If you look at the 11th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies on paper and compare them to the way the University of Miami has looked in its first two games, you'd think it would be wise for the folks in Blacksburg to start boarding up and seeking shelter.
The Hokies (2-1) haven't looked very good offensively under quarterback Tyrod Taylor and their normally stout defense (ranked 77th in the nation and 107th against the run) has been a bit exposed for having some holes in it.
So what is there to be nervous about if you are the Canes? A lot. The Hokies have won 10 home games in a row and will be a rowdy underdog at Lane Stadium, a place infamous for being loud and obnoxious toward the Canes. The Hokies also have the ACC's leading rusher in freshman tailback Ryan Williams and will likelyget their best boundary corner Stephan Virgil back this week. But the real reason to respect the Hokies? They still play a darn good game of Beamer Ball.
What's that? It's called special teams dominance and capitalizing on big plays.
-- Entering this week's game, sophomore receiver Dyrell Roberts -- who made the game-winning catch against Nebraksa -- ranks second in the country in kickoff return yardage. He's produced five of the Hokies' 21 plays that have gone for 20 or more yards, including kickoff returns of 98, 76 and 47 yards.
-- Teammate Jayron Hosley is also plenty dangerous on punt returns with a 21.0 yard average -- including a 64-yarder he took back to the house against Alabama.
-- Punter Brent Bowden, meanwhile, is averaging 46.3 yards a kick (fourth best in the nation) and seven punts of his 19 punts have pinned teams inside their own 20.
Outside of a few nice kick returns, the Hurricanes have basically stunk on special teams.
-- Matt Bosher, who missed two field goals last week, has a 33.2 yard net average on punts that ranks 95th in the nation.
-- Miami's return game on punts has been non-existent, with UM averaging 5.2 yards on four attempts.
-- But nothing has been worse for UM on special teams than its kickoff coverage team. Thanks to a pair of kicks that have gone out of bounds and bad tackling, opponents have started out with their average field position at their own 37-yard line.
UM coach Randy Shannon is sticking with walk-on Alex Uribe this week who made his last kick against Georgia Tech a good one. But the Canes are mixing up where guys will line up on the coverage team this week and try to exploit some advantage.
"We're just making an emphasis on what we have to get done," Shannon said. "They have a good kickoff return team... We know we have to do a better job."
Shannon said Bosher has done a good job responding to his two missed field goals against Georgia Tech in practice. "We put him under the pressure at the end of practice," Shannon said. "We've had him kick six, seven field goals at the end and he's been doing pretty good. He's been making them."
Cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke, who is making his return this week from a first week concussion and is one of the new faces on special teams, said the biggest thing UM has been focusing on this week is anticipating trick plays on special teams.
"Everybody talks about [Virginia Tech coach Frank] Beamer. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve," DVD said. "We definitely watching for fakes, putting in the extra time to study what they do."
KEEPING AN EYE ON TYROD: Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor has never been as dangerous with his arm as he has been with his legs. But UM players said they learned to be wary of Taylor's ability to scramble and wait for receivers to get open after watching what he did late in the game against Nebraska Saturday.
"They have a really good quarterback who likes to move around," safety Vaughn Telemaque said. "We just have to focus on our man, lockdown our guy when he starts running around. That's when he beats you."
WARY OF THE HOKIES 'D': The numbers might suggest Virginia Tech is down defensively. But if you ask players on Miami's offense, they aren't taking the Hokies lightly. Offensive guard Orlando Franklin said Virginia Tech has the same type of speed and uses the same type of tactics Florida State employs, but said the Hokies probably do it a little better.
"There's one thing I really don't like about this defense -- they try to pad the box to stop the run and they do a real good job of that," Franklin said. "They're a real aggressive defense. They got a great front seven. [Safety Cam Chancellor] in a real good player. [Defensive end Jason] Worilds is a real good player. They have a real good things going on in that defense."
INJURY UPDATE: Shannon said tight end Richard Gordon (shoulder) and defensive tackle Marcus Forston (foot) practiced "a little" on Wednesday. Shannon said we'd have to wait until Thursday's injury report to know whether or not they'd play. I'm guessing it's a pretty safe bet they won't. Receiver Aldarius Johnson could also still remain on that list. Shannon doesn't want to rush him back from his groin injury.