December 6, 2005

Andrews' defense set tone in ACC title game

Run first. Pass second. That is how Virginia Tech moves the ball. Florida State forced them to reverse that traditional order.

With Tech's running game shut down, Marcus Vick ended up firing a career-high 52 passes in the first ACC championship game Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla. That's 24 more than he had thrown in any other game this season.

That was just one of the stats that the Hokies didn't plan on reaching in their surprising 27-22 loss to the Seminoles.

A lot of the Hokies' plans were ruined by the schemes of Seminoles longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who has been selected's Coordinator of the Week. He is the third ACC coach to earn the honor in the last five weeks, joining Miami's Randy Shannon (Week 10) and Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta (Week 12).

Andrews got his defense to play with a new-found aggressiveness, which set the tone early on, and may have been created by an unexpected full pads practice Tuesday. He also made some minor moves that made one of the Hokies' top weapons a non-factor and contributed to their struggles.

It all started with the Seminoles' front seven. Without having to use eight- and nine-man fronts, they limited the Hokies to 41 rushing yards. That's the same offense that had racked up 600 yards on the ground in the last two games and also was supposed to get a boost from the return of starting tailback Mike Imoh. Branden Ore, Cedric Humes and Imoh finished with 25 yards on 13 carries (average of 1.9 per carry).

Andrews moved linebackers Marcello Church and Lawrence Timmons to end in passing situations and the result was relentless pressure on Vick. Church, Timmons and dominating defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley combined for 4.5 of the Seminoles' six sacks.

Vick never really got comfortable, often having to escape pressure. He ran the ball 17 times for 49 yards with most of that damage coming on broken plays.

Andrews also didn't double-team Tech tight end Jeff King, who is one of Vick's favorite targets. He instead put athletic linebacker Ernie Sims on King in man-to-man coverage. King was held to three catches for 35 yards, and Sims broke up three passes and delivered a handful of hard hits.

Vick, who finished with 335 passing yards, did find some success in the fourth quarter and the Hokies put together an impressive comeback, scoring 19 unanswered points.

But, it was too late. FSU's defense had already done too much damage and stole the show from a Virginia Tech defense that ranked No. 1 nationally entering the game.

There were also a handful of other coordinators who had superb performances last week.

• Nobody knows Colorado better than Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis. He put together a game plan that produced 70 points in three quarters in the Longhorns' 70-3 thrashing of the Buffaloes in the Big 12 title game. It was an even more impressive performance than their last meeting, when the Longhorns scored touchdowns on their first five possessions to spark a 42-17 win.

• All the talk about LSU's advantage on the artificial turf in the SEC championship game turned out to be wrong. Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez found away to neutralize the Tigers' blazing speed as the Bulldogs held them to 230 total yards - including just 74 on the ground - in their 34-14 win.

• Southern Cal offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was the mastermind of another offensive show. The Trojans racked up 679 total yards in their 66-19 rout of UCLA. The running game was tremendous, churning out 430 yards, including 260 from Heisman favorite Reggie Bush and 154 from LenDale White.

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