There were multiple reports in 2012 that Virginia Tech would sport its best defense in school history. It may appear that those reports were one year early.
The Hokie defense allowed just 210 total yards while sacking Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage a season-high 8 times, and cruised to a 19-9 victory on Saturday afternoon.
"Last year, some guys were still trying to figure out what they were doing and how they fit in our scheme," middle linebacker Jack Tyler, who had 7 tackles and one sack, said. "Now everyone is set on their responsibilities, we're just going out there and playing. It's fun because we know have unbelievable cover corners and great safeties so we can just pin our ears back and go after their guy. By the end of the game, it was like he was just watching us rush."
Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas complemented his defense with another solid day, going 18-34 for 239 yards, 1 TD, and produced zero turnovers for the third straight week.
"I think you all are seeing now why I set my interception goal to five or less," Thomas said. "The way we're playing in the passing game, we've been playing very well and everyone knows what they need to do...obviously we don't just want to rely on the defense. We have to put points on the board. But when you get in the situation where you're up two scores, you just expect that the game should be over."
The Hokies' sixth win in a row wasn't exactly pretty as senior kicker Cody Journell had to kick a career-high four field goals (one missed) as Virginia Tech mustered one touchdown. However, that was more than enough as the Hokies dominated the Panthers all day long. (135 yards allowed until Pitt's scoring drive late in the game)
"First and foremost we stopped the run, they like to play smash mouth football," Tyler explained. "I think we eliminated that and forced them to do something they didn't want to do. I'm proud of this defense."
Dadi Nicholas lead the way with a career-high 7 tackles and 3 sacks, and Derrick Hopkins added 2 sacks in the brilliant effort by the unit.
Virginia Tech wasted no time gaining an early lead after forcing a three-and-out to begin the game. Thomas picked up right where he left off last week, hitting freshman Kalvin Cline for his first career touchdown on a beautiful 27-yard strike.
"These past couple games Logan has been putting it on the money, making me look good our there," Cline said. "So I got that first touchdown and it was definitely a good ego boost and got my confidence going."
Journell widened the lead thanks to a career-long 48-yard field goal following another three-and-out, and Virginia Tech had a 10-point lead before giving up a first down. (Pittsburgh recorded its first first down with 12:30 left in the second quarter)
However, a stagnant Hokie offense allowed things to stay close. Pittsburgh's Chris Blewitt nailed a 47-yarder late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to a manageable seven heading into halftime.
The Hokies were able to gain more of a controlling lead in the third quarter via two more Journell field goals coming from 38 and 42 yards out. Virginia Tech relied on its stellar defense the rest of the way to keep Pittsburgh at bay while the Hokies struggled to score.
"If we run the football better, we got a chance to be a pretty good offense," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "The bye couldn't have come at a better time. We will just continue to get better."
Journell added his fourth field goal late in the fourth quarter to all but seal the victory, but Pittsburgh was able to score late on a Savage 9-yard keeper to account for the final score of 19-9.
Following the bye week, the Hokies will attempt to win their seventh game in a row in two weeks against Duke. It was yet another gritty-but-certainly-not-pretty victory for Virginia Tech, but that's all that matters in the ACC standings.
"I'll say again, I really like this team," head coach Frank Beamer added. "They play together, they play hard and they have each other's back. They don't always play great, but they play hard. We beat a good football team today and I'm proud of them."