He didn’t need to. It was out there on the field for all to see — true freshmen Dorian Strong and Keonta Jenkins out there serving as the last line of defense alongside Matheny.
McFarling: With Spackle and glue, Virginia Tech gets win No. 2 | Local
That’s what made this more challenging than last week, when only three of Tech’s 23 missing players were actually on the two-deep roster. And even though starting quarterback Hendon Hooker was among the absent last week, the Hokies have plenty of depth at that position.
“You have a little bit more control over it on offense,” Fuente said. “What really scares you is on the defensive side of the ball, when your numbers start to get low at a particular position. There’s no punting on defense. You can’t escape it. You can’t get off the field.”
Except they did. Remarkably, for quite some time, they did.
Particularly in the first half, when Tech’s offense was struggling to get going, this patchwork secondary held up. Duke gained just 91 yards in the first two quarters, as Tech went to the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
The second half — and a big chunk of this result — belonged to running back Khalil Herbert (208 rushing yards, two touchdowns), but his heroics might not have mattered had the defense gotten trampled early in the game.
“First drive was a little nerve-wracking,” said Matheny, a 6-1, 209-pounder out of Lake Braddock Secondary School in Northern Virginia. “I was trying to get into the flow of the game and get my nerves under control, but after that it was just even keel … Next play, next play, next play.”