After a disconcerting loss at Miami, the Hokies return home this week in an effort to regroup and put together a successful strategy for upsetting the ACC’s best team, Florida State.
The No.8-ranked Seminoles come to town with the ACC’s top overall offense and defense, while the harrowed Hokies find themselves in strange November territory, sporting a sub .500 record at 4-5 and sitting in the cellar of the Coastal Division.
The Hokies, whose problems include failing to execute on offense and special teams, can ill-afford to do so against a Florida State defense that ranks third in the nation, allowing only 12 points per game. Tech will have to find a way to mend its executional problems during practice this week if it hopes to find any traction this Thursday against the Seminoles.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring thinks a pursuit of perfection may be the solution for the beleaguered Hokies.
“You really have to focus yourself on what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it,” Stinespring said. “If we have a lack of execution and you’re having those problems, then you’re really putting yourself behind the 8 ball. We’ve just got to really make sure, whatever is in the game plan, we’re going to be as precise in what we’re doing and as coordinated in our attack as we can possibly be. You need to play as close to perfect as you can possibly play to give yourself a chance for success.”
The Hokies offense will almost certainly have to play to perfection to stand a chance against a physical Seminole defense, meaning no interceptions, no fumbles, no bobbled snaps and no dropped passes. It’ll all start with the offensive line’s battle in the trenches; if it can control the line-of-scrimmage, then Tech can work on establishing a run game — a run game that doesn’t feature Thomas as its primary rusher.
With a good ground gaming going, the Hokies can then focus on protecting Thomas in the pocket and keeping him comfortable — a major key to execution on offense. However, this is easier said than done, as the Seminoles will be attacking the edges with the ACC’s top-two defensive ends, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, who each have eight sacks on the year.
With the offense struggling thus far into the season, the defense will especially have to hold up its end of the bargain, finding a way to slow down FSU’s offense which is averaging almost 45 points per game — more than Tech has managed to put on the scoreboard in any of its contests this season.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is well aware of the challenge awaiting his defense in FSU.
"These guys have it all," Foster said. "I think their offensive line is as good as we’ve seen in a long time. Big, athletic, can run, strong. Talented corps of receivers. Some long kids, tall kids, fast kids. Some dynamic backs. It’s just a complete football team right now."
FSU quarterback EJ Manuel and the rest of the Seminoles may be looking for a little revenge to boot; the last time these two teams played was in the 2010 ACC championship game when the Hokies took the crown with a 44-33 victory. However, Foster and the Tech defense know they’re not facing the same Manuel that filled in for Christian Ponder in that championship game.
"You just see a more polished guy," Foster said. "A guy with more poise. More comfortable in the offense. You just see a more complete quarterback than when we played them."
The FSU offense was dealt a blow a couple weeks ago when it lost its leading rusher in Chris Thompson; however, the Seminoles have plenty of options in the ground game, as four other backs have rushed for at least three touchdowns this season.