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Jackets get a critical early test

POSTED: September 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press

Georgia Tech's Cooper Taylor, right, tackles Boston College quarterback Chris Crane on a carry in the second quarter last Saturday in Boston. Georgia Tech will take on Virginia Tech today at 3:30 p.m. in Blacksburg, Va.

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Just two games into the season, Virginia Tech has tumbled from the top 25 and caused panic among its fans because of an offense that is sputtering behind a struggling offensive line.

No wonder the phrase “sense of urgency” was being tossed about a lot in Blacksburg this week as the Hokies prepare to host Georgia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference opener that could answer a lot of questions.

“First ACC game of the year. I think it’s going to tell us where our season’s going,” Hokies inside linebacker Purnell Sturdivant said this week. “I think this game right here will definitely define our season.”

The Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0 ACC) are coming off a 19-16 victory at Boston College and have been an unusual opponent for the Hokies in recent years. Virginia Tech rolled 27-3 last season at Georgia Tech, but the Ramblin’ Wreck came to Lane Stadium two years ago and won, 38-27.

New coach Paul Johnson said after watching the Hokies on tape that the idea they are not as strong as in recent years seems far-fetched.

“They probably have as good of speed as anyone we will play defensively. They can all really run,” he said. “If you go back and look at their last two games, they haven’t really given up a lot defensively.”

East Carolina scored one touchdown on a punt return and another on a 1-yard drive after an interception in its 27-22 victory against the Hokies, he noted. Last week, Furman had only 36 total yards at halftime, a game that still fed the panic because Tech led just 3-0 in the third quarter before scoring three touchdown in a span of about 3 minutes.

“They came out with an attitude on defense last week in the first half and it showed what they are capable of,” Johnson said.

The Yellow Jackets put on an impressive display of their own in Boston, rallying from a turnover-filled first half for the victory.

Offensive tackle Andrew Gardner came away impressed with his young quarterback, sophomore Josh Nesbitt, for engineering the comeback.

“I never noticed him being flustered. There never seemed to be any doubt in his mind that we were going to get it together and we were going to win,” he said. “I was impressed to see a young quarterback like that.”

The Hokies’ offensive struggles have caused Beamer to return to the two-quarterback system he was hoping to avoid, and it paid off against Furman. Tyrod Taylor ran for 112 yards to lead a 261-yard running game, and took decidedly more snaps that Sean Glennon, a drop-back style passer.

But with the offensive line struggling to be consistent, the Hokies coaching staff was more intense this week in practice, tailback Kenny Lewis said. He has scored three of their five offensive touchdowns.

“I feel like we need that,” he said of the sense of urgency.

“We need somebody to get up in our face and tell us, “It’s time.’ If we don’t get that, we might just sit back on our heels and it might just pass us by.

“We need to step up on all levels on offense.”



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