- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

ATLANTA — Virginia Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi sat on the dais in front of the blue Chick-fil-A Bowl backdrop in Thursday’s final pregame appearance, his sturdy arms folded on the table, his answers short and tight.

Quiet and collected off the field, the 6-foot-2 fourth-year junior admitted he’ll be pacing today, anxiously counting the hours to tonight’s kickoff when Virginia Tech (10-2) faces Georgia (8-4).

“Just sometimes you just can’t wait,” he said. “You just can’t wait to get on that field and go hit somebody.”

It will be a suddenly menacing Adibi who takes the field of the sold-out Georgia Dome.

The confident, crushing inside linebacker is a ferocious presence on a defense that ranks first in the country.

Flashy sophomore cornerback Brandon Flowers will be the only All-American on the field, a third-team pick who broke up 18 passes and intercepted three. But Adibi and fellow linebacker Vince Hall are the statistical leaders. They’ve combined for 193 tackles, 151/2 of those for a loss this season, showing defensive coordinator Bud Foster enough skill to call the duo perhaps his best ever.

But the Hokies’ talent doesn’t stop there. Hard-hitting senior rover Aaron Rouse came in this fall as the unit’s leader. Then after the Hokies’ losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College, fast-talking defensive end Noland Burchette emerged as a guide for his troubled team. And senior outside linebacker Brenden Hill finally created as much chaos on the field as he has off of it, making 49 tackles, two interceptions, and breaking up six passes.

The Bulldogs definitely will have their hands full tonight.

“They’re going to really play what we call an eight-man front,” Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway said. “Bring the safety down to the weak side to really try to stop the run and try to make you a one-dimensional football team. And we can’t let them do that. We’re going to have to be a balanced offense that’s going to run and throw the ball — we’re going to have to be able to run the ball even though they’ve got the safety down in the box — but at the same time we need to take advantage and try to make some plays down the middle of the field.”

As Bulldogs fullback Brannan Southerland and junior tailback Kregg Lumpkin fight for yards, the pressure to make plays will fall on freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford, an 18-year old and the third quarterback to start for Georgia this fall.

“We feel like that we come out there and throw some different schemes at him, you know, try to confuse him,” Burchette said. “Just play our style of football and just attack, just keep him on his heels and make him play as good as he been playing the last couple of games, and hopefully we get him to play for us a little bit.”

Stafford seems to have finally found some control of the offense in the last two games of the season. He rushed for a career high 83 yards on seven carries in a win over Auburn and led a comeback win over Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech’s defense has made taking advantage of young quarterbacks a specialty. In their last two games alone, the Hokies overwhelmed a pair of redshirt freshmen in ACC champion Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner and Virginia’s nimble Jameel Sewell.

“You’ve got a young quarterback back there, you’ve got to eat him up,” Adibi said after that win. “Just let him know that we’re going to be coming the whole game.”

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