392 passing yards, two blown fourth quarter leads and one ticked-off defensive coordinator.
That was the net result of last Saturday’s loss to Cincinnati; an uncharacteristic performance for a unit that many thought would be among the nation's best.
“I thought with the exception of about five plays, we played a hell of a football game,” said Bud Foster, defensive coordinator. “That’s going to get you beat at this level.”
A majority of the breakdowns came in the defensive backfield, a unit that historically has produced some of the most NFL talent on the Hokies roster.
This season, the secondary is thin. Behind the four starters, the Hokies have been forced to go with a mix of two or three freshman, which has proved to be costly.
“I’ve said, our freshman are not ready just yet,” said Torrian Gray, secondary coach. “Hopefully down the road, but right now, we’re just not ready."
Several key sequences will stick with fans from the Cincinnati loss.
In the third quarter, Donaldven Manning, playing in place of a cramping Kyle Fuller, was beat on consecutive plays, the second being a 29-yard touchdown pass.
“I mean, he’s been practicing all week,” Foster said. “He’s been practicing No. two. You’re a play away from being the guy. It’s unfortunate on his part. He’s got to take another step. We’re just kind of in a bind right there from a depth standpoint.”
Manning, a true freshman from Miami, said those plays tested his resolve as a football player and as a man.
“That was one of the worst feelings of my life,” Manning said. “I’ve never been attacked like that, so as kind of the man behind the football player it made me feel a little weak.”
Through five games, the Hokies have allowed 966 passing yards despite having played two games against non-BCS opponents. Although Tech did lose safety Eddie Whitley to graduation, many thought the secondary would be one of the strengths.
The collective attitude of the Hokies, particularly Foster, hasn’t changed since the loss.
“Bud’s not any different,” Gray said. “We lost a game. That’s on us there at the end. He’s (ticked) off. We’re all not happy right now. We’re all a little grouchy and what-not. But we’ve got to get it right. We’ll get it right.”
The Hokies will have to get it right going forward because they face several pass heavy teams in the coming weeks. One key player, Antone Exum, will have the spotlight on him.
After making the move from safety to corner this offseason, Exum has had up and down moments throughout the past five games. Against Cincinnati, he was called for four penalties – two facemasks and two pass interferences.