BLACKSBURG, Va. – Unlike basketball and soccer, there is no such thing as an assist on offense in the game of football. But for its role in a 24-7 victory over Furman on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech’s defense certainly deserves to be credited with a couple.
The defense didn’t score in this one like it did last week when cornerback Stephan Virgil accounted for eight of Tech’s 22 points against East Carolina, but it definitely played the role of point guard during a third quarter that saw the Hokies (1-1) turn a paltry 3-0 halftime lead into a comfortable 24-0 cushion before giving up a late score in fourth.
“The good thing is we won – we made some plays in the third quarter to win,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “But we have to get better. We are a team that needs to improve each and every week. I thought our football team hung in there and played hard. We just don’t always play as well as we need to. The history of this program is that we continue to improve throughout the season, and I think we’ll do that this week.”
After sputtering into the locker room with only place-kicker Dustin Keys’ first collegiate field goal – a 22-yarder with just 29 ticks left on the second-quarter clock – to its credit, the Hokies’ offense finally came to life in the third period.
“We needed something big to happen,” junior tailback Kenny Lewis Jr., said of the team’s mood at the intermission. “We were dead. We didn’t have any energy. We needed somebody to make a big play.”
And almost upon request, the Hokies made some big plays on both sides of the ball during the third quarter. Tech’s first touchdown pass of the season came courtesy of redshirt senior quarterback Sean Glennon, who eluded two Furman rushers on a 3rd-and-6 from the Furman 10 and side-armed a pass under the reach of another Paladin to Lewis, who hauled in an impressive catch while taking a big hit in the end zone.
“I knew the guy that had me in coverage had gone up to take on Sean,” Lewis described. “So I got open, but I knew the safety was back there. It was just a matter of when he was going to hit me. I made sure I secured the ball when I was in the end zone. It was painful, though.”
Keys’ PAT gave the Hokies a 10-0 lead following the six-play, 64-yard drive that was fueled by a 50-yard scamper by sophomore quarterback Tyrod Taylor three plays earlier.
It was then that Tech’s defense stepped up and gave the offense a hand. On Furman’s opening play following the Lewis touchdown, Hokie whip linebacker Cody Grimm jarred the ball loose from Paladin fullback Brantley Kendall, and free safety Kam Chancellor fell on it at the Furman 31-yard line. The Hokies went right back to Lewis, and he collected a 1-yard rush and a 7-yard catch on a Taylor pass before breaking loose for a 23-yard touchdown run. Keys’ PAT made it 17-0 in Tech’s favor, and it came just 1:25 after the first score.
The Tech defense struck again two plays later when Virgil stepped in front of a Jordan Sorrells pass, intercepting it and returning it 18 yards to the Furman 9. Redshirt freshman tailback Darren Evans then turned in carries of six and three yards, with the latter getting into the end zone for his second rushing score in as many games. After Keys chipped in the extra point, Tech had put up 21 points in a matter of 2:29 and led 24-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Furman (1-1) mustered just 34 rushing yards in the game and only had one legitimate scoring chance against the Hokies’ first-team defense, a 33-yard field-goal attempt by Matthew Cesari late in the third quarter. But the Hokies snuffed that out, as defensive tackle John Graves swatted the kick down for his second block of the season. He also thwarted an extra point attempt against East Carolina last Saturday.
The Paladins did manage a touchdown with 6:02 remaining in the contest against Tech’s second-team defense, a 17-yard connection from Sorrells to Chris Truss that capped a six-play, 72-yard drive. Cesari’s PAT set the final score of 24-7.
The Hokies finished with 329 yards of total offense, though only 68 of it came through the air. Glennon and Taylor split time under center, with Glennon going 3-of-8 for 42 yards with the touchdown and an interception, and Taylor completing 4-of-5 for 26 yards.
While the passing game never really got going, luckily for the Hokies, their running game did. Tech’s rushers averaged 5.4 yards per carry en route to 261 yards on the ground. Taylor led the way with 112 yards on 14 attempts, while Evans earned 72 yards on 11 carries and Lewis tallied 50 yards on 13 touches. Lewis also accounted for three of Tech’s seven receptions, totaling 36 yards.
“We’ve just got to get experience,” Lewis said of the offense’s intermittent struggles. “We’ve got to get the receivers on the same page. We’ve got to get the o-line and the backs on the same page. Furman did a good job of mixing blitzes. We knew what blitzes they ran, but they ran them at times when we weren’t expecting it. It’s just a matter of us getting the experience and being able to single those blitzes out.”
Six Tech defenders had at least four tackles, with end Orion Martin registering the lone sack. The Hokies broke up five passes in the contest.
The Hokies’ next challenge comes on Sat., Sept. 13th when the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech visit Lane Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. tilt that will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
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