Hokies Snag a Victory in the Heartland

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 28, 2008

LINCOLN, Neb., Sept. 27 -- With minutes ticking away in the third quarter Saturday night, Virginia Tech found itself in an unfamiliar position. A team that spent much of the first four weeks working its way out of unlikely jams and winning games effectively, if not convincingly, held a convincing lead in the second half.

They needed almost all of it to post a 35-30 win over Nebraska before a Memorial Stadium-record crowd of 85,831, but neither the emboldened fans nor the Cornhuskers' persistent rallies rattled the Hokes, who did not waver.

"When we won all those close games, all it [does] is build confidence," said cornerback Victor Harris. "So when we do get in a situation like that, you [are] already confident. You already know what the players, coaches are going to do in that situation."

The Hokies (4-1) built a 28-10 lead in the third quarter before the game started to unravel. With four seconds remaining in the third, Nebraska (3-1) scored a touchdown to cut the Hokies' edge to 11 points. Minutes later, Nebraska punt returner Nate Swift ran 81 yards down his sideline to cut it to 28-23 before a two-point conversion attempt failed.

When Nebraska stopped the Hokies on a critical third down with 4 minutes 8 seconds remaining in the game, a yellow flag proved to be the Hokies' salvation. A 15-yard personal foul for a late hit gave the Hokies a first down. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said a Nebraska defender hit him as teammate Greg Boone prepared to help him rise after the play.

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini argued the call, resulting in another 15-yard, unsportsmanlike penalty that brought the ball to Nebraska's 11-yard line. From there, Taylor rumbled for a touchdown.

For the third straight game, personal foul penalties extended Virginia Tech's fourth-quarter drives. And for the third straight game, the Hokies narrowly exited a difficult situation with a victory.

"A couple times I thought we had it. But we didn't have it," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "The key for us is, do we continue to get better? I think we're a better football team than we were a few weeks ago."

A blocked punt for a safety and an interception that led to a touchdown gave the Hokies a 9-0 lead.

"That set the momentum right there," said cornerback Stephan Virgil, who blocked the punt. "We need to start like that. We didn't start like we wanted to all season so far."

The Hokies a few weeks ago would not have received big plays through the air. Taylor went 9 for 15 for 171 yards, including passes of 40 yards and 34 yards.

Entering the game, Virginia Tech's passing game stood as its glaring weakness. Although the Hokies have found ways to move the football with the running of Taylor and a rotation of running backs, inexperienced receivers, ineffective blockers and an inconsistent arm separated Virginia Tech from college football's top teams.

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