It’s a battle of defenses in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Virginia Tech leads ACC newcomer Pittsburgh by a score of 10-3 at the half. Neither side is getting much out of their offense, and if that is going to be the case then the Hokies should be in good shape.
In the first half Pittsburgh’s offense has just been overmatched by a superior Virginia Tech defense. The Hokies may have the best defense in the ACC, which will be key as the season rolls along. Pittsburgh’s offense has been limited to just 62 yards of offense at the half, including just 13 yards on the ground. But Pittsburgh is holding their own on defense as well, keeping this game within reach for their offense heading in to the second half. Virginia Tech has been held to 146 yards of offense and Pittsburgh has been limited to 113 yards at the half.
The Hokies lack anything spectacular on offense but Logan Thomas has completed 10 of 15 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came early in the first quarter, with a 27-yard connection with Kalvin Cline five minutes in to the game. Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage has not had a big day, but a 48-yard pass to Devin Street set the Panthers up for a late score. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Hokies defense held firm and held them to a field goal attempt, which was converted by Chris Blewitt.
The Virginia Tech defense was locked in Thursday night in Atlanta, leading the way to a 17-10 victory against Georgia Tech. Logan Thomas completed 19-of-25 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown and he ran for one more to give the offense enough points for a win in a tough, defensive match-up. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech combined for 549 yards of offense with a fairly even split.
Sitting on their own 33-yard line, down seven with more than half a quarter to play, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson decided to take a chance and failed miserably. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins stuffed Georgia Tech running back David Sims two yards shy of the first down, forcing a turnover on downs and setting up the Hokies for a potentially lethal strike. Amazingly, Virginia Tech failed to take advantage when kicker Cody Journell‘s field goal attempt from sailed wide left from 25 yards out. Georgia Tech survived, with the score holding at 17-10.
Still with plenty of time, Georgia Tech attempted to pass their way to a first down but three straight incomplete passes from Vad Lee forced Georgia Tech to punt it away. The defense forced the Hokies to punt but Virginia Tech pinned the home team back on their five-yard line with about three and a half minutes to play.
This game was expected to be a low-scoring game lacking offensive highlights, and it delivered. This game was all about the defenses, and specifically the defense of Virginia Tech. This is the same defense who held Alabama to the second lowest offensive total since Nick Saban took over as head coach, and this defense has continued to dominate the opposition and give the offense a chance to win. Virginia Tech has now held East Carolina to ten points on the road, Marshall’s Rakeem Cato to just 228 passing yards and now has a hard-fought road win at Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech’s success this season will be determined by the play of the defense, because the offense still lacks any sense of a killer instinct.
Virginia Tech now gets three straight home games in ACC Coastal play with North Carolina, Pitt and Duke coming up. This looks like a terrific opportunity to get a firm grip of the division before a game with Miami late in the year. If they play defense the way they did Thursday night, that looks like a favorable.
We cannot rule out Georgia Tech from the conversation just yet, but they must be able to play a much cleaner game moving forward with a more challenging schedule than Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech’s next two games will be played at Miami and at BYU. The Yellow Jackets also have a road game at Clemson and a home game against Georgia before the end of the regular season. These are games Georgia Tech must avoid another nine-penalty performance.