Back Bud Foster Going Out in Style

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Bud Foster Going Out in Style

By Dave Holcomb
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The Virginia Tech defense dominated in every way, holding Pitt to 177 total yards, including about 3.2 yards per play.

In any normal year, Virginia Tech winning for a sixth time in the last seven games would steal ACC Coastal headlines, especially with the Hokies’ latest victory eliminating last year’s division champion, Pitt, and setting up what should be an epic Virginia Tech-Virginia showdown next week for the right to play in the ACC Championship.

But this isn’t a normal year, and Saturday wasn’t a normal day at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.

That’s because the day will be remembered as the last time Bud Foster was on the field as Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator. The 60-year-old assistant coach is planning to retire at the end of the season.

Foster isn’t just any old college football assistant coach. With 33 seasons in the Virginia Tech program, including 25 years as the Hokies defensive coordinator, Foster is football royalty in Blacksburg right next to Frank Beamer.

So while Virginia Tech had every reason to be motivated to play its best Saturday, needing a win to move closer to the program’s second Coastal crown in four years, the entire team, especially the defense, was playing for Foster.

And they sent him out of Blacksburg in style, crushing Pitt, 28-0.

While the Panthers have been a pretty good road team this season, beating Pitt at home isn’t all that surprising for the Hokies. However, shutting them out certainly is. Virginia Tech’s turnaround since starting the year 2-2, including 0-2 in the ACC, has been because of sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker. Prior to Saturday, the Hokies were averaging 36.7 points in their last six games.

They would need just one touchdown Saturday with Virginia Tech holding Pitt to zero points for the first time in 19 all-time meetings.

The Virginia Tech defense dominated in every way, holding Pitt to 177 total yards, including about 3.2 yards per play. The Panthers also had just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt and went 3-for-15 on third down.

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, who I wrongfully claimed might have an advantage in these final few weeks over all the other potential Coastal division quarterbacks who might face Clemson because of his previous big-game experience, was completely overmatched. While he didn’t have any help, Pickett still went an abysmal 10 for 26 with 103 passing yards.

The Pitt defense kept the contest at least an arm’s length away, but it was really finished when Virginia Tech’s defense scored in the first quarter. Junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby sacked Pickett for a ridiculous 18-yard loss and fumbled. Freshman defensive tackle Norell Pollard picked up the loose ball and easily scored a touchdown.

Foster’s had some incredible defenses during his 25 years as coordinator for Virginia Tech, but Saturday’s shutout marked the first time during his tenure a Hokies defense recording back-to-back shutouts against two ACC opponents. Last week, Virginia Tech shut out Georgia Tech, 45-0.

If Virginia Tech’s defense continues to play this inspired, there may be a reason to watch the ACC Championship. The offense is already clicking, and the sophomore quarterback won’t have to do much with this type of defensive effort. Hooker only attempted 13 passes against the Panthers, completing 10 of them for 153 yards. He averaged 11.8 yards per attempt and threw two touchdowns.

College football fans can poke all the fun they want at the ACC Coastal, as it’s certainly not the prettiest football. But for the purist college football fans, thirsty for Thanksgiving weekend rivalries, this result sets up one of the more exciting rivalry matchups of the year next week with the division crown on the line.

Next Friday, Virginia Tech will ride its hot streak into Charlottesville to face cross-state rival Virginia. The Cavaliers are looking to clinch their first-ever ACC Coastal title, but in order to do that, they must now beat a team they haven’t defeated since 2003.

The Hokies have won 18 of the last 19 against the Cavaliers, including the last 15 matchups.

Prior to the season, a lot of experts called Virginia a dark horse in the ACC Coastal but wondered if the team could get over the hump and beat Virginia Tech. As if written straight from Hollywood, that’s exactly what the Cavaliers must now do in order to play in their first ACC Championship.

Of course, the Hokies will be playing to spoil those hopes and win the crown for themselves, but it might be a better strategy for head coach Justin Fuente to ask his defense to play its heart out one more time for Mr. Foster.