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What offense is it, anyway?

Virginia has had an offensive identity crisis this season. The Cavaliers started with a spread system. Then they reverted to a more traditional pro-style offense. Last weekend, they ran out of the Wildcat formation and pulled daring trick plays.

So what offense will show up Saturday in the meeting between the Cavaliers and the Hokies?

In Blacksburg, there are few answers. Virginia Tech’s players and coaches are expecting the unexpected from a Virginia team that has tried to adjust its offense depending on the skills and match ups each week.

But Coach Frank Beamer said he was less concerned with schemes, and more concerned with athletes like multipurpose player Vic Hall and quarterback Jameel Sewell.

“You just kind of look at the personnel, and regardless of what they’re running exactly, I think they’ve got the ability to hurt you,” Beamer said.

Last season, Do-it-all Hall (so named because he has lined up at cornerback, safety, quarterback, wide receiver, kick returner and holder in his career) had one of the more memorable performances in the history of the rivalry. In a surprise start at quarterback, Hall rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns; he also recorded three tackles on defense, with a sack and a forced fumble. Virginia Tech won, 17-14.

On Saturday, Hall is on the depth chart to play at wide receiver. Still, it is unknown how the Cavaliers will attack Virginia Tech.

But despite the multiple looks, the Cavaliers rank 118th nationally in total offense (267.3 yards per game) and 106th in scoring offense (19.9 points per game).

“What seems to happen is they’ve got to pass more than they really want to because they’ve been getting down in games,” Hokies linebacker Cody Grimm said. “The longer they hang in games the more effective they are is because they can run the ball more. They’ve got a big, powerful O-line. I would say their downfall so far is they got behind early and passed more than they wanted to.”

At the same time, Virginia Tech’s defense has been playing well in the second half of the schedule. Benefiting form the competition weaker than the Hokies’ faced in their opening six games, Virginia Tech ranks 13th nationally in total defense (300.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (16 points per game).

Virginia Tech’s defense had uncharacteristically struggled earlier in the year, allowing a number of big plays and failing to stop top running backs like Alabama’s Mark Ingram (now a Heisman Trophy candidate), Marshall’s Darius Marshall and Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr.

Earlier in the year, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has had to challenge his players to live up to the standards of past top 10 units. Now the Hokies’ defense resembles its old self.

“I knew we had a good defense – same system we’ve had,” Grimm said. “I think early in season we just kind of got caught with some big plays. If you look at it since then, being able to climb up to 13th is saying a lot from where we were at.”

But on Saturday, the Hokies’ developing defense will meet a struggling Virginia offense that still hasn’t seemed to figure itself out.

By Mark Viera  |  November 25, 2009; 1:20 PM ET
 
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