September 13, 2008
Ground battle goes to Hokies with 20-17 defeat of Yellow Jackets
Teams combine for 477 rushing yards
Georgia Tech (2-1) 360817
Virginia Tech (2-1) 0140620
  • Lane/Worsham Field - 66,233
  • Passing: Tyrod Taylor 48 yds
  • Rushing: Darren Evans 94 yds
  • Receiving: Dyrell Roberts 18 yds
Game Notes

Tyrod goes the distance: Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor pretty much knew he was going to be the starting quarterback against Georgia Tech when he got most of the reps with the first-team offense in practice the week leading up to the game. The sophomore from Hampton, Va., ended up playing the entire game.

“It is more comfortable,” Taylor said of knowing he was going to be starting and getting the majority of the reps. “But at the same time, I would have been comfortable with whatever the coaches wanted to do.

“My mentality has been the same since day 1. I want to be a leader, regardless of whether it’s me playing or if we’re playing two quarterbacks.”

Taylor – who moved to 6-0 as a starter – completed 9-of-14 for just 48 yards. He rushed 15 times for 74 yards and scored on a 2-yard run with 10 seconds left in the first half that gave the Hokies a 14-9 lead heading into the locker room.

After the game, Tech head coach Frank Beamer indicated that things could change at the quarterback spot down the road, but for right now, he’s going with Taylor as his quarterback.

“I think for right now this is where we are and this is the best way for our team to operate,” Beamer said. “Sean Glennon is a good, good quarterback and he’s been a great quarterback for us and a great team player for us. I feel for him. I really feel for him.

“But Tyrod fits where we are as a football team and I’m all about team and how many wins we can get. You have to put those pieces together and Tyrod right now is one of those pieces. He’s a major piece.”

Evans making a case: Running back Darren Evans enjoyed a nice game, rushing for 94 yards on 19 carries and scoring a touchdown. He rushed for 72 yards against Furman and appears to be breaking up the logjam at the tailback position. Evans is the Hokies’ leading rusher on the season.

“That’s not up to me. It’s up to Coach [Billy] Hite [Tech’s running backs coach],” Evans said. “I’m happy where I am. I’m getting carries and we’re winning games. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.”

As a team, the Hokies rushed for 199 yards.

Graves continues streak: For the third consecutive game, Tech defensive tackle John Graves got his hands up and blocked a kick. The redshirt sophomore from Richmond blocked an extra-point attempt against East Carolina and a field-goal attempt against Furman. Against Georgia Tech, he blocked the extra-point attempt of Yellow Jackets’ kicker Scott Blair after Georgia Tech had scored on a 41-yard pass from quarterback Josh Nesbitt to Roddy Jones to take a 9-7 lead with 3:44 left in the first half.

“I just managed to get in the gap and get a hand up luckily,” Graves said. “I was able to free my hand up.

“We practice that [blocking kicks] every day. That’s one of our big things. We try to make it as good as we can each day.”

Graves became the first Tech player in head coach Frank Beamer’s tenure to block a kick in three straight games. He became the first Tech player to block three kicks in a season since Jim Davis blocked three in the 2004 season. No Tech player has blocked four kicks in a season.

The block marked the 120th blocked kick in Beamer’s stint at Tech (24 extra-point attempts).

Tech ‘D’ survives GT ground game: Tech’s defense came up with some big plays in the game, including two fumble recoveries and an interception. But the Hokies gave up nearly 300 yards of rushing against the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option, as Georgia Tech finished with 278 yards on the ground. That’s the most the Hokies have allowed since giving up 297 to LSU last season.

“They’ve got athletes everywhere,” Graves said. “Their whole backfield is made up of athletes, and not just [Jonathan] Dwyer [who had just 28 yards]. They had a lot of weapons and that made it difficult for our defense.

“That offense is difficult to play, especially when it’s a good team that can run it well. That team will continue to get better and better each week. It’s a difficult offense to handle.”

Hokies go orange: In conjunction with the Student Government Association-sponsored “Orange Effect” day, Tech wore orange jerseys for the first time since 1994 when they played the University of Virginia at Lane Stadium (a 42-23 loss). The Hokies also wore the orange jerseys against Temple and Rutgers in 1994 and those three times were the only three times the Hokies had worn orange jerseys in Frank Beamer’s tenure prior to the Georgia Tech game.

Two Hokies make first starts: Defensive end Nekos Brown, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior from Brandywine, Md., made the first start of his career when he got the nod in place of Jason Worilds, who injured his shoulder in the Furman game. Worilds did play in the Georgia Tech game.

Also, Chris Drager, a 6-3, 240-pound redshirt freshman from Jefferson Hills, Pa., made his first career start, coming in on the first play as the second tight end.

On another starting note, Cody Grimm, a 5-11, 207-pound redshirt junior from Fairfax, Va., got the nod at whip linebacker in place of Cam Martin, who injured his groin in the Furman game. Martin also played in the Georgia Tech game.

