Hokies Get Back In Win Column
Sunday, October 22, 2006
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 21 -- All alone, Branden Ore rushed down the middle of the Lane Stadium field, ball tucked in his right arm, nothing ahead of him but the end zone and a raucous Virginia Tech student section. Ore had separated himself from everything around him, a fitting competitive end to a game that extricated the Hokies from the morass of the past two weeks.
Ore's 70-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run solidified a 36-6 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night, a complete game made by a marauding defense and Ore's 207 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. The victory ended a two-game losing streak and restored some of the Hokies' swagger, which had been sapped by two weeks of questions about bad behavior off the field and inconsistent play on it.
"We feel like this puts us right back on track," defensive end Noland Burchette said. "This gives us a lot of confidence back that people were losing. A lot of people were folding us up. We felt like we don't have to prove the world, we have to prove to ourselves Virginia Tech might go through its ups and downs, but we're still a dominant football team in the nation."
The only intrigue came from the insertion of Ike Whitaker, a redshirt freshman quarterback, in the second quarter. Starter Sean Glennon struggled, completing four of 11 passes for 100 yards with an interception, a performance that will only embolden his critics.
To the south, Clemson added to the good news by handing Georgia Tech its first Atlantic Coast Conference loss, dropping the Yellow Jackets to 3-1 in the league. The Hokies (5-2, 2-2 ACC) still need plenty of help to surpass Georgia Tech in the ACC's Coastal Division, but Clemson's victory at least offers hope.
The Hokies' defense squeezed any hope from the Golden Eagles (4-3) once the second quarter arrived. After allowing 103 yards and a pair of field goals in the first quarter, Virginia Tech allowed 113 yards and zero points the rest of game, registering a safety, six sacks and two turnovers against an offensive line that had allowed four sacks all season. Virginia Tech recorded no sacks against Boston College and only two against Georgia Tech.
The most important sack came early in the second quarter, with the Hokies leading 10-6. Brandon Flowers blitzed off the corner and met Jeremy Young a yard deep in the end zone, wrapping him up. Young flailed a pass to the right sideline in the direction of a wide receiver, but it flew into the first row of stands behind the Golden Eagles' bench. The referee called intentional grounding in the end zone, good for a Tech safety and a 12-6 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
"We had seen it all week on film," Flowers said. "We knew the back was going to come down and block [linebacker] Purnell Sturdivant. I just timed it at the right spot. I saw the quarterback look at me to see if I was coming. When he took his eyes off me, that's when I came. He didn't see me at all."
Whitaker entered the game on the ensuing drive for his first meaningful snaps of the season. He is more of a running threat than Glennon, and Tech's coaches wanted to mix up their offense.
"I think Ike can help this football team," Coach Frank Beamer said. "We'll sit down as an offensive staff and figure out how to use him next week."
Whitaker threw for a yard on a rollout, handed to Ore for two yards, then lost a yard on a quarterback draw from the shotgun for a three-and-out. As Whitaker led the offense, Glennon looked on, comfortable with the respite. That wasn't always the case.
"At first, maybe I misinterpreted it or over exaggerated it," Glennon said. "I kind of took it as a shot on me. [Quarterbacks] Coach [Mike] O'Cain said, 'It's not a shot on you. You're still our guy. I don't see that changing.' "
Glennon reentered the game on the next series and emphatically made his case as to who should be the starter. He dropped back on the first play of the drive and rifled a 38-yard flag pattern to Josh Morgan, who caught the ball at the goal line and tip-toed around the left pylon for a touchdown. The score gave Tech a 19-6 lead and delivered Glennon a measure of vindication.
"We're still here," linebacker Vince Hall said. "We're still fighting."
Note: Starting linebacker Xavier Adibi left the game in the fourth quarter because of a stinger, his second of the game, and did not return.