- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Much of the hype surrounding Stanford’s offense has centered around quarterback Andrew Luck, a Heisman Trophy candidate who threw a school-record 28 touchdown passes this year. Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles is equally, if not more concerned, about stopping Stanford’s running game.
Wiles said Virginia Tech’s defense on first downs will be key, and that the priority is to actually force Luck to throw and make Stanford one-dimensional.
“Nobody’s been able to do that all year,” Wiles said.
Despite the loss of Toby Gerhart, Stanford is actually primarily a run-oriented team. Of Stanford’s 860 offensive plays, 58.6 percent have been rushing plays. The offensive line has allowed just five sacks all season and paved the way for an average of 211 rushing yards per game -- the No. 17 rushing offense in the country. The Cardinal’s 2,532 rushing yards this year is the second highest total in school history.
Wiles said the Hokies have to come up with big stops on first downs. Stanford is averaging 24.75 first downs per game this year, which ranks second in the Pac-10 and ninth nationally. Stanford also leads the nation in third-down conversions at 57.76 percent.
“That’s where they get you, to me,” Wiles said. “They’re not in a lot of third-and-long situations. They’re in a lot of first downs, everything is first-and-10 with them. You’ve got those either-or downs. Is it a run, a play-action? It’s hard to get a pass rush because they’re effective on first downs and they’re effective running the football. We’ve got to be good at stopping the run and hopefully the game goes as such where they have to throw the football.”
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney