Let's cut to the chase - we're playing Virginia Tech at Mountaineer Field this weekend and it's fucking awesome. By Saturday it'll have been an unfathomable 5,831 days since we last woke up to a home game against the Hokies. That's 830 weeks. 190 months. A long time to wait. Now that it's here, I am happy to report that absence does not, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. Man it feels good to hate again. Whatever happens on the field this weekend, I am absolutely buzzing to remind these turncoats of what it means to play for the Black Diamond in Morgantown, WV.
Date: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Kickoff: 12:00PM ET
Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
Tickets: General public
Online Streaming: FoxSports app with a valid cable subscription
Cord Cutters: Mountaineer fans can catch all the action on fuboTV. fuboTV is an over-the-top streaming service that carries all the major networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, and now....the ESPN Disney networks! It also carries ABC, CBS Sports Network, FS1, SEC Network, and more. fuboTV comes with a cloud DVR feature, so you can record the game and watch it later.
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Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Radio Affiliates) | SiriusXM Channel 200 | WVU Gameday App (Apple | Android)
Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)
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The Mountaineers surprisingly opened as 3-point favorites over the ranked Hokies with the over/under set at 50.5 per Oddshark. Expect this line to come down a bit as we get closer to kickoff.
WEATHER FORECAST (as of Monday, 9/13)
As of today it looks there may be some rain in the area as we approach the weekend, but we should hopefully be all clear for kickoff. Either way, it's shorts and t-shirts for Mountaineer Nation with the temperature settling somewhere around 80.
Where are they from? The Hokies hail from Blacksburg, VA, not that they need any introduction.
All-time series record: The overall series is still 28-23-1 in favor of the good guys, but Tech holds the Black Diamond trophy and has unfortunately made up a bunch of ground on us since the mid-90s.
Last game: Our most recent meeting was a wildly entertaining neutral site affair that Virginia Tech won 34-27. Tech's last trip to Morgantown ended in a Hokie victory, as well, but I'll always remember it better as Steve Slaton's coming out party.
Head coach: Justin Fuente (6th season, 40-26). It's been a bit of a rocky road for Fuente after bursting onto the scene as ACC Coach of the Year in 2016. He's not quite coaching for his job this year, but after two losing seasons in the past three he's certainly in need of a pick-me-up.
2021 record: Tech brings a 2-0 record to Morgantown with wins over a likely overrated UNC squad and the always frisky Middle Tennessee State.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- HOLD SERVE IN THE TURNOVER BATTLE. The Hokies turned Sam Howell over three times and have won both of their turnover battles. Could spell trouble for we of the 1:5 turnover ratio. It seems unrealistic that we'll win turnovers outright, but if we can somehow break even here then I think we'll have a great chance to win the game.
- CREATE HAVOC, CORRAL BURMEISTER, AND GET OFF THE FIELD. For anyone who hasn’t watched much of Tech under Fuente, they’ve really leaned into running the football (64% run in 2019, 65% run in 2020, 66% this year). They've been a bit less effective at it this year with Braxton Burmeister at QB than they were over the last few with Hendon Hooker, but overall they're still very good at staying ahead of the chains (Tech’s 54% success rate is tied for 7th nationally), which helps them convert 3rd downs at a high rate (52%) and makes them a grind to defend against for 4 quarters. However, despite having a pair of over-qualified receivers they've been considerably less good when teams have been able to get them into 3rd and passing situations, converting just 2/9 opportunities when they've needed at least 7 yards. In my mind this makes creating some early-down havoc and knocking them off schedule priority Alpha. It's obviously easier said than done and we'll still need to keep our wits about us with regards to Burmeister's scrambling, as he's an extremely slippery operator in and out of the pocket, but consistently putting them in those situations will be crucial to the outcome of the game.
- BLOCK SOMEBODY FFS. There's not a whole lot else that needs to be said here. 3.6 yards per carry and zero (0!) explosive runs by running backs against maybe the most defenseless team I've ever seen on Mountaineer Field is just not good enough. Tech is going to absolutely ruin our day if this weekend's effort in any way resembles last weekend's.
- BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES. For better or worse, the Garrett Greene cat is officially out of the bag. Greene missed a throw or two that we'll need him to make and is probably a little too willing to go off-script at this point to take over as the full-time starter, but he also made a handful of plays that nobody else on the team can make and gave Mountaineer Nation edge-of-our-seat football for, dare I say, the first time in the Neal Brown era. It seems obvious that we need to include some GGRPO packages into our gameplan, and if we can't keep Tech's pass rushers away from Doege then we can't be afraid to put Garrett in there to try and create a spark.
HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?
7 out of 10 - shields fully up. The Hokies are definitely beatable, but they're also 2-0 and have generally looked like a team that's not going to beat themselves. Homefield advantage aside this one's a coin flip, and I'm not overly confident in any of our quarterbacks dragging us to a win in a close game.
The defense comes out hot and rides a riot-adjacent atmosphere in Mountaineer Field to its best first half of the season, with particularly inspired play from legacies Dante Stills and Jalen Thornton who will remember the rivalry from their dads' playing days. The offense makes just enough plays to scratch out a few field goals, keep the field position battle firmly in our favor, and see us through to a 9-3 halftime lead.
However, disaster strikes in the third. After picking up a field goal on their opening drive, the Hokies intercept a Jarrett Doege pass and take it to the house, seizing the momentum and giving them a PTSD-inducing 13-9 lead that holds through the end of the quarter.
Mountaineer Nation remains engaged, but struggles to regain its composure as punts are traded and the 4th quarter clock bleeds away. But then it happens - Burmeister loses track of the pass rush on 3rd down and coughs one up. The Mountaineers fall on it inside the Tech 40. A few plays later Leddie Brown punches in the game's only offensive touchdown, getting the call on a zone read after a handful of successive Garrett Greene keepers. Pandemonium ensues, and all of a sudden it's Tech watching helplessly as the clock ticks towards 0:00. They pick up a few first downs and cross into Mountaineer territory as the clock rolls under a minute, but another huge 3rd down stand forces on the field goal unit for a 55-yard attempt. Doable, but not today.
The Black Diamond trophy is back home to where it belongs.
West Virginia 16-13 Virginia Tech