Tom Savage became very familiar with the grass in Lane Stadium as he was sacked eight times during Virginia Tech’s 19-9 victory over Pittsburgh.
Taking after a University of Virginia scheme that saw much success against the Panthers earlier this season, defensive coordinator Bud Foster moved Dadi Nicolas to outside linebacker with the sole responsibility of rushing the passer. It paid off for three sacks for Nicolas, and Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle and Jack Tyler joined in on tormenting Savage, as 49 sack yards stalled multiple Panthers’ drives.
“When (Dadi) started you couldn’t get him lined up, you couldn’t do anything because he’s only been playing for so long he didn’t really know positions and stuff like that,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Really, his only responsibility was to get off the edge and go for the quarterback. That was his one job.”
The pressure existed far beyond the plays in which Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC) sacked Savage, as the 6-foot-3 quarterback showed off impressive elusiveness shedding the seemingly never-ending onslaught of oncoming defenders, avoiding what could have been another half-dozen sacks. Savage was 13-for-28 for 187 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, ending Tech’s streak of games with an interception at 10.
Despite all the mayhem Savage had to deal with, he managed to make one big play with his feet in the fourth quarter as he evaded James Gayle’s tackle and scampered across the goal line for a 9-yard rushing touchdown.
“He’s a heck of a quarterback, he really was,” Tyler said. “He was a little more mobile than I think people give him credit for.”
Returning to form, Savage was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt. The Hokies eight sacks are the most in a single game since a 2006 since victory over Duke.
“Everyone is going to do their responsibilities on the back end so that makes rushes a lot easier because … he’s holding it for five, six seconds,” Tyler said. “And obviously coach Foster loves to blitz, and it’s just fun because we know we have the cover corners and the safeties are covering well so we can just pin our ears back and go after the quarterback.”
On the other side of the ball, it was a familiar story for the Hokies’ offense as quarterback Logan Thomas got them off to a fast start but productivity came to a halt as the game progressed.