The biggest takeaway from Saturday night's upset victory against then-ranked No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus was the play of Bud Foster's defense. Just ask former Hokie and current San Diego Charger receiver Eddie Royal:
Bud Foster the MVP of this game— Eddie Royal (@EddieRoyalWR) September 7, 2014
No doubt, the stats from Saturday night's game tell the story. Ohio State, without their Heisman candidate at quarterback Braxton Miller, was forced to navigate the perennial top-10 Virginia Tech defense with redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett at the helm.
The results for Urban Meyer's team?
Although Barrett was harmed by at least 5 drops by my count, he finished the game 9-of-29 passing (31%) for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. However, 58 of those 219 passing yards came on a stellar 2nd quarter catch by Devin Smith, which set Ohio State up deep in Virginia Tech territory. Later in the game, Barrett completed a pass to Michael Thomas, a 55-yard touchdown catch on one of the lone blemishes of the night by the defense, a play in which Thomas broke loose after Hokie defensive back Brandon Facyson slipped and fell. That's two plays accounting for a 113 of the 219 total passing yards.
In fact, Ohio State only managed nine plays in the entire game of 12 yards or more. These plays led to 226 of the team's 327 yards of total offense. The Buckeyes ran 71 total plays in the game, and if you take the nine "big plays" away from the contest, Ohio State ran a total of 62 plays gaining a meager 101 yards of offense. That's 1.62 yards per play for one of the nation's most explosive offenses from a year ago. As a team, Tech held the opposing Buckeyes to only 2.7 yards per rush, and accounted for seven sacks on J.T. Barrett. The relentless pressure led to three timely interceptions, two by Kyshoen Jarrett, and one of course by Donovan Riley to clinch the upset, a 63-yard pick six with less than a minute left.
The Hokies were also able to limit the damage in two other situations in the first half. They were recipients of two missed field goals by Ohio State place kicker Sean Nuernberger, which helped add to the building momentum of the underdogs from Blacksburg. His first attempt was a 40 yarder with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter, which he pulled wide left. The second was a 27-yard kick which he also pulled left about 6 minutes later. To say the least, it was an underwhelming debut on the national stage for the Buckner, Kentucky native.
The defense additionally was able to help contain the up-tempo Ohio State offense by forcing 5 three-and-outs, and cutting three other drives short by the turnovers I mentioned. Bud Foster's bunch also held Ohio State to 4-of-16 on third down, an atrocious 25%. By getting the Hokie offense back on the field time and time again, Tech managed to control the clock and held a seven minute advantage in Time of Possession. This was one of the many difference makers in the game, as Urban Meyer's electric offense was unable to take the field enough to dominate the game and put up boatloads of points as they are usually accustomed to doing. The biggest performers of the game include Walter Camp Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week and ACC linebacker of the week, Deon Clarke. The junior linebacker finished with two pass break-ups, 10 tackles (2 for loss), and this statement sack one play prior to the Donovan Riley interception with a minute to go:
Other top performers on the defensive side of the ball include defensive end Dadi Nicolas, who recorded three tackles for loss, two of which were sacks, two pass break-ups and was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Last but certainly not least, senior Kyshoen Jarrett recorded two huge interceptions that helped swing the momentum in favor of the visitors. In honor of his effort, Kyshoen was named ACC Co-Defensive Back of the Week. For the statement win, the Hokies were honored as the Football Writers Association of America's National Team of the Week, which was icing on the cake for one of Tech's biggest wins of the 21st century.
While there are a couple areas to clean up for the defense, such as the big plays in the passing game, the penalties, and a few crucial missed tackles, but we can't be nitpicky as fans. Besides, Beamerball appears to be back, and the team is in the top 25 for the first time in nearly a year and a half. The only hope moving through the rest of the season is first and foremost that we continue to win. Secondly, we must become huge Ohio State fans the rest of the way. If they win out and make their way back towards the top of the polls, the 14-point upset on the road will look that much better if the Hokies find themselves in contention for the inaugural college football playoff in a couple of months. Regardless of what the rest of the campaign may hold, let's savor this win and move forward enjoying this team for the rest of the season.