MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Ryan Williams’ long touchdown run broke a 17-17 tie and Jayron Hosley’s interception set up a game-sealing score to help No. 14 Virginia Tech clinch the ACC’s Coastal Division with a 31-17 victory over No. 24 Miami at Sun Life Stadium.
The win – Tech’s ninth straight after opening the season with two losses – assures the Hokies of a spot in the ACC championship game to be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 4. Tech, which moved to 9-2 overall, 7-0 in ACC play, needs only a victory over Virginia in the season finale to become the first ACC team to go undefeated in league play since the ACC expanded to 12 teams.
“I’m really proud of our football team,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “There’s something special about this group. Early in the ball game, Rashad Carmichael (ankle) goes down and Marcus Davis (concussion) goes down … but we hung in there and battled and came up with some plays against a good football team. They got after us and they’re hard to block. They broke a couple of runs on us.
“To come down here and win when things didn’t look great … I think this is just a special group. They work hard and they support each other. It’s really a neat feeling to be the head coach of a crowd like this.”
With the game tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter, Williams made arguably his biggest play of the season. He took a handoff from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, went up the middle and then broke left, sprinting 84 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. Chris Hazley’s extra point gave Tech a 24-17 lead with 13:24 remaining in the game.
The Hokies then managed to put the game away seven minutes later. Hosley, who was moved to boundary corner after Carmichael injured his ankle on the first possession of the game, picked off a pass by Miami’s Stephen Morris and returned it 32 yards to the Miami 25.
“It was a route they had run on me earlier in the game,” said Hosley, who leads the nation in interceptions with eight and needs just one more to tie the Tech single-season record (Ron Davidson, 1967). “Moving from field corner to boundary corner, it’s a little different. They caught that pass on me earlier in the game, and I told myself I wasn’t going to let them catch it two times. So I backed off and then jumped the route.”
Hosley’s interception set up Taylor’s terrific 18-yard touchdown run just minutes later. Taylor made a nice move on a Miami linebacker, cutting inside and then dragging another defender into the end zone. Hazley’s extra point gave the Hokies a 31-17 lead with 6:25 left.
“It was a called draw,” Taylor said. “If they blitzed, we had a bubble route called, but they didn’t bring the blitz. I tried to hide behind the linemen as long as I could, and then I had a chance to make a person miss. I just got in the end zone. It was willpower at the end.”
Miami’s next two drives ended in interceptions, as Tech picked of Morris three times on the day, one each by Hosley, Davon Morgan and Tariq Edwards, the first of his career. The Hokies were out-gained badly in this one, 464-369. But the defense forced six turnovers – four of which came in Tech territory, including the three interceptions of Morris.
Williams, who missed four games earlier this season with a hamstring injury, paced Tech’s offense, topping the 100-yard plateau for the first time this season. He finished with 142 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. His 84-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Tech player in an ACC game and the fifth-longest run in school history. He also scored Tech’s first touchdown of the game, a 14-yarder in the first half.
“Losing the first two games and then missing the next five weeks, that was messing with my mind,” Williams said. “I hate doubting myself – I’m very confident in myself. But there were so many times when I couldn’t sleep, thinking, ‘Am I still the same guy?’
“A lot of nights, I’d try to kick that out of my head. I would go on YouTube and watch my highlights over and over again to remind myself of what I could do. I feel I’m back to myself now and it feels great, man. It feels great.”
Taylor, despite being sacked five times, completed 7-of-14 for 94 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown pass came in the third quarter, a 43-yards strike to Danny Coale that gave the Hokies a 17-10 lead.
Miami (7-4, 5-3 in the ACC) rushed for 262 yards against Tech’s defense, with tailback Lamar Miller leading the way. Miller rushed for 163 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown.
Morris completed 15-of-33 for 202 yards, with a touchdown and the three interceptions.
The Hokies now gear up for their season finale next Saturday. Tech will play in-state rival Virginia at Lane Stadium at a time to be announced on Sunday. The Hokies will be striving for a 10-win season for the seventh straight season.
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