Cody Journell, Virginia Tech kicker: Behind many a big upset is a critical missed field goal by the favored team. Journell nearly handed the game to East Carolina last week by missing an extra point and two field goals. One figures this established player will shake that slump, but you never know for sure.
Stats 'n' such
The Hokies are trying for the 700th win in program history. If they beat Syracuse (also at 699) to the punch, they would become the 15th school in Division I-A/FBS history to do so. Syracuse hosts Tulane in a 12:30 p.m. game. ... Virginia Tech's streak of sellouts ended at 93 two weeks ago against Western Carolina, a game that drew 61,355.
In the rankings: Marshall is third in the nation in first downs (88) and total defense (252.7 yards allowed per game) and sixth in rushing defense (67.0), but is 97th in net punting (37.0). Individually, Amareto Curraj is tied for 5th with 14 touchbacks. ... Virginia Tech is No. 2 in total defense (190.7), passing yards allowed (106.3) and tackles for loss (29), and is third in passing efficiency defense (75.94) and 10th in third-down defense (26.8 percent) and rushing defense (84.3). Conversely, the Hokies are 121st in kickoff returns (16.5) and 112th in passing efficiency rating (93.68).
Milestones: In Cato's continuous climb up the MU career charts, he has 6,743 passing yards, putting him sixth behind John Gregory (7,020) and Todd Donnan (7,050). He is fifth with 58 TD passes, behind Donnan (61). In total offense, Cato is fifth behind Donnan (7,057). And Cato maintains the highest completion rate, with his 65.9 percent mark topping Byron Leftwich's 65.1 percent. ... Tommy Shuler has 138 receptions for 16th place and could catch Troy Brown (139), LaVorn Colclough (142) and Sean Doctor (147). ... For Virginia Tech, Logan Thomas has 20 career touchdowns, good for third place and one behind Bob Schweickert and three behind Tyrod Taylor.
222 Virginia Tech yards rushing, or half the number the Hokies ran up on Marshall in 2009. Tech ran for 153 against Alabama, 237 against Western Carolina and 53 against East Carolina.
5 Sacks of Marshall quarterbacks, which would double the Herd's three-game total. Tech has 12, seven vs. East Carolina.
20 Combined receptions for Tommy Shuler, Gator Hoskins and Devon "Moo Moo" Smith. As tough as it will be to get anybody else open, this is critical.
Completely useless trivia
Marshall still has a winning record against Virginia-based teams (20-16-1) and the Herd is 7-6-1 in the commonwealth. OK, so that includes all those smackdowns of Virginia Military, when the Herd smoked the Keydets 14 straight times until departing the Southern Conference. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Marshall gets a full week off to grade its efforts during the nonconference portion of the schedule. When the Herd reappears on Oct. 5, it will begin its Conference USA schedule with a homecoming game against newcomer Texas-San Antonio, with a 2 p.m. kickoff. Virginia Tech kicks off Atlantic Coast Conference play Thursday at Georgia Tech.