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Defensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 30-13 Victory Over Wake Forest

Jorden Mc Donald 1 VT WF 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Virginia Tech had its best defensive performance of the season, holding Wake Forest to only two field goals from its offense on the Hokies' way to a 30-13 victory over the Demon Deacons. Here are my defensive takeaways from the Hokies' win over Wake Forest.

1. Tech Nailed It Landing Antwaun Powell-Ryland to Upgrade Its Pass Rush

There wasn't a higher defensive transfer portal priority for Virginia Tech this past offseason than to find a big-time pass rusher on the edge. After seeing Temple transfer Darian Varner flip to Wisconsin late in the winter cycle, the Hokies made a big splash in the spring, landing Florida transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland.

Nationally, this addition was highly under-the-radar, but the 757 native showed at Florida that he had the potential to be a dynamic edge rusher for the Hokies instantly. Through seven games, APR has proven what he did at the end of the 2022 season at Florida wasn't a fluke, giving the Hokies the pass rusher they were looking for.

APR has been a playmaker for the Hokies through seven games with 25 tackles, including 7.0 sacks (tied for 5th in the nation) among his 9.5 tackles for loss plus three QB hurries, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. To dive deeper, Powell-Ryland has had 29 pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus, including at least three in six of his seven games. That ranks 12th nationally, including third in the ACC behind North Carolina's Kaimon Rucker and Louisville's Ashton Gillotte, who each have 33 pressures this season.

There have been games where APR has been quiet, but overall, the Florida transfer has been a star, with his best game coming this past weekend against Wake Forest, as he had the first four-sack game for Virginia Tech since his DL coach J.C. Price had four against Miami in 1995. He also joined an exclusive group of Hokies with four sacks in a game that includes Morgan Roane and football legend Bruce Smith.

Now, APR did have three of these sacks on the final drive, but there were plenty of times throughout the game where APR was able to get pressure on Wake Forest's quarterback. Even when APR has had quieter games, he always seems to find a way to at least have a few pressures on the opposing QB.

His production already ranks among the best seasons for a Hokie, and we're only seven games in. For reference, APR's seven sacks are the most for a Hokie in a single season since Ken Ekanem had 7.5 sacks in 2016.

APR is also averaging over 1.3 tackles for loss per game, with Amare Barno in 2020 and Dadi Nicolas in 2014 being the only Hokies to average more TFLs per game within the past decade.

The Hokies have hit on most of their transfers from this past offseason, with Antwaun Powell-Ryland possibly being the best, especially after 247 Sports and On3 gave him a three-star grade that didn't make sense then and has been proven wrong now.

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