- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

BLACKSBURG, Va. Virginia Tech used 68 of its 70 players during its 63-7 rout of Arkansas State last week, giving key players plenty of snaps and the Hokies' inexperienced defense some confidence.
LSU coach Nick Saban wishes his team had gotten a similar chance to answer its own questions.
The 14th-ranked Tigers will test several newcomers when they meet No.16 Virginia Tech today, including quarterback Matt Mauck, who was a star in last season's SEC title game and will carry some high expectations.
"We have young players playing that are good players," said Saban, who lost five starters on defense and six on offense. "How are they going to do in the first game? Nobody knows."
LSU's players and coaches watched Virginia Tech's opener and were impressed by the team's aggressive style, even though the Hokies were playing a bad Arkansas State team. The Hokies had two defensive touchdowns and one on special teams and scored a school-record 56 points in the first half.
In taking many new players into an imposing stadium packed with more than 65,000 raucous fans, Saban hopes his team can match the Hokies' energy right away.
"We're playing a very good team on the road, but we're not going to make any of those things disadvantages for us," he said. "You've got to match steel with steel."
Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Noel expects LSU to be a much better indicator of how good the Hokies are.
"I think we're all a little anxious," Noel said, adding that he hopes his teammates will lie in bed each night "and think about what's going to go down here on Sunday."
Tech tailback Lee Suggs said playing an early game gave the Hokies a chance to get rid of their jitters and make some mistakes.
Suggs, who missed almost all of last season following knee surgery, gained 87 yards on seven carries against Arkansas State, including a 32-yard touchdown run.
He and tailback Kevin Jones, rated by some as the top recruit in the nation a year ago, likely will be the focus of the Tigers' defense, at least early in the game.
"If we stop the running game, we can control the game," LSU lineman Chad Lavalais said. "We know what we have to do. Can they stop our backs? That's the question."
The Tigers return two good running backs, too, in LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis. Toefield ran for 992 yards and 19 touchdowns before getting hurt last season; Davis also returned punts and kickoffs.
The key for the Tigers may be rediscovering their momentum from a year ago, when they capped a 10-3 season with a 47-34 victory against Illinois in the Sugar Bowl.
"Toward the end of last season, we became good, consistent winners," offensive tackle Rodney Reed said. "We were ready mentally. That's something Virginia Tech has done for the last 10 or 12 years. That's something we want to match."


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