WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For a time Saturday night, it appeared as if No. 19 Virginia Tech was on the ropes, staggered by a combination of untimely injuries to its defense, a toothless offense and a plucky underdog looking for another upset.
But the Hokies never flinched. And just when they appeared most vulnerable, Coach Frank Beamer’s squad showed the sort of resolve that should come in handy as it goes after another ACC championship.
Despite falling behind by double digits in the first quarter, Virginia Tech stormed to a 38-17 victory at Wake Forest for its 10th straight win in a true road game, the longest active streak in the country.
For the second week in a row, it was the Hokies’ offense that proved to be the difference. After mustering just eight yards and falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1 ACC) outgained the Demon Deacons, 200-25, and outscored them, 21-0, during a dominant second quarter that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The Hokies finished with 473 yards.
“No one panicked,” said Beamer, whose team became bowl eligible for the 19th straight year, also the longest streak in the country. “We talk about it all the time: ‘Just play the next down, play the next play.’ That’s kind of part of our program. . . . We weren’t screaming and blaming. We were trying to find the answers and get them coached up.”
Armed with a 3-0 record in ACC play for the first time in program history, Wake Forest came storming out of the gate Saturday even as star running back Josh Harris stood on the sideline with a left hamstring injury.
Taking advantage of a Hokies defense that was missing three starters, the Demon Deacons (4-2, 3-1) got a field goal on their first drive and then struck gold midway through the first quarter when quarterback Tanner Price found wide receiver Chris Givens for a 79-yard touchdown catch. Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley came up limping on the play, grabbing his left hamstring. He did not return.
But losing a fourth starter seemed to galvanize Bud Foster’s unit. With a blitz-heavy approach and a depleted defensive line that gave Price fits all night, the Hokies finished with four sacks and held the Demon Deacons to less than four yards per play during the final three quarters. Wake Forest scored just one more time after its first-quarter flurry, when Price found tight end Cameron Ford on a four-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal late in the third quarter.
By that point, though, the Hokies’ offense had gotten its act together after resembling the outfit that could only muster three points in a loss to Clemson early on.
Seven days after scorching Miami for 38 points, Virginia Tech started Saturday’s game with four consecutive three-and-outs and didn’t pick up a first down until early in the second quarter. Quarterback Logan Thomas completed just four of his first 12 pass attempts, quadruple the amount of incompletions he threw a week ago against the Hurricanes.
But it was Thomas who finally got the Hokies going midway through the second quarter, finding Boykin on a beautifully thrown 39-yard touch pass that set up Virginia Tech at the Wake Forest 1-yard line. A play later, Thomas lunged into the end zone to cut the deficit to 10-7.
On Virginia Tech’s next drive, Wilson got in on the fun. After gaining just three yards on his first four carries of the game, he picked up 60 yards on his next four, including a 43-yard gain that set up Boykin’s touchdown — a 20-yard catch from Thomas that gave the Hokies a 14-10 lead. Before the quarter was complete, Price threw an ill-advised pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Virginia Tech defensive end J.R. Collins and intercepted by linebacker Tariq Edwards with 30 seconds left before halftime. Soon thereafter, Thomas rumbled into the end zone from three yards out to give Virginia Tech a commanding 21-10 lead.
“I just hit something that got us going and we took off from there,” said Thomas, who finished 17 of 32 for 280 yards and four touchdowns — two on the ground and two through the air. “Just coming back the way we did, it was a good confidence boost for the offense.”
Thomas put away the game early in the fourth quarter with a defining 14-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that saw him convert four third downs with his legs and his arm. The final one was a 30-yard strike to wide receiver Marcus Davis in the end zone that left the Demon Deacons to ponder what went wrong after the Hokies looked so ripe for the taking just a few hours earlier.
“It’s answering the bell and I think we’ve got some guys — Logan being one of them . . . that want to step up and make a play at a time when it’s critical that you make a play,” Beamer said. “We saw it down at East Carolina, we saw it last week, we saw it this week. There’s some good things developing there within our football team.”