“Anytime you can get pressure on the quarterback, I think the quarterback starts to get antsy in the pocket and his eyes go everywhere and can’t get the right progressions,” Griffin said.
As the game progressed, Johns appeared less comfortable in the pocket, throwing off his back foot instead of stepping into throws, even when the pass rush was not reaching him. One such play was on a first down from the Tech 29-yard line in the third quarter immediately after the Cavaliers had stopped the Jackets on fourth-and-1. Throwing off his back foot to wide receiver Ryan Santoro, Johns gave Tech cornerback Lamont Simmons more of an opportunity to make a play, and Simmons broke up the pass.
Virginia failed to gain a first down and missed the field-goal attempt, a critical play in the game.
Johns, whose 17 interceptions last season were the most in FBS, also was off target on his first two interceptions. The first one sailed over wide receiver Keeon Johnson’s head down the seam to safety Corey Griffin and set up a field goal. On the second, with the pocket closing, Johns was again high to Johnson, who tipped the ball, which was caught by cornerback Lance Austin and returned 24 yards for a touchdown and a game-sealing 31-17 lead with 4:03 to play.
“It’s up to us in the back to cover, so those guys (up front) can get those sacks or that pressure that we need,” Griffin said. “It coordinates. The back five, we cover, and the front four, the front five, they get pressure. It goes hand in hand.”