Hokies clear last hurdle before key stretch
Sunday, October 24, 2010
BLACKSBURG, VA. - It's hard to prove anything of significance based off a blowout victory against an overmatched opponent, especially one that hasn't beaten a division I-A football program in close to a year.
But more important to No. 23 Virginia Tech after its workmanlike 44-7 win over Duke on Saturday are the stakes facing the Hokies with four games left in the regular season. Heading into its bye week, Virginia Tech controls its own destiny in the race to make the ACC championship game in December, a notion that seemed inconceivable after an 0-2 start to the season.
The Hokies (6-2) are in the midst of their first six-game winning streak since 2006, have a 4-0 conference record and are the ACC Coastal Division's only remaining unbeaten team in conference play. The only teams that could overtake the Hokies - Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami - also happen to be their next three opponents.
"I think any time you're in that position, not having to rely on someone else with four games to go in your season, that's a good position to be in," Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said following his 235th career win, moving him ahead of Bo Schembechler for ninth all-time among I-A coaches. "We need to rest our bodies, rest our minds, and then play a critical stretch coming up here - the first being against Georgia Tech."
If there was one development of note on an afternoon in which Virginia Tech scored 34 points to begin the game, it was the brief reappearance of sophomore running back Ryan Williams. The Manassas native played two series, finishing with six carries for 10 yards and a one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal to give the Hokies a 14-0 lead.
It was his first action since suffering a right hamstring injury in the first half of the Hokies' victory over East Carolina on Sept. 18. After Saturday's game, Williams revealed that he had actually suffered a Grade 1 tear of his hamstring, a more serious ailment than the pulled muscle Virginia Tech officials had indicated while Williams sat out the past four games.
"It was more my decision to come out there, just to kind of get a feel for the game and just get hit," said Williams, who later declared himself to be "80 or 85 percent" healthy now. "Glad I scored a touchdown, but I wasn't even thinking that. I was just thinking get a couple carries, pick up a couple blitzes and then get out the game."
Williams's touchdown was a direct result of a 61-yard punt return by sophomore cornerback Jayron Hosley that set Virginia Tech up inside Duke's 20-yard-line. Two defensive series later, Hosley snagged his ACC-leading fifth interception of the season and appeared to return it for a touchdown before officials ruled he stepped out of bounds on the Duke 24-yard line.
Junior running back Darren Evans (eight carries, 36 yards) quickly made it a moot point when he dived across the goal line for his ninth touchdown of the season, giving Virginia Tech a 21-0 lead.
It was an encouraging day for Virginia Tech's defense, which bounced back after allowing Wake Forest running back Josh Harris to rush for 241 yards last week. Virginia Tech allowed just one play that went for longer than 20 yards, and Duke's lone touchdown came midway through the third quarter,when the Hokies were playing much of their second unit.
"Coach had been emphasizing that we needed to put together four quarters of complete defense," said redshirt freshman Antone Exum, who started in place of free safety Eddie Whitley (foot). "I think we put together a complete game."