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The Virginia Tech defensive unit celebrates after stopping Old Dominion quarterback Stone Smartt (bottom right) during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech won 31-17.

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech didn’t let Stone Smartt sit around in the pocket on Saturday.

The Hokies ended up with five sacks and seven quarterback hurries in their 31-17 win over Old Dominion. Tech’s front four needed help at times, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster didn’t fault their performance.

“At the end of the day, we got good pressure, Foster said.

Old Dominion relied on max protection with seven players blocking for much of the first half. In the fourth quarter, the Hokies dropped eight defenders in coverage — defensive ends Emmanuel Belmar and Jaevon Becton took turns — with the Monarchs trying to push the ball down field trailing by two touchdowns.

The defensive line still managed to get three sacks and three quarterback hurries. Linebacker Rayshard Ashby accounted for Tech’s only sack in the season opener against Boston College.

In the first half, Foster relied on a variety of blitzes to get the pass rush going. Chamarri Conner, Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller all blitzed off the edge. Foster sent Ashby and fellow linebacker Dax Hollifield at the quarterback multiple times from a variety of different spots on the field. 

The frustrating part for Foster was Smartt getting loose on plays Virginia Tech had him seemingly bottled up in the backfield. A notable example came in the fourth quarter when Norell Pollard had Smartt wrapped up for a loss only on a fourth-and-2 only to see him get the first down.

Reggie Floyd, Khalil Ladler and Waller had similar missed opportunities with Smartt wiggling out of a sack for a big gain.

“It’s definitely frustrating when you get in the backfield and you’ve got a great rush or you were great getting off the block,” Virginia Tech defensive lineman Jarrod Hewitt said. “You’ve got to give it to their quarterback and their running backs. They’re slippery out there. They’re some good athletes. That’s where we’ve really got to get better, especially making those TFLs and making those sacks. Those are big momentum plays, and those plays kind of take away from our momentum when we got in the backfield and he scrambles for a 6-yard rush and gets a first down.”

Hewitt said the group just needs more confidence and that will come with experience.

Tech has two true freshman (Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks), two redshirt freshman (Eli Adams and Jaevon Becton), a junior college transfer (Dashawn Crawford) and a converted linebacker (Jaylen Griffin) all getting playing time up front. Two of the Hokies' more experienced linemen — TyJuan Garbutt and Zion Debose — have been limited with injuries.

Additional experience will also help with the team’s situational awareness, which coach Justin Fuente found lacking on Saturday.

Old Dominion had seven runs of 10-plus yards or more in the win. Five of those came in the fourth quarter and two of them came in the final six minutes of the game.

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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