Defense carries Hokies past Pittsburgh

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Logan Thomas and No. 24 Virginia Tech are still searching for an offensive rhythm.

With the way the Hokies are playing defense, what little the offense has managed to muster has been plenty.

Thomas threw an early touchdown pass, Cody Journell kicked four field goals and Virginia Tech sacked Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage eight times in a 19-9 victory on Saturday, sending the Hokies into their off week on a six-game winning streak.

The Hokies even got an assist from their state rival, Virginia, in the game plan that never let Savage get comfortable, putting defensive lineman Dadi Nicolas in as a linebacker with one goal — to get after the quarterback.

“(Virginia) did something similar with one of their guys and I guess they had a bunch of sacks,” linebacker Jack Tyler said, speaking of Cavaliers freshman linebacker Max Valles, who had two of Virginia’s seven sacks against the Panthers.

Seeing that, he said the Hokies decided on a similar approach this week, and it worked. Nicolas finished with three sacks, Derrick Hopkins had two and four other players had at least a share of one. The Hokies had 10 stops for loss.

The Hokies (6-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) also ended a four-game losing streak against the Panthers, avenging a 35-17 loss a year ago that sent Virginia Tech into a long skid by proving just as inhospitable hosts to the Panthers (3-2, 2-2).

Pittsburgh finished with 210 yards of offense, and the sacks went for minus-49.

“We got eight, but I bet we probably missed eight,” coach Frank Beamer said.

Savage, who tied an ACC record with six touchdown passes three weeks ago in a 58-55 victory against Duke, never had much of a chance to get wide receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd into the game, but said that’s not all on his line.

“Any good quarterback, you can’t worry about that stuff,” he said of the pressure. “I have the best line in the country. I’m confident with those guys out there. It’s just my job to get rid of the ball.”

Savage, a pro-style quarterback who was only cleared to play this week after sustaining a concussion against Virginia, has been sacked 15 times in his last two games. The Hokies came in leading the country with 13 interceptions, sharing the national lead with 19 sacks and ranked fourth overall, allowing just 264 yards per game.

The Hokies were sharp at the outset, driving 71 yards in eight plays the first time they had the ball. They didn’t get to third down a third-and-9, when Thomas hit freshman tight end Kalvin Cline for a 27-yard touchdown. Cline was double covered, but behind his man, and Thomas hit him in stride heading toward the pylon on the right side of the end zone.

“These past couple games, Logan’s definitely put it on the money,” Cline said of his first career touchdown.

Thomas finished 19 for 34 for 239 yards, and ran 16 times for a team-best 27 yards.

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