A Small Step
An unconvincing victory didn't give Virginia Tech the sort of lift it had hoped for—especially with LSU up next
IN THE END there was little catharsis. The 66,233 fans who filled Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium last Saturday—for the first major sporting event on the Blacksburg campus since the shooting spree last April that left 33 students and faculty members dead—had come not just to rally around their football team and their school, but also to be inspired. What better way to celebrate triumph over tragedy than to watch the ninth-ranked Hokies stomp 27 1/2-point underdog East Carolina? But after Tech stumbled to a 17--7 win, there was more tension than release in the locker room. "We'd better be better next week," growled coach Frank Beamer.
The Hokies play at No. 2 LSU on Saturday, and while their defense is once again championship caliber, their offense is suspect. Tech's attack looked sluggish against the Pirates' stout front seven; fans even booed the unit off the field late in the second quarter. Playing behind a retooled line—among other changes, junior Nick Marshman moved from left guard to right tackle on Aug. 5 when Ed Wang broke his left fibula in practice—quarterback Sean Glennon was sacked four times, and All-ACC running back Branden Ore gained just 70 yards on 23 carries. The Hokies led by three points at halftime and scored only one offensive touchdown, which didn't come until early in the fourth quarter. The end zone will be even harder to reach this weekend in Baton Rouge, where defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey leads one of the nation's fiercest front fours. "We need to work on being physical," says offensive line coach Curt Newsome. "We didn't create any creases for Branden, and we didn't get any push today."
Of even greater concern is Glennon, a second-year starter still haunted by his three-interception performance in Tech's 31--24 loss to Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December. The 6'4", 225-pound junior has so far failed to exhibit arm strength and consistency. He threw a pick on his first play last Saturday and missed badly on several other throws, including one in the first quarter to tight end Sam Wheeler, who was wide open in the end zone. Glennon did connect with Wheeler on a 21-yard touchdown pass, but his middling performance could increase the pressure on Beamer to turn the offense over to freshman Tyrod Taylor, a pass-run threat who played his way up to No. 2 on the depth chart last month after only three weeks with the team. "I felt like I'd been playing so well lately," Glennon said after the game. "I thought I was going to come out here and make a statement. I guess I'll just have to wait until next week."
Glennon has talked thoughtfully about his desire for the Hokies to provide the sort of morale boost for Virginia Tech this fall that the Yankees did for New York City in 2001, or that the Saints did for New Orleans last year. That campaign is off to a shaky start.
ONLY AT SI.COM Get the latest news from Stewart Mandel.