Virginia Tech 41, Marshall 14
-- Vince Hall knew the hardest part would be catching the ball. After Virginia Tech defensive end Chris Ellis spun Marshall quarterback Bernie Morris around and popped the ball into the air, Hall had 15 open yards to the end zone in front of him and the ball tantalizingly within reach. First, though, he had to make the catch.
He did and then strolled in for the touchdown that changed Saturday's game from a nail-biter to a rout during a 31/2-minute span early in the third quarter.
After Hall's score, the No. 3 Hokies rolled to a 41-14 homecoming victory over Conference USA's Thundering Herd before 65,115 at Lane Stadium.
"That was the play," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "I thought that one was the clincher."
That play may have turned the momentum in Virginia Tech's favor, but Branden Ore's running secured the Hokies' victory. Ore, a redshirt freshman from Chesapeake, Va., subbing for the injured Cedric Humes, became the first tailback to rush for more than 100 yards for Virginia Tech (6-0) this season, carrying 19 times for 146 yards and one touchdown. Humes, the Hokies' leading rusher, left the game late in the first half after breaking his right forearm. Yet without Humes or second-leading rusher Mike Imoh, who was out because of a sprained right ankle, the Hokies still managed to gain 233 rushing yards, the most this season.
"I thought Branden Ore came in and gave us a lift," Beamer said. "He gave us a little speed, and he's got some toughness. He did a nice job in his first game out of the blocks, playing when it really counted."
Early in the game, Virginia Tech couldn't figure out a way to get Marshall (2-3) off the field. The Thundering Herd, which threw the ball nearly twice as much as it ran in its first four games, found success with a ball-control offense against the Hokies. During the Thundering Herd's second-quarter scoring drive, 11 of its 13 plays were runs. Marshall's 131 first-half rushing yards, 30 more than Virginia Tech, were more than it had in its last two games combined.
By running the ball, the Thundering Herd was able to keep Virginia Tech's offense off the field. The Hokies also didn't help themselves by committing their second turnover of the season. Chris Royal intercepted Marcus Vicks's pass to end Virginia Tech's second drive of the game. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass on the field before being overturned by replay. Although the Hokies scored on two of their four possessions in the first half, they led just 14-7 at halftime.
"That was crazy," Hall said of Marshall's rushing advantage. "We went into halftime. Coach [Bud] Foster gave a speech. It was, 'You all need to get your minds right.' So we all just said we need to stop trying to do too much and do our job, and it will go our way."
Tech's defense held Marshall to one yard of total offense in the third quarter. Led by Ore, the offense also did its part, gaining 200 yards in the third quarter. Ore gained 115 yards in the second half, including an impressive 45-yard run early in third quarter, the longest rush by a Hokie this season. That run set up Brandon Pace's 19-yard field goal with 11 minutes 51 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Ore, who had 23 carries for 106 yards entering this game, admitted he was nervous when he stepped onto the field but said his nerves dissipated after his first carry.
"You've just got to get yourself ready," he said. "It's no more sitting back and watching. It's your time to shine, and that's what I tried to do."
Less than a minute after Pace's field goal, Hall scored on the fumble recover to put Virginia Tech ahead 24-7.
"I turned around and his eyes were as big as you can believe," Ellis said. "I already knew that he had it. He walked into the end zone. It was perfect."
Said Hall: "I had to make sure I saw the ball. I didn't want to blink or nothing. If I would have blinked, I probably would have dropped the ball."
Vick threw his 10th touchdown pass of the season to David Clowney to make it 31-7 with 8:22 remaining. In a 31/2-minute span, the Hokies had seized control of the game and were well on their way to defeating their second straight team from West Virginia.