Defense is king again at Virginia Tech, not that the Hokies are satisfied.
Virginia Tech (2-1) will bring the nation’s No. 2 ranked defense into their game against Marshall on Saturday, looking to demonstrate once again the formula for success that elevated the program.
No team has managed more than the 206 yards top-ranked Alabama gained in the season-opener against defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s unit. Western Carolina gained just 162, and East Carolina 204.
Defensive end J.R. Collins the efficiency stems from the failures of last season. The Hokies finished 7-6, saw their streak of seasons with 10 wins end at eight and barely qualified for a bowl game.
“I think last year we learned a good lesson: You can’t just go out there and expect for things to happen. This year we’re just taking it a day at a time, punching the clock every day,” Collins said.
“What’s important now is just taking care of the little things, and that’s something we didn’t do last year. This year, doing those things, it’s showing that it pays off.”
The defense was very competitive against the Crimson Tide. Breakdowns in special teams and on offense led to three returns for Alabama touchdowns. With young players in the secondary, the Hokies limited normally efficient Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron to 10 completion in 23 tries for 110 yards passing with a rare interception.
The following week, Western Carolina’s lone points came after the Catamounts recovered a muffed punt at the Hokies’ 11, and the Pirates drove for a TD in the opening 1:39 last week before being almost completely shut down.
“Defensively, they are as good of a football team as you’ll find in this country,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said Tuesday. “I’m not just saying that because we are playing them. Their stats prove that and Alabama moved the ball up and down the field against Texas A&M, but had a lot of trouble against the Virginia Tech defense.”
Virginia Tech had seven sacks last weekend despite East Carolina’s quick throw philosophy.
“Really it was coach Foster’s game plan and us executing which gave us success,” Collins said.
The Hokies set goals before last season of being the best defense in school history, a lofty goal since Foster’s guys finished No. 1 nationally in 2005 and against in 2006. Instead of talking about repeating that this year, they have gone back to basic goals like forcing more turnovers.
They have 12 sacks and seven interceptions, one of which safety Detrick Bonner returned for a TD.
“That was kind of a big deal for us, just being able to come in and at least getting at least three turnovers per game just so we can help out the offense,” linebacker Tariq Edwards said. “I think the defensive linemen have done a great job getting pressure on the quarterback and allowing us to do that.”
Keeping it going, Collins said, is all about continuing to work.
“We’re not thinking too much about where we’re ranked right now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to work on. These past few games we’ve had success but at the same time there’s a lot we’ve got to work on.”