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Against Nebraska, Hokies Allow (Another) 100-Yard Rusher

Bud Foster has been Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator for 181 games. In that time, the Hokies have forged an identity with a defense so rugged it is symbolized by a lunch pail.

But with a career-high 169 rushing yards on Saturday, Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. became the third straight running back to rush for more than 100 yards against Virginia Tech. Alabama’s Mark Ingram rushed for 150 yards and Marshall’s Darius Marshall had 109.

The last time the Hokies allowed three consecutive 100-yard rushers was in 2002.

“I think tackling better, I think that’s an issue we have to get better,” Coach Frank Beamer said Monday in a teleconference. “I think tackling and a couple of times we didn’t get in the right gap and get the right leverage on the football.”

Helu’s performance highlighted a persisting issue with the Hokies’ defense: its weakness in allowing big plays. In a 34-24 win over Virginia Tech on Sept. 5, Alabama broke five plays of 20 or more yards through the air and on the ground.

In the Hokies’ 16-15 win over Nebraska, Helu routinely gashed the Hokies’ defense for big gains, breaking off runs of 31, 29, 20, 20 and 15 yards. He was the game’s most consistent offensive performer and at times the Hokies had no answers for him.

Virginia Tech has two first-year starters at linebacker in Jake Johnson and Barquell Rivers. The Hokies also played without their best and most experienced cornerback, Stephan Virgil, and relied on relatively inexperienced backups. Rashad Carmichael made only his third start at boundary cornerback and field cornerback Eddie Whitley made his first career start.

“There is some inexperience that shows up on defense; that’s just a fact,” Beamer said. “Experience is a wonderful thing and we just don’t have it right now.”

But the No. 11 Hokies (2-0) might have to grow up fast with No. 9 Miami (2-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) visiting on Saturday. Although the Hurricanes have shown verve as a passing offense with quarterback Jacory Harris, they also have talented running backs in Graig Cooper and Javarris James.

With dual running threats, Miami might not have a 100-yard rusher on Saturday. But the Hokies’ defense still has some issues to fix as it heads into a critical conference matchup.

By Mark Viera  |  September 21, 2009; 2:26 PM ET
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Next: Cheering in the Coaches' Box


This fact is very disconcerting. Teams are able to do to us what we normally do to them - demoralize the defense by running at will. More instinctual play will help - and that comes from experience. Be prepared for more rude awakenings in the weeks to come.

Posted by: teden | September 22, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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