BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech is preparing to face two quarterbacks when it plays Virginia on Saturday.
The Cavaliers (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) have used Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims pretty much all season, and “it’s probably safe to say” that both will play again, coach Mike London said.
When they do, they will face a pass rush that has 22 sacks in its last five games.
Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4) had just eight sacks in its first six games. But defensive coordinator Bud Foster said as the defense has improved and more players have earned playing time, the unit has been able to put opponents in third-and-long situations, allowing his pass rushers to “pin their ears back.”
The Hokies also have been blitzing more than usual, and that’s fun for the defense.
“Coach Foster is a blitzing defensive coordinator,” linebacker and leading tackler Jack Tyler said. “That’s kind of his M.O. Over the past few weeks we’ve had a lot of depth get in there. We’ve had a lot of guys on the defensive line ... that are really stepping up and playing as well as the starters. It’s kind of pushing those starters to play even better. Because of that, our pass rush has been great.”
Virginia Tech had seven sacks last week in its 30-23 overtime victory at Boston College, and five the week before against Florida State, allowing it to limit the Seminoles to minus 15 rushing yards.
“When you get people behind the sticks and they can’t run well, they only have one other option,” linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “It all ties in. Good run defense turns into great pass defense.”
The aggressive tone of the Hokies’ style is a high-risk, high-reward approach, London said.
Sims said one-on-one coverage on his receivers can make it easier to find them and make plays downfield.
“When you’ve got more one-on-one matchups, you’ve got to man up,” Sims said. “It’s one-on-one now. There’s no excuses about having two or three guys in the area, or there’s a small window for me to throw the ball into.”
“When I see that, I make it personal. As a competitor, it’s one-on-one, that’s the best feeling you can get,” the sophomore said. “One man says he can shut you down. If you’re any kind of competitor, that should raise your level of play.”
The Hokies have been shutting Virginia down with regularity, winning the last eight meetings and 12 of the last 13. Only once in the past eight has been close, a 17-14 final in 2008, and the last three games have been mismatches. The Hokies won 42-13 in 2009, 37-7 in 2010 and 38-0 last season.
The lopsided nature of the series has Hokies senior linebacker Bruce Taylor concerned that his team might be overconfident in this annual season-ending battle for the Commonwealth Cup. He knows the Hokies need to win to extend their streak of seasons competing in a bowl game to 20.
“I feel like Monday’s practice was a little slow, and I’m not saying that’s the reason why it was slow, but I feel like guys kind of have that in the back of their mind,” he said of overconfidence. “And especially when they have the Commonwealth Cup with the paper that says how many days we’ve held it.
“I’m trying to make sure guys don’t do that, because that’s how you get embarrassed.”