The Virginia Tech defensive backs have talked about what's gone wrong for them and the Hokies' defense as a whole.
Playing 'hero ball' is one thing that they and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray see as a common theme. With good discipline, it's also something that can be corrected.
"We just need to be able to put a complete game together, 60 minutes with all three components of a football team: special teams, offense and defense," junior cornerback Antone Exum said. "All three of those things just need to focus on execution, everybody doing their job, not playing hero ball, doing someone else's job. Just do your responsibility and we'll be ok."
The meaning of hero ball is players trying to do too much. Instead of sticking to their assignments, players will get into their teammates' way and the result is a major lack of execution.
"That's a term Coach Gray uses in the defensive back room," Exum said of hero ball. "Don't play hero ball. If you're outside leverage, make your play on the outside leverage. Somebody else will have your help on the inside. That's something that we just need to do, guys staying in their gaps, coming down making plays with tackles and things like that, keeping leverage."
Against Cincinnati Sept. 29, Exum might have been one of those playing hero ball. He was constantly picked on by the Bearcats, gave up a few big plays and had four penalties called on him.
At North Carolina, there were still mistakes made, but Exum hinted at improvement on the first two drives when he had a few pass breakups and good coverage.
"I didn't really make any major adjustments or anything," he said. "I just played the receivers, their eyes and hands and played the ball better those first couple of drives when they were trying to come at me on my side. It wasn't really major adjustments, but I will say I played the ball a lot better this game."
Despite a 3-3 start, Exum said the Hokies still believe that they can finish the season strong. He's among those reminding his teammates of that, too.
"We're still having fun out there," Exum said. "We understand that at the end of the day, it's just football. That's what we love to do, but we are focused on winning at the end of the day."
If Virginia Tech can rally and save its season, this group of Hokies could well be called heroes in their own right. But it won't come if individuals can't play as a team and stick to their assignments.
"It's just being a leader on and off the field, making sure guys know that the season isn't over. Pretty much all of our goals are still in front of us," Exum said. "We've only taken one ACC loss. We still have a lot more football to play, so just relaying the message to the guys that the season isn't over and there's a lot of football to play and a lot of improvements we can make. The thing is, they're improvements we can make. It's just execution things, things we're not doing and things that can be fixed."