simplify things this week, and rely on what the team does best: control the clock, run the ball, and take a shot or two downfield.

UCF has not played the level of competition the Hokies have played, nor do they have the speed to match up with the Tech offense.  One clear advantage will be the athleticism of the Hokies' offensive line, and their ability to run block.  If Meyer can keep an eye on talented UCF Safety Damian Demps and get the ball to Lee Suggs and Emmett Johnson, the Hokies should be able to score some points.

When Central Florida has the ball

It doesn't take a genius or even Lee Corso to figure out the the Hokies have "issues" with pass coverage.  Those issues may remain unsolved after last Saturday's game against Miami.

Central Florida is a passing team, and a good one at that.  Quarterback Ryan Schneider has completed 62 percent of his passes, with 18 touchdowns.  The UCF offensive line has been the main reason for this sucess, yielding only 13 sacks in 10 games.

The success of the passing game has not translated to the running game.  UCF has not been able to generate a ground game all year, averaging a mere 85 yards per game.  This is not good news facing a Hokies team that is outstanding at stopping the run.

So the game plan will be simple for UCF:  sit back and pass against a young Hokies secondary that has been shelled the past two games.   Redshirt Freshman Billy Hardee will be making his first start at corner for the Hokies, replacing embattled Eric Green.

Hardee will have his hands full with the talented Tyson Hinshaw.  Hinshaw is clearly the Knights go-to guy, with 78 catches and 11 touchdowns.  As a comparison, the leading Hokies receiver is Emmett Johnson with 27 catches and 3 touchdowns.

The Hokies will try to pressure the Knights and force them into long yardage situations.  The Hokies have a very opportunistic secondary, with 18 interceptions.  This should be a concern for UCF, as Schneider has tossed 7 interceptions in 8 games.

The key for the Knights will be to run effectively enough to keep Rover Cory Bird and FS Willie Pile close enough to the line of scrimmage to expose the VT corners to the deep pass. This formula worked for Miami, but it isn't likely to work as well for UCF.

What VT has to do to win
:  The Hokies must put the Miami loss behind them, and focus on a good UCF team.  Dave Meyer must find some accuracy and move the ball to open holes for Lee Suggs.  The offensive line needs to establish early that they will dominate and control the clock to keep the UCF passing game on the sidelines.

What Central Florida needs to do to win:  The Knights must play a mistake-free game, and make some big plays in the passing game.  The Knights will not be able to line up and run on this Virginia Tech defense, so they must be careful with the ball and try to use as much clock as possible when passing 45-50 times.  UCF head coach Mike Kruczek insists his team will be ready for the Hokies' special teams.  The last coach to say that so plainly was ECU coach Steve Logan, who was then burned by the "Pride and Joy" for 2 scores.

The Outlook:  This is being billed in Orlando as the biggest game in the history of Central Florida football..  This is the final game of the season for the Knights, who have a lot of confidence after a win in Alabama just 2 weeks ago. The Hokies come to town limping and without their best player, but wanting to prove that last week was a fluke.

The Hokies played in a "game of the year" just a week ago against a much more talented opponent.  This big game experience will help a Hokies team focused on getting to 10-1 and having a shot at a major bowl.  The difference will be depth and speed this week, and the Hokies have more of it.  UCF is a nice team, but with 3 of 7 wins coming against 1-AA competition,  I can't see them making a serious challenge.

Prediction: VT 35, UCF 14

Tidbit:  The Hokies have not lost back to back games since 1997, when they finished the season with losses to Pittsburgh, UVa, and North Carolina.


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