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November 1, 2006

Foster and McCoy take home Week 9 honors

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Never count out a Bud Foster defense.

To go with a seasonal analogy, that's like figuring on Jason of Friday the 13th fame staying down after you shoot him with a rubber band.

The Hokies dropped consecutive midseason ACC games to Georgia Tech and Boston College. They gave up an uncharacteristic 60 combined points in those games.

So people quit paying attention to them. And Foster, without even wearing a hockey mask, sat up and went back to work.

Not many people noticed when his defense throttled Southern Mississippi. But a national TV audience took notice on Thursday night, when the unranked Hokies stunned No. 10 Clemson 24-7. Foster's defense held the nation's fourth-ranked rushing offense nearly 180 yards below its season average.

The performance earns Foster the honor as the Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week after rallying the Longhorns past Texas Tech with four touchdown passes.

"We had a couple of setbacks early in the year with Boston College and Georgia Tech, two teams that played probably as good as they can play against us," Foster told Rivals.com. "That hasn't happened to us very often, and we didn't respond to adversity very well.

"We got it back against Southern Miss. The message was, 'You can't control things that happen, but you can control how you respond.' We've come back and played with great energy and played together. There was a lesson learned and message sent."

The Hokies got the message and ran with it. They regained a bit of their swagger by holding Southern Miss to 216 total yards and just six points. But no one would confuse the Golden Eagles with Tommy Bowden's Tigers, one of the most potent offensive teams in the country.

Clemson starting tailback James Davis entered the Virginia Tech game off a 216-yard performance against Georgia Tech, another of the ACC's top defenses. Davis was averaging 148 yards per game over his past four games.

Then there was the matter of Tigers freshman tailback C.J. Spiller. He was fresh off being named Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week for his game against the Yellow Jackets 16 carries for 116 yards including a 50-yard touchdown, and a 50-yard TD reception. He also had three 100-yard games in his past four games.

No problem for the resurgent Hokies. Davis was held to 30 yards on 12 carries. Spiller had 41 yards on 10 carries, and had just 7 yards on two receptions.

"They were scary going in," Foster said. "I know how Georgia Tech plays, and for them to do that and what they've done all year, they posed a great challenge for us.

"We've been pretty good the last couple of years and over the years, and we have a good group. (Against Clemson) we played gap sound and played with emotion and energy. We played on their side of the line of scrimmage, and we used our speed. We played in the neutral zone and controlled the gaps."

Despite losing five players to the NFL Draft, you don't have to look very far down the NCAA statistics to find Foster's unit. The Hokies are third in the nation in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. Throw out the Georgia Tech and BC scores, much of which can be attributed to the defense being put in bad spots after turnovers, and Virginia Tech is yielding just 6.0 points per game.

Foster said the front four has played very well. He also heaped praise on junior linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall, and he singled out Brandon Flowers for his play in the secondary.

"Those guys have been consistent performers from Day One to today," Foster said.

He left out one other consistent performer. One Frank Beamer can't do without.

Bud Foster.

As far as the National Freshman of the Week, McCoy has been considered several times but finally broke through against the Red Raiders. He completed 21-of-31 passes for 256 yards, and he rushed nine times for 68 yards.

"I would say that I have definitely come a long way from the beginning, but that's what you expect," McCoy said during Monday's player news conferences. "You expect to get better every time you step on the field, and I feel like I've done that. I feel like I've done a good job of doing what the coaches tell me to do, doing what the defense tells me to do and leading this team."

His 33-yard fourth-quarter run helped UT run out the clock and preserve a nail-biting 35-31 victory.

"I just saw a lane cutting back and Limas (Sweed) made a good block, which got me a few more yards," McCoy said. "Just being able to stay down and know that when I fell down that iced the game and we were going to win was an awesome feeling."

Other freshmen considered for the honor were:

  • Kellen Lewis, QB, Indiana. The redshirt passed for five TDs and 261 yards and rushed for 75 yards and a TD on 14 carries in a 46-21 rout of Michigan State.

  • Jake Christensen, QB, Iowa. The redshirt started in place of the injured Drew Tate and completed 19 of 30 for 256 yards, two TDs and one interception to lead Hawkeyes past NIU 24-14.

  • Donald Brown, RB, UConn. The redshirt ran for 199 yards against Rutgers in his first start. Rutgers had been allowing 78 rushing yards per game. Rutgers still won 24-13.

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