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Week 4: West Virginia Game Preview

By Rob Trimber | September 18
Brent Pry
Image via Will Trent of Sons of Saturday

This is the game we have all been waiting for. This is the game that was circled in red on the schedule. It's the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy. The Hokies are looking to reclaim the trophy from the Mountaineers this Thursday night, in Blacksburg at 7:30. Virginia Tech is coming off a leisurely victory over Wofford, 27-7. Meanwhile West Virginia just blew out Towson, 65-7. Virginia Tech has a record of 2-1 and WVU is sitting at 1-2 after two straight losses to Pitt and Kansas to start the season. West Virginia has talent on both sides of the football and they play aggressively on defense. Here is an in depth look at who to look out for and what West Virginia likes to do as a football team.

WVU Offense: Scheme - Air Raid

This offense of West Virginia has some playmakers. QB JT Daniels has very good arm talent and he has a big wide receiver in Bryce Ford-Wheaton to throw to. Just because they have the label of "Air Raid" offense, does not mean that they don't like handing the ball off to their physical running back, CJ Donaldson. He ran for over 100 yards against Pitt. They run lots of zone blocking schemes and throw bubble screens to get their athletes in space. When this offense gets into the red zone, they look to throw back shoulder fades to Ford-Wheaton. See this video clip for an example of JT Daniels' accuracy on these throws.

To contain Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Virginia Tech will likely have to double cover and bracket him all night long, especially in the red zone. The problem that this offense has run into has been penalties and turnovers. Against Pitt, the offensive line had 4 false starts and struggled with the crowd noise all night. If Pitt's crowd can disrupt this offense, then you can be sure that Lane Stadium will too. JT Daniels also makes some bone headed throws that lead to turnovers as well. Virginia Tech is going need to stress this offensive line and put pressure on Daniels to force errors in this game. The goal for this Virginia tech defense should be to muddy the game up and make good tackles in space. Virginia Tech is not built to win a shootout the way West Virginia is. The defense is going to need to step up and play a great game. Make physical tackles, and force turnovers to put the offense in good scoring positions.

WVU Defense: Scheme - 4-2-5

This Mountaineer defense gets very creative with different fronts and blitzes. They have a very athletic middle linebacker in Lee Kpogba. They also have a stout Nose Tackle and good pass rusher with Dante Stills. I say that the defensive scheme is a 4-2-5. However, they will often line up in a 3-4 look with 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. When they line up in this look, they are looking to disguise a blitz using all 4 linebackers to fake blitzes while some come and others drop into coverage. This strategy has ended up costing them a couple times against both Pitt and Kansas for big plays. See the below clip for an example of a quick run pass option (RPO) beating the aggressive defense for a big gain against Pitt.

The weakness of West Virginia is their defense. They gave up over 100 yards rushing to Pitt and over 200 yards to Kansas. Kansas used many QB runs and RPOs. RPOs should be a key part of the Hokies' game plan to attack this defense. In order for Virginia Tech to win this game, they are going to need to play as a team and use complimentary football to suffocate West Virginia. Even if Tech cannot score on every drive, they still need to move the ball enough to give All-ACC punter, Peter Moore, a chance to pin the Mountaineers deep. Play keep away from a team that likes to win shootouts. the problem for a lot of Air-raid teams is that they often lose the time of possession battle. Tech needs to control the game and tire the WVU defense out. Against an aggressive defense like this, Tech needs to be unpredictable. Throw more on first down, run more on second, and run lots of play action. The more unpredictable you are against an aggressive defense, the more likely it is that you will catch them in the wrong call. The are undisciplined. Take advantage of that by fooling them and grind them out.

WVU Special Teams:

WVU punter, Oliver Straw, had 3 punts downed inside the 20 against Pitt and 1 of those was downed at the 1. They did also have a muffed punt and blocked a punt. The field position battle and turnover battle will be crucial in this game. Peter Moore is going to have to bring his A game on Thursday.


West Virginia is an undisciplined team. Through 3 weeks, they have been turnover prone and have had many pre/post snap penalties. They had 11 penalties against Pitt and 8 against Kansas. After being penalized 15 times in their first game, Virginia Tech has cleaned it up with only 5 in each of their last 2 games. False starts and late hits are not a good formula for winning on the road, and I anticipate that Virginia tech will have the edge in this category. With Virginia Tech playing at home in a revenge trophy game will certainly have them charged up for this one. I expect to see Virginia Tech play a scrappy beamer ball type game in order to frustrate West Virginia's high powered offense. My prediction is that Virginia Tech will reclaim the Black Diamond Trophy in over time by a score of

Virginia Tech 31

West Virginia 24

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