Hokies gang-tackle honors on `D'

By meeting at ball, Virginia Tech's defenders share 4-0 glory

Acc Notebook

September 28, 2005|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

Senior linebacker James Anderson said the No. 3 Virginia Tech defense is so bent on stuffing opponents that the Hokies sometimes end up fighting amongst themselves.

"Our mentality is taking pride in flying to the ball, being relentless and not giving up a yard," Anderson said. "We actually will fight over which one of us got to the ball first. We'll come back after a win to watch film of every play, just to see who got there first. We just play fundamentally sound."

All of the fundamentals of great defense were on display in Saturday's 51-7 demolition of visiting, previously unbeaten Georgia Tech.

The Hokies controlled gaps at the line and pursued ball carriers with excellent speed to stifle the running game. They applied constant pressure on Yellow Jackets quarterback Reggie Ball - already weakened by a recent bout with viral meningitis. They made plays in the open field and tackled with sure hands, often in waves.

With all due respect to junior quarterback Marcus Vick and his playmaking teammates, the identity of this crew starts on defense, which has been typically strong under coach Frank Beamer and has begun the 2005 season on some overwhelming notes.

Through four games, the unbeaten Hokies have allowed 5.8 points per game (second in Division I-A), are third in total defense (219.8 yards per game) and pass efficiency, and are tied for third in turnover margin (2.25). Tech has allowed one rushing touchdown, went 10 quarters without giving up a point, 13 quarters without allowing a touchdown, and nearly pulled off three straight shutouts for the first time in 70 years.

And the identity of this defense starts with whom? Hard to say.

Anderson and senior linebacker Vince Hall share the team lead with 28 tackles. Senior defensive end Darryl Tapp has a team-high three sacks, although nine players have had a hand in the Hokies' 12 sacks. Four players share Tech's seven interceptions, including sophomore end Chris Ellis and sophomore linebacker Xavier Adibi, each of whom returned picks for touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets.

No wonder the Walter Camp National Player of the Week award went to the entire Virginia Tech defense, marking the first time that an individual has not been recognized.

A year ago, the nation's fourth-ranked defense brought an Atlantic Coast Conference title to Blacksburg and kept the Hokies afloat in a Sugar Bowl they narrowly lost to Auburn.

Tech still must prove itself at home against Boston College and Miami and on the road against the likes of Virginia and West Virginia, where they travel Saturday.

"As long as we keep getting better and concentrate on eliminating mistakes from week to week, the sky is the limit," Anderson said.

Clicking Heels

North Carolina still has miles to go before it can dream of being a contender. For one, the Tar Heels, 25-37 in the current decade (only Duke is worse in the ACC at 8-50), are saddled with the nation's sixth-toughest schedule, according to the Sagarin Computer.

But there is life in Chapel Hill. Just ask N.C. State, which suffered defeat to its rival for the second consecutive year.

The Tar Heels pushed around the Wolfpack's vaunted defense and jumped on more of N.C. State's seemingly weekly list of miscues. They erased a 10-point Wolfpack lead in the second half. And Carolina, despite its own rash of penalties and turnovers, had enough left in the tank with fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Baker.

After completing 12 of 13 passes in the middle of the game, and putting Carolina ahead to stay with a pass to tight end Jon Hamlett late in the third quarter, Baker put a stamp on the league. He is now second in the ACC in passing yardage (246) and first in yards per completion (15.7).

"If we give [Baker] time and can get our receivers off press coverage and get open, he's going to hit you in the hands," said North Carolina coach John Bunting.

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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