Virginia Tech's defense came up with seven sacks and three interceptions Saturday night as the Hokies downed Ohio State 35-21.
Defensive end Dadi Nicolas and linebacker Derek DiNardo had two sacks apiece as the Hokies' defense clamped down on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who was making his second career start in place of an injured Braxton Miller. Nicolas (6-foot-4, 231 pounds), a somewhat-undersized junior, has three sacks this season; he had six total in his first two seasons.
Barrett finished 9-of-29 for 219 yards, a TD and the three interceptions, one of which came in the final 30 seconds and was returned for a TD. Barrett, who rushed for 70 yards, had three completions covering at least 40 yards and two covering at least 50, but for the most part, he was under siege. Virginia Tech did a great job taking away perimeter runs, and its defensive interior was too strong for a rebuilt Ohio State offensive line. The Buckeyes finished with 108 rushing yards.
With Miller at the controls, Ohio State's issues at tailback, wide receiver and along the offensive line would have been mitigated somewhat because of Miller's penchant for big plays and his familiarity with the offense. But without him, Ohio State's problems were glaring against an attacking Hokies defense. Ohio State was credited with 39 rush attempts, and Barrett had 24 of them. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, the starting tailback, had 32 yards and a TD on eight carries, but other than his 15-yard TD run, he didn't do much. Then again, it's tough on a tailback when the offensive line is being overwhelmed, and that was the case almost all night.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas had six of Ohio State's nine receptions, and big-play threat Devin Smith was held to one catch. Virginia Tech's secondary is one of the top two or three nationally, and while nickel back Chuck Clark had some problems, especially in the first half, cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson and safeties Detric Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett played steady football.
Barrett was clearly outplayed by Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer, a transfer from Texas Tech. Brewer threw for 199 yards and two TDs, and while he also tossed two interceptions, he helped Virginia Tech go 9-of-17 on third downs.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.