Hokies handle Bobcats in 28-7 victory as Beamer earns 200th-career victory
By Matt Kovatch
September 15, 2007

Box Score VT 28, Ohio 7
 
BLACKSBURG, Va. - A commanding defensive effort, and an impressive performance by quarterback Tyrod Taylor in his first collegiate start, helped the No. 17/18 Virginia Tech (2-1) football team to a 28-7 victory over Ohio on Saturday in a non-conference matchup at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field.

Though the Bobcats (1-2) kept the score close until the fourth quarter, the outcome was never really in doubt as the Hokies' defense was back to its dominating ways, limiting Ohio to just 114 yards of offense and allowing them past the 50-yard line just once. Ohio went three-and-out on every possession of the second half and was forced to punt a total of 13 times in the contest. The Bobcats earned just five first downs in the game, which is tied for the least amount allowed by a Tech defense in the Frank Beamer era.

The Hokies' defense tallied 13 tackles for a loss and four sacks in the game, while breaking up three passes and hurrying the quarterback six times. It was a marked improvement over last week's effort at LSU when the Tigers rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense, a performance that left Tech's defense aching to get back out the field.

"Coach [Bud] Foster [Tech's defensive coordinator] brought us together and said that we didn't have the swagger that we had last year," linebacker Vince Hall said. "He told us to go out there and lay it on the line for our [teammates], and to just have fun and not beat ourselves up over little things."

Hall seemed to take Foster's advice, as he bounced back from what he called the worst game of his career to record 14 tackles, including three for a loss of 20 yards and two sacks. Fellow linebacker Xavier Adibi added 11 stops, while tackle Barry Booker contributed seven.

Tech's offense also showed signs of life with the newly-inserted Taylor, and the Hokies racked up 473 yards in what was easily their best performance of the season. The true freshman from Hampton, Va., scored the second touchdown of his young career in the win, while tailback Kenny Lewis, Jr., added two scores and tailback Branden Ore chipped in one.

"I don't think this football team is as good as it's going to be," Beamer said. "I think we have the potential to be a very good football team, and I think it's a matter of continuing to work and iron some things out and continue to get better in all areas."

A big factor in the offense's improvement will be Taylor, and he got off to a good start on Saturday by completing 18-of-31 passes for 287 yards. He also ran for 40 yards, though he netted just eight after taking three sacks.

"I thought he did super," Beamer said of Taylor. "The game makes sense to him. He understands it and he has the ability to make plays. He's very calm, and he'll learn from today. He had a couple of throws that we probably need to have back, but he made some great throws and got out of some trouble. He got us in the end zone when it was critical. He gives you that ability and I think we'll continue to get better."

"I think I played pretty well," Taylor commented. "I missed a couple passes that I could've made, but overall, I think I had a pretty good game. The second play of the game, when I took off to the sideline on a read play and got hit - that's when all the jitters got out of me and I knew it was time to play football again."

Beamer earned his 200th-career win as a collegiate coach, and is just the 47th coach in NCAA history to reach the milestone. Of those 200, 158 have come at Tech, while the other 42 came in his six seasons at the helm of Murray State.

"I can't say that I'm not proud," Beamer said of the accomplishment. "But I understand very clearly that I've been fortunate enough to have been at some good schools with some good coaches, and I've had a lot of good players. I sincerely mean that. I head up the organization, but the pieces in the organization are really good."

The Ohio offense only operated in Tech territory on one occasion during the game, and the Bobcats took advantage of it to get out to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. After the Tech defense forced Ohio to punt from its own 46 with a minute left in the first, Hokies' punt returner Eddie Royal called for a fair catch at the Tech 26. The ball slipped through his hands, and Ohio's Ryan Senser jumped on the fumble to regain possession for the Bobcats.

Ohio ran two plays before the quarter ended, and began the second with a third-and-18 at the 34-yard line. Adibi knocked tailback Kalvin McRae out of bounds following a 5-yard completion from Brad Bower (9-of-16, 70 yards), but Brandon Flowers was whistled for a personal foul that gave the Bobcats a first down at the Tech 14. McRae, who led the Ohio attack with 55 yards on 22 carries, then rushed on four consecutive plays, finally scoring on a 4-yard draw play that was followed by a Michael Braunstein PAT at 13:06.

Taylor and Lewis, Jr., helped the Hokies tie it up on their second drive of the second quarter with a 10-play, 68-yard series that lasted 3:25. Taylor went 5-for-6 through the air on the drive for 49 yards, including completions to wide receiver Zach Luckett and tight end Andre Smith, which went down as the first-career receptions for each.

Following a 16-yard toss by Taylor to tight end Sam Wheeler that got the Hokies to the Ohio 13, Lewis juked a pair of Bobcats before scampering into the end zone for his third collegiate score. Jud Dunlevy converted the PAT at 5:42 to make it 7-7.

The Hokies had one other near score in the first half. On the Hokies' fourth offensive play of the game, Taylor saw a hole in the line and looked like he might take off, but just as he was about to cross the line of scrimmage, Josh Morgan broke free and Taylor flicked him a pass on the run that went for 59 yards to the Ohio 10. It was the longest completion for Tech since Sean Glennon hooked up with David Clowney for a 60-yard pass at Duke last year. Two plays later, Taylor hit Morgan at the 5, but just as Morgan went to turn up field, he got blasted by Ohio strong safety Michael Mitchell and fumbled the ball into the hands of defensive tackle Landon Cohen.

Morgan finished the game with 119 yards on six receptions, which was his best performance since gaining 128 on seven catches against Florida State in the 2005 ACC Championship game. He is now tied for 10th place all-time at Tech with Mike Burnop with 90 career receptions. With three catches today, Eddie Royal now has 91 to claim ninth place.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Morgan said when asked about how often the Hokies were calling passing plays early in the game. "[Offensive coordinator] Coach [Bryan] Stinespring was telling us the whole time that we've got to make plays, and that's what we did. All we had to do was execute, and let Tyrod and the playmakers make plays."

Taylor accounted for the go-ahead score for Tech at the 3:38 mark of the third quarter. The drive encompassed nine plays and 54 yards, and included a heavy dose of Ore, who carried five times for 36 yards on the drive, and 18 times for 82 yards for the game. Taylor also rushed twice for 19 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown on a keeper from the shotgun formation. Dunlevy added the PAT to put the Hokies up 14-7.

Tech put the game out of reach midway through the fourth with another scoring drive. After Ore rushed for no gain, he hauled in a 28-yard reception from Taylor to move the Hokies to the Ohio 24. He followed with a 4-yard carry, and Josh Hyman got to the 1-yard line with a 19-yard reception. The Hokies then tried three-straight goal-line plunges, with Ore finally getting into the end zone at 8:49 with his first touchdown of the season. Dunlevy chipped in his third PAT of the day to extend Tech's lead to 21-7.

The Hokies added one more score for good measure when Lewis took a draw play 44 yards to the house for his second touchdown of the day. The score came with 6:13 remaining and capped a brief, three-play series that was finished with another Dunlevy PAT to set the final score of 28-7.

"It felt really good," Lewis, Jr., said in reference to his big run and the amount of long-yardage plays that Tech put together. "From day one, we haven't really been clicking or meshing with each other, but today we finally got things going. [Running backs] Coach [Billy] Hite told us 'Don't wait for someone else to make a play - you make a play.' Branden and I and some of the other guys took it upon ourselves to go out there and make plays, and we piggybacked off of each other."

Tech returns to action on Sept. 22 when William & Mary comes to Lane Stadium/Worsham Field for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. There is no scheduled television coverage.