October 15, 2006

Defense dominates

It's often said, through conventional wisdom, that the best way to deal with a bully is to go right up to him and punch him in the face. Over the past number of years, Virginia Tech has been just that in the Big East and ACC, a bully. Their program has been marred with controversy and their on field play has often been intimidating, to say the least.

Last night, the Boston College Eagles stood up to the bully and as often is the case, the bully folded. It didn't happen right away but with 5:43 left in a game rife with personal fouls, silly dancing and posturing, strife on the sidelines and a completely confused offense, Frank Beamer waived the white flag and punted from 48 yard line on 4th down.

Coming into this game, there were a lot of questions about the Boston College program. They had blown a late game lead against North Carolina State, had their kicker suspended for conduct unbecoming a Boston College football player and had played very uninspired football the week prior against the University of Maine. Questions were also swirling around Tom O'Brien and his ability to take the preverbal "next step" with this program.

Some, not all, but some of those questions were answered Thursday night. It was possibly the best defensive performance by the Eagles in the Tom O'Brien era. There were games where the coaches were not on board and games where they had a good scheme, but execution failed. Last night, for the first time all year, both scheme and execution came together in a masterful performance.

Two aspects of the defensive performance Thursday night that Eagle Nation must be excited about is the number and age of the contributors. This was not a game where one player took over and dominated a game, but a game where significant contributions were made by at least 8 players, many of whom are sophomores or younger. Names like Mark Herzlich, Alex Albright, Austin Giles and Kevin Akins were called over and over again on game changing plays. The upperclassmen were no slouches either. Brian Toal, JoLon Dunbar and Tyronne Pruitt had standout games as well.

Has the program finally taken the next step? Is youth being served? Well, there is a lot of football left to be played and a very big, in conference game next week against the Florida State Seminoles so those questions still remain unanswered, but if Thursday night was any indication, all signs are pointing in the right direction.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at how the defense graded out.

Defensive Line: A

The big boys up front dominated the Tech offensive line. B.J. Raji was a man possessed, Alex Albright was a man-child on the defensive end and Austin Giles lived up to his hype once again. The Hokies were only able to garner 33 yards rushing on this line. Granted the Hokies are not quite up to years past, but they were the 22nd ranked team in the nation and had not been held touchdown-less since 1998.

Additionally, the pressure from the front four went a long way in opening lanes for the linebackers. A tremendous effort all around.

Linebackers: A

When this corps is healthy and rested, it's a scary group. It's very fast (think Toal and Akins) and big, (Think Dunbar and Herzlich). The blitzes were well timed and well schemed. When Tech came out in a spread or trips set, the linebackers did a fine job of covering the slot. The pursuit on runs and passes in the flat was better than we have seen all year and the tackling was tremendous.

This is a young group with no seniors that can and will only get better. They are big and fast and their instincts are good, but most importantly, they are football players and they love to hit.

Defensive Backs: B

The defensive backs did their job of keeping the ball in front of them with the exception of a few plays. There were a few blown coverages but on the biggest one, the touchdown towards the end of the first half, the Eagles caught a big break. One cannot measure the impact Ryan Glasper had. He brings smarts and physical toughness that was missing in his absence. Wes Davis had a tremendous hit on an incomplete pass in the endzone and looks to be every bit as legitimate as any defensive back BC has in the systems now.

Jamie Silva had a quit day but quite frankly, that's what you want. If he does not have to make a lot of tackles in the running game, it means the ball is not getting to the second tier. If he is not making a lot of big hits in the passing game, the coverage guys are doing their job.

Coaching: A

This was without question the most aggressive BC has played all year. They blitzes were timed perfectly and the Tech offensive line was utterly confused. Sean Glennon is the type of quarterback that gets rattled if he is hit and last night he was running for his life most of the night.

Frank Spaziani challenged the Hokies to a brawl and they folded.

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