Virginia Tech trying to find ODU’s silver lining: Brent Pry’s defense was encouraging



BLACKSBURG, Va. – Brent Pry has been a fairly optimistic coach so far. It’s in his nature to find the positive in anything, and football games, regardless of the outcome, are no different.

So while Virginia Tech’s embarrassing Week 1 loss to Old Dominion wasn’t the outcome he wanted, among the things he pointed to as a silver lining was that the defense, despite the latest minutes, played pretty well.

That lapse of time at the end was enough to tip the balance of the game, but for three and a half quarters the Hokies (0-1) at least gave fans a glimpse of what a Pry-coached defense might look like. . Granted, it happened against an ODU offense that’s hardly a juggernaut, one that ranked 84th nationally in total yards last year, but when you’re 0-1 you take the positives. where you can.

“I think the kids played pretty well,” Pry said. “We have a high level.”

There was something to be encouraged defensively. The Hokies have allowed just 249 yards, their fewest against FBS competition since giving up 177 in 2019 against Pitt. (If you’re looking for a sign that links the past to the present, it was Bud Foster’s last game at Lane Stadium.)

Underlining how unusual the result was given the defensive performance, it was the fewest yards Virginia Tech had allowed in a loss since the infamous 6-3 double-overtime loss to Wake Forest in 2014, when the Hokies had given up 234 yards.

ODU averaged just 4.7 yards per pass attempt, again the lowest total against an FBS opponent since that 2019 Pitt game (4.18), and the Hokies limited the Monarchs to just two conversions on 15 third attempts, their highest mark since Georgia Tech had identical numbers in a 45-0 Virginia Tech win in 2019.

Although Pry thought the tackle was a little sloppy at times, Tech got big efforts from linebacker Dax Hollifield and safety Nasir Peoples, who had 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss apiece. Overall, Pro Football Focus gave the Virginia Tech defense a 75.4 rating, which was higher than any game last year, including Duke’s blowout (75, 1).

That could bode well ahead of an ACC opener this week with Boston College (0-1), which had to replace its five starting offensive linemen from last year – guard Christian Mahogany , who was an NFL prospect, tore an ACL in June — and couldn’t muster anything on the field last week in a 22-21 loss to Rutgers. The Eagles ran it 28 times for 29 yards and were held in the game only by Phil Jurkovec’s 283 passing yards and three touchdowns.

The Hokies were sharp enough to stop the run in Game 1. They held ODU to 84 yards rushing and 2.55 yards per carry.

A big part of that was getting a push up front. Tech limited the Monarchs’ runners to an average of 0.41 yards before contact, per TruMedia, better than all but Middle Tennessee’s game last year. Opponents averaged 2.36 yards before contact against the Hokies last season, who ranked 108th nationally.

A total of 36.4% of ODU’s rushes resulted in no win or loss, a rate higher than all Tech games last year except Miami (36.7).

“Going into the game, our defensive goal is to stop the run,” defensive lineman Josh Fuga said. “And I believe we did.”

The Hokies also showed some of the aggression promised by Pry. According to PFF, the Hokies made 42.1% of their 68 defensive snaps (last year: 37.4%) and pressured ODU quarterback Hayden Wolff on 47.4% of his setbacks – a higher percentage than any game in the last three seasons. Tech had a season-long pressure rating of 27.4% last year.

The D line led that effort, led by Norell Pollard’s seven pressures, TyJuan Garbutt’s five and Mario Kendricks’ four.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that we’re going to be aggressive,” Fuga said of Pry’s ploy.

Of course, there were also disadvantages. For all the Hokies pressure, they finished with just one sack – Jaden Keller’s play that forced a fumble.

“Yeah, we generated a lot of pressure and only missed the backsack stat,” Fuga said. “But we made it known that we could generate that pressure and that’s one thing Coach Pry and Coach (JC) Price told us: we have to go home and make the quarterback feel us. So I think we’ve done it and we just have to keep doing it during the season.

Tech was flagged four times for pass interference, including Peoples on a fourth-and-second play late in the third quarter that kept a field goal drive alive. (In fairness, an easy argument could be made that the ball was elusive and out of bounds.)

With the game on the line, the Hokies allowed ODU to go 74 yards on nine plays to score the game-winning touchdown. This included a coverage bust on a 24-yard pass to start things off, a fourth-and-2 conversion by running back Blake Watson that the Hokies appeared to have bottled up and a 38-yard pass to Ali Jennings, who made a half- round Dorian Fort on an underground ball and carried it to 1, despite the interference.

With backup cornerback Brion Murray serving a one-game suspension, Strong and Chatman played 133 of a possible 136 defensive snaps at the corner, which Pry believes was a factor late in the game.

“Armani and Dorian played too many cliches,” Pry said. «Vous vous demandez où se trouve leur contraction, où se trouve leur rapidité, où se trouve leur capacité à jouer le ballon sur le tronçon ([is)Ilsontjouéàpeuprèschaquesnapets’ilsobtiennentunesérieàchaquemi-tempsjenesaispassicelafaitunedifférenceounonmaispeut-êtreNousdevonscontinueràconstruiredelaprofondeuràplusieurspostes[is)TheyplayedabouteverysnapandiftheygetaseriesoffeachhalfIdon’tknowifitmakesadifferenceornotbutmaybeWe’vegottocontinuetobuilddepthatseveralpositions”[is)Ilsontjouéàpeuprèschaquesnapets’ilsobtiennentunesérieàchaquemi-tempsjenesaispassicelafaitunedifférenceounonmaispeut-êtreNousdevonscontinueràconstruiredelaprofondeuràplusieurspostes[is)TheyplayedabouteverysnapandiftheygetaseriesoffeachhalfIdon’tknowifitmakesadifferenceornotbutmaybeWe’vegottocontinuetobuilddepthatseveralpositions”

Although the Hokies couldn’t get the stoppage they needed in the end, just going through a scenario like this could prove beneficial in the long run.

“I would say there’s nothing quite like gaining gaming experience,” Peoples said. “It was our first time as a defender all together, so having this experience will only make us better and now we know what to expect. And next time the result may be different.

(Photo: Peter Casey/USA Today)

Source link


Comments are closed.