Virginia Tech Defense Sets Tone, Manhandles Boston College 27-10

TyJuan Garbutt led the way defensively for Virginia Tech on Saturday. (Ivan Morozov)

In Brent Pry’s first game as the head coach of Virginia Tech on the damp grass of Worsham Field in Lane Stadium, his defense barely missed a beat.

From the opening Boston College drive, which was just two plays because of Armani Chatman‘s interception, to TyJuan Garbutt abusing the Eagles’ offensive line, the Hokies had their way defensively. Combined with a few key offensive scores, Tech enjoyed a 27-10 win, its first of the season.

“We brought some pressure early, created some one-on-one situations with the front and then tried to mix it up,” Pry said afterwards of the defense. “Showed pressure, played coverage. And the guys got on edges. They did a nice job. We knew we had to get after the quarterback.”

In the season-opening loss at Old Dominion, Tech recorded just one sack despite getting plenty of penetration – seven tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries. But at home against a banged up Eagles front, the Hokies had their way.

They had 56 total tackles (10 for a loss), five sacks and five quarterback hurries. Boston College was 2-of-15 on third down, didn’t record a first down until its eighth drive of the game and finished with four rushing yards. That’s the lowest total against Tech since Florida State had -15 in 2012, but the Eagles were getting awfully close to surpassing that; with a few minutes left in the game, they were at -1 yards.

“Tackling’s a lost art, and I credit Chris Marve and the defensive staff,” Pry said. “They really put an emphasis on it. They got the guys triggering, and no hesitation. We were running through those guys and cutting them down. It was good to see. We’ve got to keep that rolling.”

Garbutt, a redshirt senior from Fredericksburg, seemed to be in the backfield on every down. He only had one tackle at ODU and has battled a minor injury that limited his practice time, but that wasn’t obvious against Boston College. Garbutt was a menace: three tackles, all for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble, four quarterback hurries and one pass breakup when he tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage.

Garbutt was everywhere against Boston College. (Ivan Morozov)

“Coming back last Sunday, he [Brent Pry] was telling us like we played pretty well up front,” Garbutt said. “We got in the quarterback’s face last week a lot, but we didn’t get home at all as the defensive line, so we made it an emphasis. … I thought as a group, as a collective unit, as a defense, we just all wanted to play fast, play with relentless effort.”

Garbutt embodies a junkyard dog on the field, and he’s got the bling to prove it. In January, defensive line coach J.C. Price gave each of his players a chain with a dog bone on it. Their initials are carved into the front with their name on the back, and it’s meaningful to Garbutt. He doesn’t wear it on the field so no one tries to take it, but he didn’t need it on Saturday; his play spoke for itself.

“I felt like I played like a dog that ain’t ate in three days,” Garbutt said. “Go mess with a dog that didn’t eat in three days, it might bite your hand.”

“He’s a hard worker,” tight end Connor Blumrick said of Garbutt. “He’s really good at what he does, and he works on perfecting his craft every day. It shows out there with getting pressure to the quarterback.”

Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a highly touted NFL prospect, was rattled. He finished the game 15-for-28 with 135 yards, one interception and one touchdown. On top of that, he posted -25 rushing yards due to the five sacks.

Jurkovec’s body language indicated he was frustrated, something Garbutt quickly picked up.

“That’s what as a defense makes you kinda up the ante, like turn it up a notch,” Garbutt said. “Because when you see he’s getting frustrated, that’s a position where you got to keep your cool, really no matter what. If the quarterback is getting frustrated, it’s kind of like that’s our favor because he’s about to start playing for us.”

Armani Chatman gave Virginia Tech an early advantage with an interception. (Jon Fleming)

On the other side of the ball, it wasn’t a stellar night offensively for the Hokies. They were 5-of-17 on third down but they got the job done, starting with scoring off Chatman’s interception. The pick was returned to the Boston College 14-yard line, and though it took seven plays, Tech eventually powered it in on a fourth-and-one with Jalen Holston.

The offense scored on three of its first four drives. William Ross drilled a 49-yard field goal while Keshawn King went untouched and took an inside zone play 65 yards to the house. He didn’t see the field much throughout the rest of the game due to injury, but Pry said it’s minor and he’s day-to-day.

Soon after King’s touchdown, however, Tech’s offense slowed. Four of the next six possessions ended in punts, and Boston College found some footing.

A 14-play drive ended in a field goal from Radford native Connor Lytton to get BC on the board. A few possessions later, Jurkovec found All-ACC wide receiver Zay Flowers for a 49-yard play that ignited the drive, and Jaden Williams beat Brion Murray for a 17-yard strike to bring the game within one score.

All of a sudden, the pressure was on, but Grant Wells and Virginia Tech responded in a big way. Kaleb Smith, who dealt with an injury throughout the week, combined with Wells for a 43-yard pass that got the juices flowing. To cap off a nine-play, 78-yard drive, the two combined again for a two-yard touchdown, reasserting control.

“That’s what we didn’t do last week: the offense taking the reins and converting,” Pry said. “And a heck of a catch by Kaleb and a great throw by Grant to extend that drive and go down and score. That’s exactly what needed to happen and that’s what good football teams do.”

From that point forward, Boston College struggled. It punted three straight times while Tech kicked a 38-yard field goal to put the icing on the cake.

Grant Wells and Kaleb Smith combined a few times for Virginia Tech. (Jon Fleming)

Most importantly, though, the Hokies didn’t make mistakes. They didn’t turn the ball over and committed just five penalties, a vast difference from the five miscues and 15 flags at ODU.

