Mason, UVA battle for tempo in Commonwealth clash

bryonallen.jpg

Mason, UVA battle for tempo in Commonwealth clash

Rather than do a traditional game preview for tonight's George Mason-Virginia matchup tonight at the Patriot Center, we're going notebook style...

*Without suspended center Erik Copes, the Patriots starting five won't look the same against UVA  - or the first three games - as it will the rest of the season. Barring injury setbacks, expect Paul Hewitt to trot out forwards Jonathan Arledge, Anali Okoloji and Johnny Williams with Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen in the backcourt, the coach told CSNwashington on Thursday.

*As for a specific key to the Commonwealth Clash (catchy, right? Just made it up. Feel free to use it), look no further than the game's pace, which will be dictated on the defensive end. During the preseason, I wrote about Hewitt's desire for a more up-tempo offensive approach this season even though in 2011-12 the Patriots led the CAA in scoring with 70.4 points per game. Those plans will be tested against the half-court loving Cavaliers, who under coach Tony Bennett led the ACC in scoring defense last year, allowing opponents only 54.2 points per game. In last season's meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia did even better, holding George Mason to 48 points in a 20-point win. On the other side, the Patriots defensive designs won't include the shot-blocking Copes. Even with the physical center available in the previous meeting, Virginia shot 60.5 percent from the floor.

"It’s a case of case which team is more effective on the defensive end," Hewitt said. "Tony's teams historically don't give up a lot of points or easy baskets. We have to grind it out."

*So, the Patriots want to push the ball and have the scoreboard humming (or at least be semi-active).That means having a strong traffic cop of a point guard and one that limits turnovers. Allen had his moments during an up-and-down sophomore campaign -- led the team with 123 assists, but also tied Ryan Pearson with a team-high 89 turnovers -- but will need to find a happy medium against the consistently pesky UVA defenders. The good news is that after missing two weeks with what Hewitt called a pulled muscle in his back, Allen has "looked good over last 3-4 days."

*Virginia's starting lineup may include three freshmen, including former Montrose Christian star swingman Justin Anderson, center Mike Tobey and guard Taylor Barnette. The trio would likely join junior forward Akil Mitchell and junior guard Joe Harris, who takes over the scoring burden now that Mike Scott has moved onto the NBA.

"Joe Harris is obviously a terrific player. Terrific scorer, has size." Hewitt said of the 6-foot-6 who averaged 11.3 points and shot 38 percent from 3-point territory last season.

While the Cavaliers frontcourt lacks a scorer like Scott, a prolific double double machine, Hewitt says the unit "is deeper, more athletic."

*Last season Virginia finally made the long climb back to the NCAA Tournament. George Mason most recently reached the ultimate March Madness in 2011 and of course did the Final Four thing in 2006. Part of Hewitt's plan for getting the green and gold back in the field of 68 this season involved beefing up the non-conference schedule. The push starts Friday, for both teams.

"Great opportunity, but here we are here at the start of season, striving for same thing," Hewitt said. "People here remember '06 and '11. That's what were trying to do starting Friday."

*As for the suspensions to Copes and Vaughn Gray, Hewitt offered no specific details. "Student athletes probably today are probably under more scrutiny than in 25 years of coaching," Hewitt said. "Not an excuse, both made mistakes." Hewitt expects to have both plays back for the second round of the Paradise Jam tournament.

College Football Playoff projections: From contender to pretender in just four weeks

College Football Playoff projections: From contender to pretender in just four weeks

There were high hopes for LSU at the start of the season. With the collection of talent the Tigers boast on their roster, there was no reason to think they could not challenge Alabama for SEC supremacy.

Even my preseason College Football Playoff projections at the start of the season had LSU as one of the four teams to make the playoff.

SEE THE NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PROJECTION HERE

The Tigers' championship hopes took a hit with an opening loss to Wisconsin. Now just four games into their season, Les Miles been fired and their playoff aspirations appear to be completely dashed after a devastating loss Auburn.

With Alabama looking as dominant as ever and what was believed to be their main rival already looking down and out, who else can challenge the Tide for supremacy of the SEC? Who else joins the Alabama in the projected top four?

Find out here in this week's College Football Playoff projection.

Jerod Evans' 4 touchdowns carry Virginia Tech past East Carolina

Jerod Evans' 4 touchdowns carry Virginia Tech past East Carolina

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Jerod Evans said that he needed to clean up some things during Virginia Tech's upcoming off week.

The Hokies' fan base may be wondering what exactly that is. His play so far has been sparkling.

Evans, the Hokies' starting quarterback, threw three touchdown passes and rushed for one to lift Virginia Tech over East Carolina 54-17 on Saturday.

The Hokies (3-1) scored on their final five possessions of the first half, including all four of their second-quarter possessions, to overwhelm East Carolina (2-2) and snap a two-game losing streak to the Pirates.

Evans completed 13 of 20 passes for a career-best 282 yards and rushed for a career-best 97 more. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three of the Hokies' first four games and is completing 67 percent of his passes.

"I missed a couple of things here and there," Evans said. "I have a lot of things that I can get better at for sure."

Evans entered the game with an ACC-best 10 touchdown passes this season. Of more importance to Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente, he has thrown just one interception.

"I think he's pretty good," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said of Evans. "He's been judicious with the ball and he's going to the right place most of the time. He's been pretty efficient."

Following a punt return for a touchdown by Greg Stroman and a touchdown run by Marshawn Williams that gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Evans threw touchdown passes of 24 yards to Isaiah Ford, 13 yards to Travon McMillian and 55 yards to Cam Phillips. That final score gave the Hokies a 38-0 halftime lead.

ECU quarterback Philip Nelson had 362 yards passing and two touchdown tosses to Jimmy Williams. The Pirates had 443 yards of offense, but committed three special teams mistakes, fumbled once and were sacked six times.

"We studied the film well and they had a lot of keys when they were sliding the protection," said Ken Ekanem, who had two of the Hokies' six sacks. "We had a lot of indicators and we knew when someone was going to be left one-on-one. We look forward to one-on-one matchups and pride ourselves on winning those. We did a good job of that today."

THE TAKEAWAY

EAST CAROLINA: Coming off a 20-15 loss at South Carolina and playing its third consecutive game against a Power 5 opponent, the Pirates looked a step slow and out of sorts from the opening kick. They went three-and-out on five first-half possessions. The Pirates hope to regroup now that they have finished the non-conference portion of their schedule.

"That was clearly the best football team that we have played," ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said. "The most physical. The biggest. The fastest. The strongest. The smartest. I thought they competed well in their scheme. They played great emotional football. They leaned on their crowd. They played a complete football game -- as complete as it gets."

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies dominated on special teams, scoring three touchdowns as a result of those units. Greg Stroman scored on an 87-yard punt return, and Cam Phillips blocked a punt that led to an Evans touchdown pass to Travon McMillian. A sack of ECU punter Worth Gregory in the fourth quarter led to a 1-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Brenden Motley.

UP NEXT

EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates open AAC play next Saturday with a home game against UCF. ECU blasted the Golden Knights 44-7 last season for their first win in Orlando since 2008.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies are off next week before taking on North Carolina on Oct. 8 and will be looking to avenge last year's 30-27 overtime loss. The Hokies have won nine of the 12 meetings with the Tar Heels since joining the ACC.