Despite not quite living up to its grand preseason expectations, Virginia Tech’s defense has played well as of late.
Bud Foster’s unit has a chance to continue its run of redemption tonight in Miami.
“I think we’ve performed better; I think our tackling has been better, but I still think we can be consistently better,” Foster said. “That’s where we’ve been good over the years.
“You can’t be good eight out of 10 times at this level because those 20 percent of times will get you beat, and you’ve got to be consistently good all the time. That’s where we’ve gotten better the last couple weeks, but we’ve got to continue that.”
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After giving up more than 1,500 yards in their first three losses to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and North Carolina, Tech has settled down over the past two weeks against Duke and Clemson, giving up only 329 and 295 yards in those games, respectively.
“We try to forget about it and have a short memory, but at the same time you want to learn from your mistakes, watch film, and really just correct what you did wrong,” said mike linebacker Jack Tyler.
“That’s one of the biggest tools of losing, making sure that you can correct those mistakes and move on, so we’re going to do that and keep getting better, and hopefully it will show down the road.”
Despite giving up 38 points to the Tigers on Oct. 20, the Hokies performed admirably against a team that was averaging close to 500 yards of total offense per game.
The coaching staff has also noticed increased focus among the team since the Clemson loss.
“I like how we’ve worked. These kids are not satisfied,” Foster said. “They’ve known that they’ve got expectations here and they’ve got accountability. I think that’s one thing that I’m seeing more and more is they’re taking ownership. And that’s what needs to be done.”
One of the keys to this defense’s resurgence over the past several weeks has been its pass rush. Through six games, the Hokies recorded just eight sacks. They had five against both Duke and Clemson.
Defensive line coach Charley Wiles attributes that success, much like Foster, to keeping his players accountable.
“I know we’re working hard at our accountability in practice, our effort at practice and our practice habits,” Wiles said. “And I think it’s carrying over to the game. We’re practicing like we’re trying to play.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Luther Maddy has played a big part in that success and has four sacks in his past two games.
“That’s a guy who has really come into his own,” said Bruce Taylor, linebacker. “He’s a hell of a pass rusher. Probably, no lie, the best one we have.”
While the Hokies haven’t quite lived up to their expectations this season — on defense, or as a team — they still have a chance to accomplish something most 4-4 teams don’t.
“All our goals are still intact,” Tyler said. “We can win our side of the ACC, we can win the ACC, we can get back to the Orange Bowl, and that was our goal from the beginning.
“We can still get there even though people have said we’ve had a mediocre season, we can still accomplish our goals, and that’s all we really want to do.”