Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 23, 2012

Hokies' line wins the mental battle

BLACKSBURG, Va. — For Virginia Tech redshirt senior offensive tackle Vinston Painter, the mental game between him and his defensive counterpart begins before the play even starts. In that mano-a-mano situation, what goes through his mind?

“Before the snap, you’re thinking you need to come off the ball hard and hit him a lot harder than he’s going to hit me,” said Painter after Virginia Tech defeated Bowling Green 37-0 on Saturday.

Arguably, just one week before, the Pittsburgh Panthers had the mental edge against Painter and his offensive line when they limited the Hokies to only 59 yards rushing in 26 attempts, an average of just over 2.3 yards-per-carry.

Against the Falcons, however, the Hokies averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry in amassing 246 yards rushing, an indication that perhaps the offensive line won more mental battles than they lost.

As a consequence, they were demonstrably better at creating holes for the Hokies’ ball carriers.  Painter was pleased with the turnaround.  

“It was all about effort, emotion, and energy,” he said. “Guys came out ready to rush the ball and during our practices that was our mindset.”  

That renewed focus was not lost on head coach Frank Beamer or the beneficiaries of the much-improved line play — tailbacks Tony Gregory and J. C. Coleman, a redshirt junior and freshman respectively.

“A couple of plays popped in there,” said Beamer. “The speed that we played in the backfield was also better. That helps. It’s one of those things that have got to tie together. You have to block better, wall off, and then hit the hole and go. I thought we did [those] things better today.”

“The offense did a great job of opening up the front and the receivers were working hard out there on one-on-one battles,” Gregory said. “We were just hitting holes.”

“I feel like the O-line really stepped up today,” added Coleman. “There were a lot of open holes out there.”

Combined, Gregory and Coleman had 113 yards rushing on 15 carries; redshirt freshman tailback Michael Holmes added 51 yards including a 40-yard run midway in the third quarter that set up Virginia Tech’s fourth touchdown. It was Holmes’ longest run of the season.

Redshirt junior quarterback Logan Thomas rushed the ball 15 times for 65 yards and inflicted punishment on his would-be tacklers whenever he had the opportunity.

His hit on Falcon’s defensive lineman Charlie Walker after a three-yard gain midway in the second quarter left an impression on Painter.

“When you see a running back do that, that’s what they do. But when you see a quarterback literally go out of his way to shoulder a guy and run over him, that does something to you,” said Painter.

“If he’s playing that hard — and I’m bigger and stronger than he is — then I need to play harder.”   

No matter where they get their inspiration from, Virginia Tech will need another solid performance on both sides of the ball if they are to defeat Cincinnati on Saturday.

In two games this season, the Bearcats have outscored their opponents 57-17, including limiting common opponent Pittsburgh to 10 points in a 34-10 win. In addition, coming off a bye week they will have had two weeks to prepare for the Hokies.

The game will be played at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and is slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. It will be televised by ESPNU.

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