The University of Cincinnati football team will travel to Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md. to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies Saturday, Sept. 29.
This weekend’s matchup will be a rematch of the 2009 Orange Bowl, UC’s first BCS appearance, which VT won, 20-7. The Hokies lead Cincinnati head-to-head by one game all-time, 5-4.
Virginia Tech comfortably defeated Bowling Green 37-0 Saturday, after suffering a surprising, 35-17, setback against Pittsburgh University the previous week.
UC enters Saturday’s game as one of only two BCS schools, along with No. 18 Oregon State University, to only play two games through the first four weeks of the season, both of its bye weeks gone for the entire season.
The week off has allowed the Bearcats to return to near full strength, said UC head coach Butch Jones.
“Drew Frey and Alex Chisum are 100 percent, they practiced on Sunday and it’s great to have them back and obviously we are going to need big games from them on Saturday,” he said.
Dominique Battle also moves a few steps closer to a full recovery and should help provide depth and experience in the Bearcats’ defensive backfield.
That experience is essential because UC’s defense will be tested by the dynamic abilities of Virginia Tech’s quarterback, Logan Thomas, Jones said.
Thomas, who stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs in at 260 pounds, has accounted for 970 total yards and 9 touchdowns for the Hokies this season.
“We have to wrap up and get 11 hats to the football. There are a number of clips where he’s [Thomas] the aggressor when he runs the football,” Jones said. “He’ll lower his padding. He plays like a 260-pound player, but he’s also extremely athletic. Then you add the other dynamic of being able to throw the football.”
With Virginia Tech lacking a dependable running back for the first time in the past few years, slowing Thomas down will be the main goal for UC’s defense, which gave up 120 yards rushing to Delaware State running back Malcolm Williams two weeks ago.
After giving the ball away six times against Delaware State, UC must focus on protecting the football. Bearcats’ quarterback Munchie Legaux committed three of the turnovers, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once.
With Legaux still finding his comfort zone, George Winn — coming off a career high 147 yards rushing against Deleware State— will be called upon to exploit a Virginia Tech defense, which is allowing an uncharacteristically high 185.25 rushing yards per game.
Despite the yardage and 35 points the Hokies surrendered to Pitt, which managed to score only 10 against UC, Virginia Tech’s defense is more than capable of punishing UC, Jones said.
“I believe they were the 9th ranked defensive line in the country starting the season,” he said. “They play with great pad level, great hands. [Their] linebackers are very active and [they have] great corners.”
But the biggest worry is still the infamous special teams play of a Frank Beamer coached team, Jones said.
“They have game changers on special teams. That’s been the staple of Frank Beamer,” he said. “You look at their aggressiveness on their kickoff team, kickoff return. Their punt team does a great job. But I think it’s the depth of their program and where they are at and the caliber of players they have involved in their special teams.”
Saturday’s game presents a number of interesting aspects — namely Virginia Tech lost to Pitt, which UC easily handled.
But with Cincinnati coming off of a poor showing against Delaware St. and yet another bye week, the consensus is this weekend’s game will most likely come down to ball security and whichever side can capitalize on special teams opportunities.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Saturday.