BLACKSBURG, Va. – Four turnovers forced by the defense, in addition to a career-high four rushing touchdowns by tailback Ryan Williams, lifted the Virginia Tech football team to a dominating 38-10 victory over visiting N.C. State on Saturday at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies, who improved to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, scored points on their first three possessions and never looked back, piling up their third-highest point total of the season, while limiting the opposition to 10 or fewer points for the third straight game and for the fifth time this year. N.C. State fell to 4-7 overall and 1-6 in the ACC, and was held to under 20 points for the just the second time this season.
Tech put forth a balanced attack on offense, rushing for 200 yards and throwing for 197. Williams toted the ball 32 times for 120 of those yards, and he also added four touchdowns, a mark that equals the most in a single game by a Tech freshman.
“He is strong, quick and powerful,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after Williams’ eighth 100-yard game of the season. “I think he’s a complete back.”
The defense also stepped up big and held the Wolfpack to just 14 rushing yards on the day. The unit set the tone early when senior linebacker Cody Grimm forced a pair of fumbles on N.C. State’s first three offensive plays to provide the Hokies with a pair of short fields that led to a 10-0 lead by the 7:55 mark of the opening quarter.
“I thought that was big,” Beamer said of the early momentum. “You need to get up on those guys [N.C. State] because they can score in a hurry (the Wolfpack came into the game averaging 32.6 points per game).”
On the Wolfpack’s first offensive play of the game, which took place at their own 40-yard line after the opening kickoff went out of bounds, quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back to pass. Grimm sacked Wilson for a loss of six yards, forcing a fumble in the process before recovering it himself at the 34. Seven plays later, kicker Matt Waldron chipped in a 26-yard field goal at 11:50 to give Tech a 3-0 lead.
After a rush for no gain on the first play of N.C. State’s second possession, Wilson then completed an eight-yard pass to Darrell Davis near the sideline. As Davis turned up the field, Grimm was there to meet him and forced his second fumble, which Tech cornerback Stephan Virgil promptly scooped up at the 25. Six plays later, Williams hammered it home from four yards out and Waldron converted the extra point to give the Hokies a 10-0 advantage.
Grimm forced yet another fumble on N.C. State’s first play of the ensuing possession when he hit tailback Toney Baker on a 2-yard reception, but the Wolfpack recovered and embarked on a lengthy drive to get on the scoreboard. Ten plays, 81 yards and 5:28 after the fumble, Wilson found a wide-open Owen Spencer for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 2:20 remaining in the first quarter. Josh Czajkowski’s PAT cut Tech’s lead to 10-7.
The third forced fumble by Grimm – in just four defensive plays, no less – tied an NCAA record for most forced fumbles in a game that is shared by seven others in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I’d say it was just a case of getting kind of lucky,” Grimm said of his big day. “On the first one, I was coming on a blitz and they ran a quick route, so the quarterback was kind of sitting right in front of me. On the other two, my hand just happened to get on the ball and I just had a little bit of luck, but I’ll take it.”
“He’s amazing to me,” Beamer said of Grimm. “That guy is also on kickoff coverage and he’s never once come to me and asked for a rest. After he does all those things, I never see him get tired. He just keeps going the same speed all the time. He’s a playmaker. The game just makes sense to him and he has a knack for making plays.”
The Hokies were once again granted with great field position on their third possession, but this time it was thanks to a David Wilson 40-yard kickoff return to the N.C. State 49. A 10-yard run by Williams, two completions by quarterback Tyrod Taylor and a pass interference call on the Wolfpack got Tech down the 2-yard line. Williams, who broke the ACC and Virginia Tech single-season freshman rushing records in the game, followed with a pair of 1-yard runs that put him in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Waldron’s PAT at 14:42 of the second quarter gave the Hokies a 17-7 lead.
The Wolfpack eventually forced a fumble of their own, when C.J. Wilson knocked the ball loose from Williams at the N.C. State34-yard line later in the period. Though the Tech defense conceded a 48-yard completion from Wilson to Spencer, it forced the Wolfpack into a 45-yard field goal by Czajkowksi with 5:31 left in the first half to minimize the damage and maintain a 17-10 lead.
Williams made up for the fumble on Tech’s next drive, scoring his third touchdown of the half to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive that was fueled by a 42-yard hookup between Taylor and wideout Jarrett Boykin, as well as two pass interference calls on N.C. State. Waldron’s PAT with 37 seconds left gave the Hokies a 24-10 halftime lead.
Tech pushed the lead to 31-10 on its first possession of the second half, using just five plays. The final play was a record-tying one, as Williams took the handoff from the Wolfpack 19 and dragged a defender nearly 12 yards into the end zone for his fourth score of the day, matching Tommy Edwards’ Tech rookie mark from 1993. Williams now has 16 total touchdowns on the year, also a Tech and ACC freshman record. It equals the 16 scores by North Carolina’s Leon Johnson in 1993. Waldron’s PAT at 12:25 gave the Hokies a 31-10 lead.
The Hokies had one more score up their sleeves. Two possessions later, Tech produced its longest drive of the season, a 97-yard march that ended with a diving, 38-yard touchdown reception by Boykin from Taylor. Boykin had a 35-yard catch earlier in the drive and finished the game with six grabs for a career-high 164 yards.
“I was just focusing on making plays today,” Boykin said. “Whenever Tyrod throws it up and the ball is in the air, I just try my best to go up and come down with it so he can have confidence in me. That’s the way the day went, and I just went along with it and just kept making plays.”
Waldron’s PAT with 1:42 left in the third quarter spotted the Hokies with a 38-10 lead, which would prove to be the final score.
In addition to Grimm’s three forced fumbles (two of which were recovered by Tech), the Hokies’ defense produced two other turnovers on the day. Virgil forced a fumble of Jarvis Williams that safety Davon Morgan recovered in the third quarter, while Kam Chancellor picked off a Wilson pass in the fourth quarter, his second interception of the season and the sixth of his career.
Linebacker Barquell Rivers led the Hokies with nine tackles and three quarterback hurries, while Grimm added eight stops, including two sacks. Morgan and cornerback Rashad Carmichael contributed six tackles apiece.
The Hokies will conclude the regular season next Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. road game at in-state rival Virginia that will be televised by ESPN.
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