Hokies Ho-Hum in Victory

Defensive end Noland Burchette sees a fumble that he eventually recovers and returns for a touchdown in the Hokies' win on Saturday over Kent State.
Defensive end Noland Burchette sees a fumble that he eventually recovers and returns for a touchdown in the Hokies' win on Saturday over Kent State. (Don Petersen - AP)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 12, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 11 -- Gaining 139 yards against Miami last week, well, that was one thing. The Hurricanes were playing on their home field, and despite a substandard season, their defense possesses some of the finest athletes in the country.

But Saturday, Virginia Tech's offense struggled against a Kent State defense that spent its previous game allowing 41 points to Buffalo. None of the nation's best adorn that unit, which surrendered 468 yards to Minnesota earlier this season. Still, for the second straight game, the Hokies' offense operated as if stuck in quicksand.

Virginia Tech's defense dominated, allowing only 182 yards, and bailed out the offense for an uninspiring 23-0 win over Kent State. Brandon Pace was the Hokies' brightest offensive star, booting three field goals while setting a school record for consistency. The rest of the offense, though, collapsed under constant pressure from, of all teams, Kent State.

"Against a team the caliber of Kent State, I was a little surprised I was under as much pressure," quarterback Sean Glennon said. "It was a little disappointing. You'd think at this point in the season against a team like Kent State, we'd be pretty solid and move the ball pretty effectively.

"Last week it was some real athletic, fast guys. Although it was frustrating for me, I could somewhat understand it. Today, I'm not really sure what the problem was. We have to work these things out."

The defense punctuated the game with 11 minutes 11 seconds remaining. Before the series, defensive end Noland Burchette sidled up to linebacker Vince Hall and told him, "Vince, man, watch what I say: You should be around me, because I'm going to get the ball and I'm going to score."

And so, as Chris Ellis smacked quarterback Michael Machen, the ball popped loose in the air and fell right into Burchette's hands as he came off a block. Burchette scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out for his first career touchdown, his vision coming true.

"I don't what it was," Burchette said. "I don't know what got into me. I don't know if I've seen it before in a dream."

Said Hall, "I was like, 'Man, why don't you have a premonition for me or something?' "

The touchdown placated the Virginia Tech crowd, which had booed an offense that managed only 214 yards. The Hokies mustered 103 yards by halftime, at which point they had scored only six points on six first downs. One scoring drive went 18 yards on seven plays, the other 27 yards in 10 plays.

Glennon played one of his worst games, throwing for 141 yards on 12-of-22 passing while under constant duress. He scrambled six times and was sacked twice behind a patchwork offensive line, one with reserves Brandon Gore and Nick Marshman replacing its entire starting left side. The line had settled into a nice groove before Brandon Frye and Ryan Shuman were injured, but Saturday it regressed.

"I need my starters back," running back Branden Ore said.

Virginia Tech's offense scored its lone touchdown on its first drive of the second half, one aided by 29 yards in penalties and capped by a six-yard scoring run by Ore that made it 13-0.

Even without the score, Pace ensured Virginia Tech would have enough points. The senior broke Chris Kinzer's record for consecutive field goals with his second of the game. Pace has made 19 in a row dating from last season and is 14 of 14 this season.

"It means a lot," Pace said. "It means a lot to the team, too. They have all the confidence in the world to me. I feel real good. I'm confident, calm."

With Wake Forest next week, the rest of the offense can't claim it feels the same way. Glennon said the Hokies need to improve between now and then, with the Demon Deacons presenting more of a challenge than Kent State.

"This one was tough," Coach Frank Beamer said. "Not everything was pretty out there."

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