Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

October 13, 2013

Va. Tech defense, special teams conduct clinic vs. Pitt

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Tech defense held a demonstration on how to destroy a quarterback and the kickers showed how field goals and punts can win a game, Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Lane Stadium.

The Hokies defense pressured Tom Savage from the opening kick, sacking him eight times and putting him on his backside on numerous other occasions in a game that saw the Virginia Tech offense cross the goal line only one time and Giles High’s Cody Journell kick four field goals.

Following the game Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster talked about his group.

“I was really proud of our kids, we really challenged them,” Foster said. “It was a big-time football game and this was BCS football at its best. It was a dogfight and we did it the Hokie way.”

Dadi Nicolas tallied three of Virginia Tech’s eight quarterback sacks. James Gayle and Derrick Hopkins also played vital roles in putting pressure on Savage the entire game.

“Derrick Hopkins really set the tone and had a couple of big sacks early. 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 to get some more reps at that spot,” Foster said.

“We left about another eight sacks on the field. I felt like if we could get them behind the sticks we could get some pressure on the quarterback and we were able to do that.”

In addition to his three sacks, Nicolas had a career-high seven tackles.

“Dadi had a tremendous game, we were trying to keep him on the field,” Gayle said. “He’s going to be one of the better players in the ACC and he showed it today.”

Head coach Frank Beamer talked further about the sackfest on the Lane Stadium turf.

“Most of those sacks were off the blitz,” Beamer said. “The big guys in the middle got good push and the unit played well. We got eight, but I bet we probably missed eight sacks. Credit to the quarterback, but it’s going to be interesting to look at the video and see why we missed all those.

“I was very impressed with him (Savage). When we get that much pressure on somebody at Lane Stadium they usually go down. Lots of credit to him, he’s a big, tough guy and he played a really tough game today.”

Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said that while the Panthers may not have executed as he would have liked, he cannot lay all the blame on his team.

“It would be pretty arrogant to think that everything was our fault,” Chryst said. “You definitely have to give them (Virginia Tech) credit. I think they’ve got a really good defense, not just the defensive line, but I give credit to their back ends as well.

“It’s a good defense. We knew that coming in, but I think we have a tendency to focus on us because that’s the only thing you can control. Certainly I think we played a heck of a defense today.”

The kicking game contributed a huge part to the Hokies’ victory. Journell scored 13 of Tech’s 19 points with a career-high four field goals and punter A.J. Hughes averaged a career high 52.8 yards per kick.

“Obviously after a rough past couple of weeks in games it felt great to go out there and drill the opportunities that I had, especially in a game where you really needed it,” Journell said.

Journell’s field goals were from 37, 42, 23 and 48 yards. His previous college career long was 42 yards. He misfired from 33 yards.

The last time Virginia Tech got four field goals in a game was the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Michigan and the kicker was Justin Myer.

“He only had one bad game,” Beamer said of Journell. In practice he’s been back and very steady. We have our field goal kicking contest and he’s always the one that’s blasting them through.

“That miss was a pretty bad one, but he bounced back to make another one, so he played very well.”

Beamer was equally pleased with his punter, Hughes.

“He’s kicked well the last couple of weeks,” Beamer said. “Field position is everything for us. You guys know how much I love field position. The quickest way to get it is through the kicking game.

“All of that hidden yardage adds up at the end of the day, so that’s big for us.”

Back on the defensive side of the ball, the Hokies did not intercept a pass in the game, ending its 10-game interception streak.

Virginia Tech is now bowl eligible after only seven games. Last year the Hokies had to win game No. 12 against Virginia in order to pick up enough wins to go bowling.

— Contact Bob Redd at

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