“I think we took care of some things that were obviously a thorn in our side last week,” Pry said. “We protected the ball. We attacked the ball. Big turnover to start the game, set the tone. And we minimized the penalties. … We made them earn it.”

Wells had a methodical approach and did a good job taking care of the football. Though the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders for the entire game, Virginia Tech always had control. The group posted 284 total yards, 140 of which came through the air via Wells (16-for-25, 1 touchdown).

“He was steady, he was confident,” Pry said of Wells. “I thought he bounced back really well. He managed the game, he made good decisions, and we have a quarterback that will do that. And he made some nice throws in some big moments.”

Saturday was the start to ACC play that the Hokies were looking for. What’s more, they did it in a sold out Lane Stadium, bouncing back from the mess in Norfolk.

It was Pry’s home debut, too. He’s not one to let emotions get the best of him – James Franklin, his former boss, always advised to take a moment before the game and soak everything in – but it was obvious his first win was meaningful, especially in the fashion that Virginia Tech did it: hard-nosed defense with a hint of explosive plays offensively.

“I’m just so happy for the players, for the staff, for the fans,” Pry said. “The place was packed despite the weather. So this was a good win for the entire program.”

Box Score: Link

30 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Awesome game from Garbutt. If we were to give out helmet stickers he would’ve deserved two of them!

  2. I’m still talking a “wait and see” attitude toward this team. BC may very well go 0-8 in the ACC this year, and may very well be less talented than ODU.
    Still a good win!
    Go Hokies!!!

  3. Regarding plays to a stacked middle. My wife asked me several times, “WHY do they keep running the ball to where all the other teams players are waiting”…..If she can figure out there’s a problem, why doesn’t someone get a little creative with the play calling….just saying.

  4. The Defense, albeit against a couple of bad Offenses, is definitely the bright spot after two games.

    Last night left me with a much better feeling about the team, relatively. Seemed to be a more confident and cohesive bunch.

    Great to see Pry get his first win. Celebrate every victory, as things will get tougher very soon.

  5. Open field tackling was impressive combined with Garbutt bending off the edge–textbook the way he turned to the QB.
    Loved seeing the Receivers catching the ball in their hands vs the body trap…
    Big legs on the kicker & punter

    Solid win to build upon and two weeks to get healthy

  6. See some positives but this is a bad BC team that has no offensive line or speed. We gave away our play with formation and who was in the game. O will be better when Malicai Thomas comes back. It should be a two man show at RB…him and King. Holston is only good for pass pro. We need to outside zone more. We have 1 True WR..Smith. Gosnell is a good route runner I like. Brumrick has the best hands. Wells has not been as accurate as he was at Marshall but he will improve with time. Moore was much better punting than at ODU and Ross has a leg. At least we seem to be forming an identity. A WVU win is a must to go bowling.

  7. Hey, just curious, from all the bladder-challenged-Samsung-man cave-coaches who wanted to dynamite the QB room after *week 1* — how DID Tahj Bullock play last night at QB????? (Humming Jeopardy theme music ……)

    1. special teams, I’d presume. But then this counts as 1 of his 4 allowed games if they still want to redshirt him.

      1. Burn a shirt game for a special teams play(s)? Seems if you lose #1 and #2 TB, maybe give him a shot on a series if you’re gonna burn a game, flawed thinking on my part?

    2. It’s an error; Mario Kendricks wears 22 same number and he broke up a pass; also Kendricks should be at least credited for 1/2 tackle assisting DJ Harvey vs Jurkovec I’m open field

  8. Echoes from the past it seemed. Why oh why do we persist in bunching up on 3rd and a foot with 9-10 defenders in the box and try to go straight up thru the line for a stuff?? Their D knows it’s coming…pretty much that was the only negative I saw. Blue was a non-factor again but had a great block on the 65-yarder….

    1. You got that right! I was pulling my hair out over the repeated plunges into the middle. Not a good reflection on Tyler Bowen.

      1. I agree with you. It is amazing to me the number of plays that produce 2 yards or less. I am big fan of play action passes and read options where the qb keeps the ball. Offensive success is hard to come by when the defense knows the play.

      2. Is a reflection of Bowen or a reflection of the OL and Holston? I can’t remember any games where Holston was an efficient RB. Granted, maybe it’s poor OL play but he can’t make anything big happen with the ball in his hands like Malachi or King. If he’s the best at pass protect, so be it, but he shouldn’t be getting the ball 21x a game.

    2. YEP!! Shades of Coaches Jerry Claiborne and Bill Dooley with the way Holston was pounded up the middle late, as well as an aggressive D that likely made Bud and Frank happy!!

      1. Even Dooley would run a “sweep style” play 5 or 6 times a game. I don’t think we ran but 2 plays outside the tackles. Holston had his longest run of about 15 yards and the other Lofton lost a yard on a jet sweep. I realize you have to run up the middle some but that one series late in game with 3 identical runs by Holston up the middle was ridiculous.

  9. “embodies a junkyard dog on the field and he’s got the bling to prove it”

    Alrighty then. Love it. Let’s hope the defense can keep it rolling!

    1. Agreed. They were FLYING to football, dropping guys without hesitation, open field tackling was old school, and the aggression was back. Fun to watch.

  10. A good win and the defense looked great. I felt like the offence they ran was maybe trying to protect and give confidence to Wells. Kept it simple and kept the mistakes out.. Next week the offence should be able to play wild and loose against Wofford, a team that lost to UT Chattanooga like 31 to zip.

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