By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 2, 2010; 11:45 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. - One Virginia Tech player grew so frustrated during a sub-par first half Saturday, he threw a helmet against the benches on the sideline. But when it mattered most during a come-from-behind 41-30 victory at No. 23 North Carolina State, the Hokies found a way to throw themselves back into the thick of the ACC race.
With his team trailing by one with just more than four minutes remaining, quarterback Tyrod Taylor led the Hokies on a 76-yard drive, finding junior Jarrett Boykin on a quick slant that turned into a 39-yard touchdown when the wide receiver broke three Wolfpack tackles.
Sophomore cornerback Jayron Hosley capped off the victory with his third interception of Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson, setting up running back Darren Evans for a late three-yard touchdown run that provided the final margin.
Virginia Tech also got a 92-yard kickoff return from running back David Wilson to begin the second half and a career-long 54-yard touchdown run by Evans in the third quarter to help the Hokies recover from an early 17-0 deficit.
It was the biggest comeback of Frank Beamer's 24-year career as Virginia Tech's coach and allowed the Hokies (3-2, 2-0 ACC) to avoid a 2-3 record for the first time since 1992.
"The way that game started out and for us to battle back, I think it just says a lot about our kids, our program, our coaches," Beamer said. "I've been proud of this program a lot of times, but I don't know if I've ever been more proud than what we got accomplished here."
As in its season-opening loss to Boise State, the Hokies came out with a thud in the first quarter. The offense had three-and-outs on four of its first five drives, while North Carolina State marched up and down the field against a bewildered Virginia Tech defense. At one point, after being stopped on third and one, Evans stormed off the field and threw his helmet against the bench in disgust as his teammates stewed on the sideline.
North Carolina State opened the game with a bang when Wilson found wide receiver Jarvis Williams on a 31-yard reception on the first play of the game. Three minutes later, the Wolfpack again had the Hokies on their heels when Wilson bought some time in the pocket and found tight end George Bryan in the corner of the end zone on a seven-yard pass.
Soon thereafter, North Carolina State safety Brandan Bishop returned a Taylor interception to the Virginia Tech 2-yard line to set up Wilson's touchdown pass to running back Dean Haynes midway through the first quarter. A field goal by kicker Josh Czajkowski early in the second quarter increased the lead to 17-0 to the delight of 58,083 howling fans, the third-largest crowd in North Carolina State history.
But that's when the Hokies showed their first signs of resiliency. With Virginia Tech pinned inside its 10-yard line, Taylor took a designed running play 71 yards, the second-longest run of his career. He finished the drive by finding tight end Andre Smith for a 10-yard touchdown pass after being chased from the pocket.
The Hokies were lucky to face just a 17-7 deficit at the half. For a third straight week, Virginia Tech's defense was gashed in the first half, giving up 299 yards (it gave up 507 yards for the game). The Wolfpack drove into Hokies territory on six of its eight drives before halftime, but two interceptions by Hosley kept the damage to a minimum.
David Wilson's kickoff return gave the Hokies a much-needed jolt to open the second half, but that spark wouldn't last for long. Facing third and 17 on the ensuing drive, Russell Wilson found Williams for a 24-yard pass. On the next play, Williams got behind the Hokies secondary and Wilson connected with him again, this time for a 34-yard touchdown that pushed the Wolfpack's lead back up to 11.
The big plays continued when the Hokies got that career-long run from Evans (160 yards rushing). Once Taylor found Danny Coale for a two-point conversion, Virginia Tech trailed just 24-21 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"The offensive line was just blocking their tails off. They opened up some really nice holes and I was just picking and choosing." Evans said of the difference between the two halves offensively. "If people had seen me [throw the helmet], and they got motivated, that was unintended. But I'm glad I did it now. It was just personal frustration that I had."
Following another Czajkowski field goal, Taylor (123 yards passing, 121 yards rushing, 3 touchdown passes) made a nifty run on third and six from the North Carolina State 16-yard line and then finished the drive with another touchdown pass to Smith that gave the Hokies their first lead of the game, 28-27.
But Wilson and the Wolfpack took advantage of a questionable pass interference call on safety Antone Exum, the third one called on the Hokies in the second half, as Czajkowski kicked a 42-yard field goal to give North Carolina State its final lead of the game.
It was not Wilson's finest day for the Wolfpack, though. He finished 21 for 49 for 362 yards and rushed for another 34 yards. But following Taylor's heroics on the game-winning drive, Wilson threw a deep pass that fell directly into Hosley's hands.
The victory leaves the Hokies in prime position to once again challenge for the ACC Coastal Division title, despite a start to the season that included a loss to division I-AA James Madison. Virginia Tech's next four games are all at home and against teams with a combined record of 8-11.
This win "gave us that reassurance that we are a good team," Hosley said. "We don't want to dwell on the past, we want to look forward to what's ahead."