October 22, 2011
Despite injuries, Tech defense continues to perform at a high level
By Marc Mullen

BLACKSBURG - Even though the Tech offense has scored 106 points over the past three games, it’s been a little like an automobile during the winter months – a bit sluggish at the start.

Since the calendar has hit October – four games now – the Hokies have scored just one first-quarter touchdown, and in three of the contests including Saturday’s game against BC, they have entered the second quarter trailing in the game.

So, as Lane Stadium fans waited for the offense to warm up and get to cruising speed – which took almost the entire first half – they urged on the Hokies’ defense, which had its back up against the wall the first time it stepped on the field.

A poor punt set up Boston College with a first-and-10 at the Tech 35, and just three plays later, Chase Rettig rushed in from 2 yards out to put BC up 7-0 just 2:59 into the game.

“Well … no, I can’t,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said in response to what he thinks might be a common thread to his offense’s slow start. “I think you have to give Wake Forest a lot of credit last week because they were ready to go.

“And then today, Boston College had a week off [before facing the Hokies]. They had a great preparation coming in here and came in here and played hard and tough. So I think rather than looking at us so much, you have to give the other team credit.

“I feel like last year we got behind early a lot, and so we’ve been through it enough, and I think our players and our coaches believe we’re going to get it right.”

Over the Eagles’ next eight possessions, the defense would not allow Boston College to get to within scoring position – minus one – while the offense cut the Tech deficit to 7-6 at the half and made it 27-7 with 13:42 left in the game.

The Hokies did it despite all of the injuries piling up on the defensive side, which required Tech to start two players – redshirt junior Alonzo Tweedy and redshirt freshman Detrick Bonner – for the first time against Boston College.

“I found out earlier this week in practice that Jayron (Hosley) wasn’t ready, so they decided to go with me this week,” Bonner said. “I was a little excited and let my parents and my brother know.

“Jayron told me ‘Just stay focused, know your keys, know what you’ve got to do.’ Mainly stuff like that. That’s what they [coaches] stick in our heads – ‘Just stay focused.’”

Not only did a pair of defenders make their first starts, but more injuries during the game forced Tech’s hand in playing even more back-ups.

“The thing I’m concerned about is our injuries,” Beamer said. “Tweedy went down today, and Bruce Taylor went down today and James Gayle didn’t play but for a couple plays.

“But as I told the players back there, the next guy’s got to step up. You got to practice that way and be ready to go, and you never know when your number’s going to be called, and that’s just the way it is. A lot of people have injuries right now at this time of year, and I think we’ve had more than our share. But the next guy’s got to step up.”

Among those who stepped in during the game were Corey Marshall (five tackles and one sack), Barquell Rivers (four tackles and a quarterback hurry) and Tyrel Wilson (one tackle and a quarterback hurry).

In fact, Rivers made a key play in the third quarter just after the Hokies scored to take a 13-7 lead. Boston College marched deep into Tech territory and had a first down at the Tech 22 – the closest the Eagles had been since their opening possession. Rivers hurried Rettig into his only interception of the day, as Tariq Edwards picked off the pass at the 11-yard line.

“Tyrel Wilson, I can’t say enough about him, and he’s kind of banged up himself,” Beamer said. “What a super effort by him, and then Bonner got a play and Barquell. He’s a solid guy, and everyone in the program pulls for Barquell, and he came in there and gave us good back-up help.”

Tech responded with another scoring drive and was finally on track to rack up its third straight 30-plus point game and fifth of the season.

“The message [at halftime] was that we get better as we go along. You got to go out there and keep playing hard,” Beamer said. “And I give my coaching staff a lot of credit, and I think the players believe that as well.”

But for the first half, it was the defense that gave the Hokies a chance for a victory after the break.

The side that – coming into the contest – was among the nation’s best at fewest rushing yards per game (eighth, 83.7 ypg), sacks (13th, 3.14 spg) and total defense (15th, 298.1 ypg) did nothing in the first half to hurt those numbers. They held the Eagles to just seven rushing yards on 15 attempts, sacked Rettig three times and allowed just 149 yards of total offense. Boston College finished with 91 yards rushing, four sacks allowed and 272 total yards of offense.

“Preparation, to be honest,” Bonner said into response to how the defense is able to post these numbers despite the injuries. “Practice throughout the week, just going over the plays and what they’re doing. It works in the game. It just works for us. We make the plays that we need to make.”

Tech now hits the road for three of its final four games. If the Hokies can survive Duke next week, then they get an off week – and a chance to heal – the following week. And a little rest for a November run is exactly what this team needs.

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