It took four weeks, but it appears Bud Foster has gotten his young defense to play at the level he expects. The Hokies may have given up 200+ yards in the first half, but they kept the most important number under control in both halves: the score.
Yes, Montel Harris was able to run for 111 yards and 5.8 yards per carry, but he didn’t score a touchdown. Just like Roy Helu Jr. ran for 169 yards against the Hokies in 2009 but didn't score. And just like Duke ran up 397 yards of offense in 2009 but still lost to the Hokies by eight.
And the complete opposite of Virginia Tech allowing only 235 yards to James Madison but losing.
At the end of the day, all Hokie fans care about is the score of the game, however it may have gotten there. Of course, if the result is a loss, they’ll go back and argue how or why they could have won.
It’s just that Virginia Tech has become accustomed to winning games defensively. And that’s why the shutout victory at Boston College was so important for Hokie fans.
The offense couldn’t convert more than one touchdown, but it was the first one they had scored in Chestnut Hill since 2002. Hokie Nation has grown accustomed to that under Bryan Stinespring.
So Bud Foster once again took the reins, put consistent pressure on the quarterback, and got the turnovers necessary to hold the Eagles scoreless.
And Virginia Tech finally saw a glimpse of the promise envisioned at the start of the 2010 season. Well, not the 50 points per game. Or the number of rushing yards. Or the record.
But the Hokies are undefeated in ACC play and put up their first shutout victory since 2006. The timing couldn’t be much better, as the Hokies travel to upstart N.C. State for arguably the most intriguing game in the ACC next week.
The Wolfpack have put up 37.8 points per game, and their defense has been surprisingly stout. Raleigh should be rocking come Saturday, and for good reason.
To silence that crowd, Virginia Tech will have to improve on their win against Boston College. As I said earlier, Virginia Tech was far from flawless in their victory but still dominated the game.
The key to the game will be quarterback pressure: It was mysteriously lacking in the past few games. My guess is that Bud Foster didn’t feel comfortable sending the inexperienced linebacker corps to blitz.
The group proved that it can both blitz and cover receivers with Bruce Taylor’s two sacks (and no personal fouls) and Jeron “GW” Gouveia-Winslow's fantastic interception of Dave Shinskie. And Jay Hosley and Rock Carmichael are more than capable of covering receivers one-on-one.
Boston College’s offensive line is a fantastic run-blocking group, and a lot of credit must be given to them, but the VT defensive line will have to hold better against the most mobile quarterback they have faced in Russell Wilson. His trip to Blacksburg last year didn’t go well for him, but this is an entirely different N.C. State team that has become the 23rd-ranked team in the country and a legitimate threat to win the ACC Atlantic.
The Wolfpack will be a rabid group ready to take on an ACC powerhouse next Saturday. But it will be the improvement on the Virginia Tech defense demonstrated in its win against Boston College that should determine the outcome of the game.