- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

BLACKSBURG, Va. Hey, Bud, this ball's for you.
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster deserved a game ball yesterday after his young defense carried the 16th-ranked Hokies to a 26-8 domination of No.14 LSU at newly expanded Lane Stadium.
"I have said that first group on defense is the fastest we have ever had, and that's saying something," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer after his Hokies (2-0) held the Tigers to 214 total yards on offense, yielding only a meaningless fourth-quarter score. "You have to take your hat off to coach Foster, because that was something else. That was a well-disciplined defense out there that was playing wild-eyed, flying to the football and getting there in a bad mood."
Few members of the largest crowd (65,049) ever to attend a football game in the state of Virginia would have predicted the defensive struggle that took place yesterday. After all, just before kickoff Virginia Tech retired the jersey of former Tech standout and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, one of the most electric offensive forces in recent college football history.
And virtually all of the pregame hype was reserved for the offensive matchup between Tech's tailback tandem of Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones and LSU's duo of tailback LaBrandon Toefield and All-SEC wideout Michael Clayton.
Nobody had discussed Foster's defense with anything other than skepticism. After all, the Hokies returned only three starters from last season's unit. And one of those three players, senior cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, was sitting out his second straight game for violating team rules.
"I think that might be the most exciting thing about this performance," said the 43-year-old Foster, in his eighth season as Tech's defensive coordinator. "A lot of those guys were making just their second college starts. I'm proud of the way we played, but those guys have the potential to get a lot better."
That's difficult to fathom, considering the thorough thrashing Foster's gang of Gobblers administered to the defending SEC champion yesterday.
After one early penetration, LSU did not return to Tech territory until late in the third quarter. The Tigers (0-1), who averaged more than 30 points and 450 yards of offense per game last season, were a tragicomic 1-for-13 on third-down conversions. And the ballyhooed pair of Toefield and Clayton combined for just 95 yards on 15 touches.
Foster's gameplan was simple stifle Toefield and the LSU ground game, take away the deep ball to Clayton and force relatively green LSU quarterback Matt Mauck to peck away at his charges with short pass after short pass.
"I wanted to make that young 'un beat us," said Foster of Mauck, who led the Tigers to victories over Tennessee (SEC Championship game) and Illinois (Sugar Bowl) last season with starter Rohan Davey sidelined. "He has a lot of ability, but one thing he doesn't have is experience. Between the big crowd here and a good push up front, I thought we could rattle him."
Tech did just that, junior defensive linemen Jim Davis (three sacks), Nathan Adibi and Cols Colas (one sack) introducing Mauck to the Lane Stadium turf on virtually every LSU passing play. All told, the Hokies sacked Mauck four times, knocked him down 14 other times and hurried him from whistle to whistle. And on the few instances when Mauck actually had time to find open targets, his wideouts caught only a case of the drops.
"I couldn't believe the number of dropped balls," said LSU coach Nick Saban. "I guess it was symptomatic of our attitude. They clearly wanted this game more than we did, and it showed. We were miserable."
Most impressively, Tech's defensive front four was so dominant that the Hokies rarely needed to blitz, routinely dropping their linebackers into coverage on LSU's talented corps of receivers.
"That didn't surprise me," said senior free safety and co-captain Willie Pile, one of Tech's two returning defensive starters. "I looked at my big guys before the game, and I said, 'Boys, it's showtime. The whole country is watching you today, because we're the only game on the tube. Go out there, whip your guys one-on-one, and they can't beat us.' That's what they did, man. They took their O-line apart, and our job was easy. We just cleaned up the scraps."
That's a fairly apt assessment of the play of Virginia Tech's offense, as well. Afforded superb field position time and again courtesy of the defense, Suggs, Jones and Co. were just productive enough to keep the scoreboard operator from falling asleep.
Scrambling sophomore Bryan Randall relieved ineffective starting quarterback Grant Noel midway through the first quarter. And though nobody is in jeopardy of mistaking him for Vick, he did seem to spark the Tech offense in his first significant stint behind center. Jones took a toss from Randall and sprinted into the end zone on a power sweep just before the conclusion of the quarter to open the scoring for Tech. And after a blocked punt just three minutes later, Suggs twisted in from six yards out to put the Hokies ahead 14-0 with 12:58 remaining in the first half.
The rest of the game was a virtual dirge of exchanged punts, the lone offensive highlight coming from Jones on Tech's opening series of the fourth quarter. With the Hokies facing a third-and-long from LSU's 36-yard line, Jones took a toss sweep to the right and finally displayed the athleticism that made him the top prep prospect in the land two years ago.
Corralled five yards deep in the backfield by three different LSU defenders, Jones reversed field a la Marcus Allen and beat the rest of the Tigers to the opposite sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the LSU 2-yard line. Suggs waltzed into the end zone on the next play to effectively ice the game.
"That was just a busted play that worked out," said Jones, who is still allowed to wear Vick's No.7 in a strange quirk of Hokiedom. "Maybe it was the jersey. Mike told me to represent for him, and I told him I would."

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