By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 12 -- For Virginia Tech, much had changed in a week: the setting, the stakes and perhaps most importantly, the opposing team. It all amounted to a boost the Hokies needed to get their season pointed the right direction.
With a rambling rushing offense, the No. 14 Hokies crushed Marshall, 52-10, on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 66,223 at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies romped for 605 yards of offense, 444 on the ground. David Wilson rushed for 165 yards and Ryan Williams had 164. It was the first time the Hokies had two running backs rush for 100 yards in a game since 2005.
The breezy win provided the balm the Hokies (1-1) needed in the wake of their season-opening, 34-24 loss to Alabama. In that game, Virginia Tech gained only 155 yards of offense and its exhausted defense relented five plays of 20 or more yards.
"Coming off of last week," Coach Frank Beamer said, "people were asking, 'Could we come back up? How much was that going to hurt us mentally? What was it going to do to us?' I thought our kids and coaches gave a great response today."
Against the Thundering Herd (1-1), Virginia Tech had a much easier time, and as a result, there were patches of empty seats by the time fans were doing the Hokie Pokie before the fourth quarter. The Hokies' offense looked crisp. Much of the Thundering Herd's offensive output came on two plays, gains of 61 and 60 yards. And Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
"Overall," Beamer said, "it was a really good day for us."
Virginia Tech's offense has been predicated on its ability to run, but it took a hit when Darren Evans went down in August with a season-ending knee injury. But Williams, who scored three touchdowns, and Wilson, who had one, showed flourishes of what made them among the nation's top prospects in high school.
"They're built low to the ground; they have leverage," running backs coach Billy Hite said. "When they get their bodies going north, it's hard to tackle something like that."
While Virginia Tech's rushing attack emerged, the passing offense still lacked punch. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 161 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, completing 9 of 16 passes. He also ran for 58 yards.
Taylor did not display a deft passing touch early. On the Hokies' opening possession at the Marshall 13-yard line, Taylor threw slightly behind Jarrett Boykin on a quick crossing route and cornerback DeQuan Bembry made a diving grab to intercept the pass.
But Taylor settled down as the game went on. He connected with Danny Coale on a high-arcing 43-yard pass in the second quarter. At the end of the second half, Taylor found Dyrell Roberts for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
"It's a great confidence booster," Taylor said of the Hokies' performance. "We could have still could have made more plays, so we got to watch film and play better."
The Hokies were playing without boundary cornerback Stephan Virgil, who said he tweaked his left knee while making a tackle against Alabama. Although Virgil is the team's most experienced cornerback, Virginia Tech limited Marshall to 126 passing yards and forced it to punt 10 times.
But it was Williams and Wilson who stole the show. Although they each missed a block in pass protection -- a weakness in their game -- they showed great instincts as runners and a the ability to provide a spark.
Speaking about the running backs' big-play ability, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said it was "an important commodity in the game you have to have." The offensive output was the most in Stinespring's eight-year tenure as offensive coordinator.
On the Hokies' third possession, Williams broke for a 57-yard touchdown run. He ran though a large gap and sprinted almost untouched into the end zone. In the second quarter, Williams followed Taylor's long pass to Coale with a 28-yard touchdown run on the next play.
At least momentarily, the win banished the memories of the Hokies' loss to the Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome. It was an important step for Virginia Tech.
"I think it's extremely significant they were able to go out and do this," Stinespring said. "They're not oblivious to the questions and reservations and things they have to answer."