Tech rolls by Tribe, 44-3, in final non-conference game
By Matt Kovatch
September 22, 2007

Box Score VT 44, W&M 3
 
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Add up the total number of points scored by the Virginia Tech football team during the first quarter of each of its first three games this season, and you get three. Now multiply that by nine, and that's how many the Hokies racked up in the first quarter of Saturday's rout of William & Mary at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field.

The 17th-ranked Hokies (3-1) used that 27-point first quarter and never looked back in defeating the visiting Tribe (2-2) by a score of 44-3 in their final non-conference contest of the year. Tech scored in five different ways in the game, including once via punt return and once on an interception return, and defeated W&M for the 10th-straight time dating back to 1977. Tech has now won its last 28 non-conference home games.

"I thought our first group did a good job," Tech head coach Frank Beamer remarked after the game. "They came out and established things. We had to settle for a few field goals, but overall, I thought we did some good things. Defensively, we got some turnovers and took one to the house. We wanted to get more production out of our special teams and I thought we did that."

After an incomplete pass on Tech's first offensive call of the game, freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor made the first of many big plays on the day for the Hokies when he faked a handoff and raced 45 yards down the left sideline to the W&M 12-yard line. It was the longest rush of the season for Tech, and the longest rush by a Hokie quarterback since Bryan Randall broke off a 75-yarder against Syracuse in 2003. Though the Tech offense stalled in the red zone on that drive and the subsequent one, forcing the Hokies to settle for a pair of Jud Dunlevy field goals (25 yards at 11:58 and 27 yards at 7:37), they righted the ship on the third possession.

After a bad snap on a punt allowed Tech to take over on the Tribe's 5-yard line, tailback Branden Ore carried the ball twice before taking a pitch to the left on a 2-yard score for his second rushing touchdown of the season. A Dunlevy PAT made it 13-0 with 4:47 remaining in the first.

Not even a minute later, on a 2nd-and-4 at the W&M 46, Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers jumped a 3-yard out for his sixth-career interception and took it virtually unimpeded 49 yards to the end zone for Tech's second defensive touchdown of the season. Dunlevy's PAT at 3:56 extended the score to 20-0.

"I felt that the receiver didn't come out of his break as fast as he should have," Flowers said in regards to the pick-six. "As soon as he did, I knew I could beat him to the ball, so that's why I stepped in front of him instead of making the tackle. Once I caught it, I knew there was just one man to beat, so I was just trying to coast the whole way so I could get a blocker in front of me. I knew it was coming, so I just let the block happen and walked in to the end zone."

The Hokies added their third consecutive touchdown after taking over at their own 42 with 2:52 left in the first. Kenny Lewis, Jr., entered the game at tailback for Tech at the start of the possession, and promptly rushed five times for 39 yards, including an 8-yard score with 17 seconds on the clock. Dunlevy's PAT made it 27-0.

Tech wasted little time getting back at it in the second quarter. The Hokies forced a W&M punt on the third snap of the period, and Eddie Royal - after making two sharp cuts in the first five yards - turned on the jets and returned it 60 yards for his second-career punt return touchdown. Dunlevy connected on the PAT at 13:56 to widen the gap to 34 points.

The Flowers and Royal touchdowns were the 59th and 60th non-offensive touchdowns, respectively, for the Hokies since the start of the 1999 season, giving them the lead over Miami (59) for the most of the country during that span. Tech is now 61-8 under Beamer when scoring a touchdown on special teams or defense. For the game, Royal returned four punts for 120 yards.

"I feel that whenever I touch the ball, I need to try and make something happen," Royal said of his performance. "You never know how many times you're going to touch the ball during the course of the game, so when I get it, I'm trying to make a big play. The guys out there really like blocking for me, and I get excited when I see the guys in front of me anxious to get blocks for me. That's what I had today - and all year - and I'm just looking forward to [more of that] in the next game."

The Tribe earned its only points of the contest late in the first half after embarking on a nine-play, 94-yard drive after getting pinned at its own 2-yard line following a Brent Bowden punt. W&M quarterback Jake Phillips, the nation's leading passer from the championship subdivision, led the charge by going 5-of-8 on the drive for 98 yards. The Tech defense held the Tribe out of the end zone, though, and W&M's Brian Pate chipped home a 22-yard field goal at 3:07 to make the score 34-3.

Though he did muster 243 yards on 17 completions, Phillips only managed a 42.5 completion percentage and was sacked four times while throwing three interceptions. Because of those sacks, in addition to a fifth of Tribe backup Mike Potts, the Tribe only managed five yards rushing for the game, which is the lowest total allowed by the Hokies since they held Rutgers to minus-7 in 2002.

Tech answered on the very next possession, when following a 39-yard punt return by Royal to the Tribe's 34, Ore took a Taylor screen pass to the end zone on the Hokies' first play for his second score of the game. Dunlevy's PAT at 2:13 made it 41-3, which ties for the sixth-most points scored in a first half under Beamer.

Most of the second half was played by Tech's backups, and the only score for either team was another Dunlevy field goal at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter from 38 yards out. It was the longest field goal of his career, and with 14 points on the day, he surpassed his career total by four in one game.

"I know Coach Beamer and the rest of the team would rather have some touchdowns instead of settling there [for field goals] at the beginning," Dunlevy said of his career day. "But I think it was good for me personally just to get out there and get a few under my belt like I was able to. I'll take as much experience as I can get heading into conference play next week."

Speaking of Tech's backups, no one had a bigger day than linebacker Purnell Sturdivant, who tallied eight tackles in relief of Xavier Adibi, including two sacks for minus-16 yards. The sacks were the first of his career, as were the two interceptions he made off of Phillips - one in the second quarter which he first tipped before catching the rebound off of the Tribe receiver's hands, and the other in the third which he returned for 14 yards.

"I always stay focused on what I'm doing," Sturdivant said. "Anything could happen to [our starters] at any time, so I just went out there with 100 percent focus and played my game. It was a great confidence booster to go out there and prove to myself that I can play at this level."

"We became a better football team by getting that second group some work, even though we gave up some yards and sometimes had a tough time getting them blocked," Beamer added. "We got some valuable experience for our football team."

Other notable defensive reserves included rover Dorian Porch with eight tackles, and linebacker Brett Warren with seven, and 1.5 sacks. Offensively, Taylor finished the game 6-of-13 passing for 72 yards and his first collegiate touchdown pass. He also netted 52 yards rushing on five carries. Lewis (43 yards) and Ore (25 yards) rushed 10 times apiece, and Ore led the team with four receptions for 48 yards.

The 44-3 score was the biggest margin of victory for the Hokies since defeating Georgia Tech by a tally of 51-7 in 2005, which, coincidentally, was the last time the Hokies scored a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown in the same game.

The Hokies will open the ACC portion of their schedule next Saturday, Sept. 29th at home against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be telecast regionally by Lincoln Financial/Raycom.

"I think we continue to find our identity," Beamer said when asked if the team is ready for the conference game to begin. "Most of the time today, the kicking game was good for us, and that first defense is very good for us. Offensively, I think we did some good things, but there are also some things that Tyrod [Taylor] will learn each week. I think he's going to improve from week to week, and as he improves, our offensive football team will improve also. I'm pleased with our effort today, but it's serious time now."