Early lead was key in Tech’s win at UNC

The Hokies went on the road and beat North Carolina on Saturday, knocking the Tar Heels out of the Coastal Division race in the first week of October.  Here’s how the race is shaping up…

Georgia Tech: 5-0, 2-0
UVA: 4-2, 2-0
VT: 4-2, 1-1
Pitt: 3-3, 1-1
Miami: 3-3, 1-2
Duke: 4-1, 0-1
UNC: 2-3, 0-2

Georgia Tech has two huge wins against Coastal foes Virginia Tech and Miami.  We need them to drop a couple of games at some point.  Preferably three games, as it’s doubtful the Hokies will make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played.  I’m more concerned with how this team plays on a week to week basis than I am about the Coastal.  If we’re good enough, we’ll make it.  If we aren’t, then we won’t.  That’s the bottom line.

That being said, yesterday was a step in the right direction.  The Hokies would have been done with a second loss to a Coastal Division team.  Now they are still in the race, though they are getting more and more banged up as the season goes along.  Let’s take a closer look at yesterday’s game.


Perfect formula for the Tech defense

Virginia Tech got an early lead on North Carolina yesterday and put them into pass-heavy mode.  Especially in the second half, the Hokies knew the Tar Heels were going to be throwing the football a ton, and they pinned their ears back and got after Marquise Williams.

Check out these numbers from the UNC running backs…

TJ Logan: 4 carries, 8 yards
Romar Morris: 2 carries, 4 yards
Elijah Hood: 3 carries, 3 yards

With only nine carries by the tailbacks, the Hokies completely eliminated an entire position on UNC’s offense.  Sure, the Tar Heels ran some read option, and Marquise Williams had some nice runs from that play, but the defense’s job was made a lot easier by the fact that the team built an early lead and there was no threat of a traditional UNC running attack.

The result was seven tackles for loss, and five sacks.  Check out where the Hokies rank nationally in those categories…

Sacks: 4.33 per game, #2 nationally
TFL: 8 per game, #10 nationally

If you had told me the Hokies would put up those type of numbers without a healthy Luther Maddy all season, I would have said you were crazy.  You know how many tackles for loss Maddy has this year?  0.5.  He has no sacks at all.  And the Hokies are still dominant when it comes to getting after the quarterback.

Half the season is now in the books, and we have a large enough sample size to say it plainly: Virginia Tech has a very fast and athletic defense that can make a ton of plays in the backfield and get after the quarterback.  The Ohio State game was no fluke, when it comes to sacks.  The Hokies are doing that to a lot of teams.

UNC gained 323 yards of total offense on Saturday, but it seemed more like 223 yards.  The Tar Heels went down the field and tacked on a late touchdown that made things interesting at 27-17, but at that point I think everybody knew the game was over.

Let’s give a big shoutout to Ken Ekanem.  The r-sophomore defensive end had four TFL and three sacks against UNC.  He is now tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 8.5, and he holds the team lead in sacks with five.  He’s still a young player, and he along with every other defensive lineman who played against UNC will return next season.  That’s a scary thought for opposing offenses.

Let’s hope that the Hokies can manage to hold second half leads in later games this season, and the Tech pass rushers are put in position where they don’t have to worry about the running game.  One dimensional offenses are eaten alive by Bud Foster’s defense time and time again.

Focus on Ryan