BLACKSBURG, Va.In a game that largely took place on the ground, the deciding points ironically came through the air in the form of a 21-yard field goal by Hokies’ place-kicker Dustin Keys, as Virginia Tech edged visiting Georgia Tech 20-17 on Saturday afternoon in ACC football action at Lane Stadium.

“I think that was a great team win, and I love team wins,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the game. “I am so proud of my football team. It was the offense, the kicking game and the defense, and we found a way to win.”

The two Techs combined for 477 rushing yards on 96 attempts – 278 for the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-1 ACC) and 199 for the Hokies (2-1, 1-0 ACC) – in a game that saw only 23 passing attempts. And while the Hokies’ defense bent against the unfamiliar triple option offense – Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt set a single-game school-record for quarterbacks with 151 rushing yards – it never broke and made its biggest play of the game late in the fourth quarter.

With 2:24 on the clock and Nesbitt buying himself time on 4th-and-7, the Hokies’ Orion Martin tripped up the elusive quarterback and made him change direction. Fortunately for Virginia Tech, linebacker Purnell Sturdivant was pursuing from the other side and dropped Nesbitt for a 2-yard loss and the Hokies’ only sack.

“John Graves and Orion Martin did a great job of penetrating and getting pressure on the quarterback,” Sturdivant said of the huge sack. “I saw him try to scramble and I shot the gap and got the tackle.”

Though Virginia Tech failed to run out the clock on its ensuing possession, punter Brent Bowden pinned the Yellow Jackets at their own 5 with 25 ticks to go to put the win on ice.

“This win was very important,” Sturdivant said. “A lot of people were doubting us. It was the first ACC game and a lot of people didn’t think we could get it done either offensively or defensively. We came out and continued to work and got better and proved them wrong. That’s what we need to keep doing.”

“It’s so hard to run it in practice the way Georgia Tech runs it,” Beamer said about the Yellow Jackets’ offense. “And boy, what a player [Nesbitt] is. He did a nice job, but fortunately, we got a couple of fumbles.”

Brett Warren (15 tackles) and Kam Chancellor (11 tackles) each forced one of those fumbles for the Hokies, while Cody Grimm made an interception and Sturdivant was in on 11 tackles to go with his sack.

Keys’ game-clinching field goal was actually his second successful try of the fourth quarter – he also converted a 25-yarder with 13:58 on the clock to put the Hokies up 17-9 – but the final one broke a 17-17 tie and capped a game-winning, 76-yard drive that was keyed by a pair of 15-yard personal fouls by the Georgia Tech defense.

Keys’ field goals sandwiched an eight-point effort by the Yellow Jackets that knotted the contest at 17 with 9:28 to play. Nesbitt scored on an 18-yard rush after finding nothing in a rare drop-back pass. Down two because of a blocked PAT attempt by Virginia Tech’s John Graves in the second quarter, Nesbitt tossed a two-point conversion to Lucas Cox to even the score.

The Hokies entered the halftime locker room with a 14-9 advantage thanks to quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s first touchdown of the season, a 2-yard scramble that came with just 10 seconds left on the clock. Keys’ PAT capped off Tech’s second scoring drive of the game, one that began on a 23-yard Taylor run one minute earlier after Virginia Tech’s Demetrius Taylor jumped on a fumbled handoff exchange by the Yellow Jackets at their own 43-yard line.

“That was a called, ‘take a look at your receivers and if they’re not there, throw to back of end zone,'” Beamer said of the play on which Taylor scored. “But Tyrod is Tyrod, and he saw an opening and went to the end zone with it.”

“That’s what they told me,” Taylor said about the coaches’ directions. “But we were too close to the goal line for me to throw it away. I knew they wanted to set up for the field goal, but I knew I could get a touchdown with my feet.”

The Taylor touchdown put the Hokies back on top after Georgia Tech claimed a brief, 9-7 lead with 3:44 on the second-quarter clock. On first-and-10 from the Virginia Tech 41, Nesbitt surprised the Hokie defense by throwing just his second pass of the game, a 41-yard strike to Roddy Jones. It was the first passing touchdown of the season for Georgia Tech, but place-kicker Scott Blair, who in the first quarter opened the game’s scoring with a 32-yard field goal, had his PAT blocked by Graves.

Virginia Tech’s first score of the game came courtesy of tailback Darren Evans, who zig-zagged through the Yellow Jacket defense for an 8-yard touchdown with 13:01 remaining in the second quarter, capping a drive that covered 80 yards over 13 plays and 6:34.

Evans ended the game with 94 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Taylor added 74 yards on 15 rushes. Taylor, who played the entire game under center, also completed nine of 14 passes for 48 yards.

“Evans ran awfully hard and broke some tackles,” Beamer said when asked about the running game. “I thought he did a nice job. He’s got a good knack for running the football.”

Kickoff time for the Hokies’ game next Saturday at North Carolina is 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).

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