BLACKSBURG — As usual, the normal routine around Virginia Tech's football facilities is a little off-kilter during Georgia Tech game week, especially given the cram session the Hokies have been presented with by the schedule makers.
With just five days between Saturday's 29-21 triple-overtime win against Marshall, and Virginia Tech's Atlantic Coast Conference opener Thursday night at Georgia Tech, the Hokies are scrambling to get ready for the Yellow Jackets' unconventional option offense.
It's a process that actually started a few weeks ago with scout team prep, but kicked into overdrive after the Marshall game. At least Virginia Tech's experience on defense gives it a bit of a been-there-done-that attitude toward Georgia Tech (3-0 overall, 2-0 ACC), which is coming off a 28-20 home win Saturday against North Carolina.
"It's not a tough adjustment," said Virginia Tech senior defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins about switching gears from Marshall's fast-paced spread offense to Georgia Tech's much more deliberate option. "Most guys have been (preparing for) it a long time, so it's just like second nature kind of. We know what to expect."
While Marshall averages a play every 20.2 seconds, Georgia Tech averages 28.9 seconds between plays. Time of possession has always been one of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's paramount concerns.
Thanks to an ground attack led by running back David Sims (211 yards) and quarterback Vad Lee (180 yards), Georgia Tech is fourth in the nation among 125 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in rushing offense (345.3 yards per game). Johnson's team also enters this week's game seventh in the nation in time of possession — averaging 35 minutes, 31 seconds per game.
To get ready for Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech used the two Sundays leading up to the Marshall game to feed its scout team offense the Yellow Jackets' playbook and get the scout team brushed up on the art of cut blocks.
If Virginia Tech has any preparation advantage at all, it's that scout team quarterback T.J. Shaw has played the role of the Yellow Jackets' quarterbacks for four consecutive years on Georgia Tech game week.
"Trying to get ready for this team in a short period of time is tough," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who repeatedly has said this season he wants his team to "be good" by the start of ACC play.
"Most option you see now is read option or it happens back off the line of scrimmage. (Georgia Tech's option) happens — they're running some of that (read option) — but most of their option happens right at the line of scrimmage. … Getting that operation down, and getting a good read, is really important this week."
Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0), which had the entire offseason last year to prepare for a season-opener at home against Georgia Tech, comes into the week seventh in the nation in total defense (233.3 yards per game) and 15th in rushing defense (96.5 yards per game).
Since Johnson took over at Georgia Tech in 2008, the Yellow Jackets have averaged 306 yards rushing per game, but the Hokies have held them to 274 yards rushing per game while compiling a 4-1 record against the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech has an added element of offensive intrigue this season with Lee's arm, which has been a serious weapon in the early going. He's completing 56 percent of his passes for 418 yards, seven touchdowns and an interception.
Though Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has attempted 95 more passes than Lee, Thomas has passed for just 270 more yards (698 for the season) to go along with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He's completing only 48.5 percent of his passes.
He's preparing to face a Georgia Tech defense that appears to be much improved. It's 11th in the nation in total defense (275.3 yards per game) and 21st in pass defense (168 yards per game) after playing a slate that has already included passing-proficient Duke and UNC. Last season, Georgia Tech was 43rd in total defense (374 yards per game) and 58th against the pass (229.8 yards per game).
"I don't think we're where we thought we would be," said Thomas on the progress of Virginia Tech's offense, which is 102nd in the nation in total offense (341.8 yards per game) and 114th in red-zone offense (scoring on 62.5 percent of trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line). "I thought that we would be a little bit stronger and doing a little bit better.
"Obviously, I think the offense is not doing as well on paper, because we're not putting up points in the red zone. The red zone is what's killing us. We know it. … That's where you've just got to go get it done."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun