Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster had more than 48 hours to come to terms with a fourth-quarter meltdown that helped Cincinnati escape with a demoralizing come-from-behind victory over the Hokies when he met with reporters Monday night after practice.
But it was hard to tell.
As he waited for his weekly session to begin, Foster’s eyes narrowed and he openly seethed at one point while cornerback Antone Exum answered questions about an afternoon in which he committed four major penalties and was targeted often by Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux.
When it was finally Foster’s turn to talk, what had been a stewing anger turned into one of the fiery coach’s more animated, and expletive laden, rants.
He was particularly adamant about defending Exum’s performance given that Virginia Tech’s plan called for him to be in one-on-one man coverage all game. [Note: This has been edited because it’s a family site]
“I don’t care who was at the boundary corner. They’d attack that. We played a lot of man and that’s the short side of the field,” Foster said. “You could have put DeAngelo Hall over there and they would have done the same thing. It’s just their offense. I thought [Exum] played his n--- off when it’s all said and done. You can quote me on that [stuff], too. The kid played his [butt] off, fought his [butt] off.”
But Foster didn’t stop there. Looking back on the play call he had for Cincinnati’s game-winning touchdown pass, “we couldn’t be in a better coverage,” he said, emphasizing that Virginia Tech was playing a simple deep half coverage. “That guy should’ve been fair-catching the ball.”
He then grew even more agitated when a reporter asked if he expected Virginia Tech to execute better in that situation.
“Ya think? Is that an open ended or loaded question?” Foster fired back. “What the [expletive]? You don’t think we’re gonna plan on executing there? We’d been doing it all day.”
That was what seemed to irk Foster the most. His defense held the Bearcats in check until the fourth quarter, but a few key breakdowns cost the Hokies. Foster laid some of the blame on freshman cornerback Donaldven Manning and redshirt freshman safety Michael Cole.
Manning gave up two completions in row, including a touchdown pass, at the beginning of the third quarter when he entered the game momentarily for junior Kyle Fuller. It was Cole’s blown assignment that allowed Cincinnati running back Ralph David Abernathy to get free for a 76-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“I thought with the exception of about five plays, we played a helluva football game. But that’s gonna get you beat at this level,” Foster said. “You tell me every play, I’ll tell you how it worked out. It was either a missed tackle by Manning or he gave up inside leverage or we turned a guy loose in man-to-man coverage that went for a -yard touchdown.”
Despite allowing Cincinnati to gain nearly 500 yards Saturday, Foster did seem encouraged by how safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner have been performing. He also said linebackers Bruce Taylor and Jack Tyler had “monster” games against Cincinnati.
Given their level of play, Foster added, it would be hard to fit injured linebacker Tariq Edwards into the mix against North Carolina this weekend since he’s not full speed yet.
But even though Foster stuck up for his players, it was clear Monday that the status quo has been thrown out the window in Blacksburg after a second loss in three games.
“He’s [ticked] off,” secondary coach Torrian Gray said about Foster. “We’re all not happy right now. We’re all a little grouchy and what-not. But we’ve got to get it right. We’ll get it right.”
Added Foster: “You guys were the ones who said we were gonna be a great defense. I said we had a chance to be a good defense. That’s what I said. We got a chance. We got a whole new secondary.”