BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech has an open date next Saturday. Alas, Oregon and Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel, not to mention Baylor and Bryce Petty, are otherwise preoccupied.
And that's what we clamor to see, right? The Hokies' defense against one of college football's PlayStation offenses and most productive quarterbacks.
Coordinator Bud Foster's group suffocated another offense Saturday as Tech defeated Pittsburgh 19-9. The Hokies recorded eight sacks, limited the Panthers to 210 yards and didn't allow a touchdown until the closing minutes.
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- Jack Tyler on Hokies' eight sacks
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- Virginia Tech's defense pummels Pittsburgh in 19-9 victory
- Frank Beamer on Dadi Nicolas
- Offense still concerns Beamer
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg
On 11 possessions, Pitt punted eight times, turned it over on downs once and failed to make a first down six times.
So often were the likes of Dadi Nicolas, Derrick Hopkins, Jack Tyler and James Gayle in Pitt's backfield that Tech coach Frank Beamer said, "I bet we missed eight (sacks)."
The eight were one shy of the Hokies' high in Beamer's 27 seasons, that set in 1999 at Pitt. There was a ninth sack, on a Panthers' 2-point conversion attempt, but such plays do not count in final game statistics.
"I'm glad it's not me back there," Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said of his teammates' pass rush.
Tom Savage was back there, and he absorbed a beating, this two weeks after sustaining a concussion and taking seven sacks in a 14-3 victory over Virginia. In fact, according to Hokies middle linebacker Jack Tyler, Foster swiped a strategy from his U.Va. counterpart, Jon Tenuta.
The tactic entailed standing up a rangy, pass-rushing specialist over the tight end and pressuring from the edge. Max Valles filled the role for Virginia and had 2.5 sacks. Nicolas, usually a defensive end in a three-point stance, played the part for Tech and had three sacks and seven tackles.
"We felt like Dadi Nicolas could get a mismatch on the tight end blocking and get a lot of pressure, and I know he will be wanting some more reps at that spot," Foster said.
"Really his only responsibility was to go off the edge and go after the quarterback," Tyler said. "We had to get him lined up a couple of times, but Dadi's coming along. He's going to be, down the road, I can't even imagine what he's going to turn into once he gets everything going mentally. Physically, he's there."
Pitt (3-2, 2-2 ACC) is the fifth Tech opponent in seven games to gain fewer than 300 yards. Alabama is the lone team to score more than 21 points against the Hokies, and only two of the Crimson Tide's five touchdowns came via its offense.
"It would be pretty arrogant to think that everything was our fault," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "You definitely have to give them credit. I think they've got a really good defense. Not just the defensive line, but I give credit to their back end as well."
Indeed, other than Savage's completions of 48 and 33 yards to Devin Street, the Hokies' secondary was excellent. The Fuller brothers, Kyle and Kendall, manned the corners along with Brandon Facyson, with Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner at safety.
Even the latter completion to Street drew gasps from the home crowd as Jarrett leveled him with a shoulder-first hit that drew no flag and did not appear to violate the new targeting rule.
"We know that on the back end we have that coverage," Tyler said, "and that makes rushes a lot easier because you don't just have to do the quick rushes, the two-second rushes, and the quarterback's getting rid of it.
"He's holding it for five, six seconds, and you can get after him that way. And obviously, Coach Foster loves to blitz. It's just fun because we know we have the cover corners, and the safeties are covering well, and we can just pin our ears back and go after the quarterback."
So despite an efficient-but-suspect offense — Saturday was Tech's third consecutive game without a turnover — the 24th-ranked Hokies (6-1, 3-0) reach their first bye week riding a six-game winning streak and atop the ACC's Coastal Division.
Last year, Tech didn't post the sixth victory required for bowl eligibility until the regular-season finale, Nov. 24 against Virginia. This year: Oct. 12.
The most impressive offense awaiting the Hokies' D is Miami on Nov. 9. Qualify for the ACC championship game, and Tech could face Clemson or Florida State.
But those are intramural scrums. Perhaps postseason can give us the Hokies versus Johnny Football.