Is Virginia Tech’s defense under-appreciated?


Although Virginia Tech had a rough defensive afternoon in a 31-17 loss at Syracuse, the Hokies have, for the most part, played excellent defense so far this season under coordinator Bud Foster.

The Hokies held four of their first six opponents this fall to 17 points or less, all resulting in victories. Through the first seven weeks of the regular season, Virginia Tech ranks second in the ACC pass efficiency defense (93.7). In addition, the Hokies rank fourth in the league in rushing defense (113.8 YPG), passing defense (177.7 YPG) and scoring defense (18.2 PPG).

The numbers looked a lot better after the Hokies gave up just three combined points in impressive ACC triumphs over Boston College and North Carolina, but they’re still quality overall numbers even after the Syracuse setback.

According to SB Nation’s Football Study Hall, the Hokies rank No. 7 nationally through the first seven weeks in “Overall Havoc Rate,” a metric that assesses the percentage of defensive plays that result in either a sack, tackle for loss, interception, tipped or deflected pass, or a forced fumble.

While the national average was 16.2 percent of plays in which defenses were considered to have made havoc, Virginia Tech made havoc on a whopping 21.4 percent of plays. The Hokies had eight interceptions in their first six games, along with five fumble recoveries.

The Hokies have been solid under pressure, allowing the fewest touchdowns in the ACC inside the red zone (10), and they’re also among the league leaders in red-zone scoring percentage (71.4 percent), which combines both touchdowns and field goals allowed.

Although he’s questionable for Thursday night’s game against Miami, senior defensive lineman Ken Ekanem has met lofty expectations for the Hokies. Ekanem logged 4.5 sacks through the first half of the regular season, while sophomore linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has been effective as well, with 32.5 tackles and a team-high nine tackles for loss.

The Hokies as a team aren’t getting to the quarterback as much as one might expect, ranking 12th in the ACC with 12 sacks through the first half of their regular-season schedule. But with solid veterans such as junior linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka and senior defensive back Chuck Clark combining for over 70 tackles and junior cornerback Brandon Facyson racking up seven pass breakups, they’ve been effective enough to put the Hokies back in contention in the Coastal Division heading into the second half of Justin Fuente’s first regular season at the helm.