Hokies Come Up Short

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 6, 2009

ATLANTA, Sept. 5 -- With the trappings often reserved for the end of the season on full display Saturday night, the Georgia Dome felt as if it were hosting a bowl game.

But with a 34-24 loss to No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 Virginia Tech failed to assert itself as a contender for the season's final postseason game and dampened its once-high expectations before 74,954.

Hokies running back Ryan Williams rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 91 yards, 43 of which came on a pass to Williams in the second quarter.

The game was decided in the fourth quarter. As the teams traded shots, the Crimson Tide seemed to put a conclusive stamp on the night when Mark Ingram, who rushed for 150 yards, scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy, who threw for 230 yards and a touchdown, completing 15 of 30 passes in his first career start.

On a day when No. 3 Oklahoma fell to Brigham Young, the Crimson Tide kept itself among the challengers to Florida's throne with the season-opening win.

Although the Hokies showed mettle by sticking close in a tenuous fourth quarter, their performance left much to be desired. They opened questions about an offense that, even against a stonewall defense, offered only sporadic little signs of life and a generally strong defense that still let up a handful of big plays.

Virginia Tech finished with only 155 yards of total offense and 11 first downs. Alabama rolled up 498 yards of offense.

The defeat spotlighted a painful sticking point for Coach Frank Beamer, who again was unable to overcome a top-rated opponent. Under Beamer, who took over in 1987, Virginia Tech is 1-17 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top five.

Although Alabama fans chanted "SEC!" as time drew to a close in the fourth quarter, the Hokies probably helped the ACC salvage a bit of credibility with the close outcome after two of its teams lost to division I-AA squads on Saturday. The conference, however, has still yet to identify a championship-caliber front-runner.

Saturday's result was the second year in a row that Alabama toppled an ACC foe. Last year, Alabama blew out heavily favored Clemson, 34-10, in the season opener here.

But far from Blacksburg, Virginia Tech seemed at home with its trademark entrance song welcoming them. Those wearing maroon and orange went into hysterics when Metallica's "Enter Sandman" pulsed through the Georgia Dome.

Despite the warm welcome, it was not very pretty for Virginia Tech.

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