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‘Only the strong survive’: Virginia Tech’s offense line will be in the spotlight on Saturday

‘Only the strong survive’: Virginia Tech’s offense line will be in the spotlight on Saturday

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Miami at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech running back Jalen Holston (center) runs with the football in their game over No. 9 Miami in Blacksburg on Saturday.

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech right guard Lecitus Smith didn’t sugarcoat the challenge when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

The Hokies offensive line will be put to test on Saturday when they visit Heinz Field to face a Pittsburgh defense that’s one of the most disruptive front sevens in the country.

“It’s going to be a real tough one, but I mean, only the strong survive,” Smith said. “So we’re not going to lay down. We’re going to prepare all throughout the week for their defense, because we know they’re big and physical up front and they have some guys as well. So they’re not going to just lay down and roll over.”

Pittsburgh comes into the game with the No. 2 ranked rushing defense in the country (out of 126 teams), and they lead the FBS with 38 sacks and 93 tackles for loss. Those explosive rushing plays that Virginia Tech has relied on this season will also be hard to come by. The Panthers have only allowed four runs of 20-yards or more in eight games.

Virginia native Patrick Jones has anchored Pitt’s defensive front this season. The Grassfield High School alum out of Chesapeake has eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss this season. Fellow senior Rashad Weaver has held his own on the opposite side of the line and has 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

They make for an imposing pair with both listed at 6-foot-5.

“It’s definitely a different challenge,” Virginia Tech offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw said. “Best d-line, probably in the country, that we probably will see all season. We’ve all got to be locked in. Key on our assignments. Just ready to go.”

Pittsburgh’s scheme also presents a challenge for opposing offensive lines with the way the Panthers like to stack the box and blitz their linebackers.

“It’s really not being outnumbered,” Darrisaw said. “We just gotta like identify whichever linebackers we’re working to and just like the schemes, the different schemes. If we’re pushing to one back just have to be locked into whatever backer we’re working to.”

Tech’s offensive line got on a roll early in the season with the offense putting up 300-plus rushing yards in three of the team’s first four games. They haven’t been quite as consistent in recent weeks and struggled late in the game against Miami.

Coach Justin Fuente described it as an “inefficient” performance, which is why offensive line coach Vance Vice rotated personnel more than he had all season. Tech tackle Silas Dzansi and guard Austin Cannon rotated in for multiple series last week.

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