(Virginia Tech) OFFENSE: Tech just needs to protect the ball
Virginia Tech is happy it doesn’t have to face big-play receivers Travis Fulgham and Jonathan Duhart again. They were a big reason why Old Dominion put up 632 total yards last season. Former Tech receiver Eric Kumah is now ODU’s top threat in the passing game, but it will be hard for him to do it alone. The Monarchs are going with junior college transfer Stone Smartt at quarterback, who is a threat to run the ball. Tech struggled with turnovers in Week 1, but had 442 total yards of offense, 29 first downs and ran 89 plays (more than any game in 2018). The Hokies could use a few more explosive plays like the 55-yard touchdown pass Willis threw to Hezekiah Grimsley in the first quarter against Boston College.
(Virginia Tech) DEFENSE: Tech showed flashes of LPD
Virginia Tech held Boston College to zero yards in the third quarter and forced three three-and-outs. It was the kind of stretch that wasn’t all that uncommon in the LPD’s hayday. The Hokies did a nice job of keeping A.J. Dillon in check as well by holding the running back to 81 yards on 23 carries (3.5 yards). There were still some major defensive lapses in the secondary early in the game against Boston College — it allowed a pair of 50-plus yard completions and another long touchdown — but coaches were encouraged by the way the group settled down. Old Dominion graduated its top playmaker Oshane Ximines, but showed it can still make some plays by forcing three turnovers and coming up with two sacks against Norfolk St.
(Virginia Tech) SPECIAL TEAMS: Tech waiting for breakout play
Tech punt returner Hezekiah Grimsley’s fumble last week will have him itching to make a play on Saturday. Freshman Tayvion Robinson got his feet wet on kick returns in the opener — two returns for 45 yards — and additional experience will only make him more dangerous.
(Even) INTANGIBLES: Feels like a real rivalry game
Virginia Tech obviously wants to avenge last year’s 49-35 loss to Old Dominion. It was an embarrassing misstep for the program against an in-state opponent that was a four-touchdown underdog. The line is the same for Saturday’s rematch, but regardless of the opponent Tech needs to string some wins together having lost 7 of its last 10 games. For ODU, the arrival of Tech transfers Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham adds some extra motivation as it looks to prove last year’s win wasn’t a fluke. ODU coach Bobby Wilder, who made the two co-captains for the game, isn’t downplaying the importance of the matchup.