BLACKSBURG – Tyrod Taylor played his usual efficient game in his final appearance at Lane Stadium, and Virginia Tech’s defense played one of its best games of the season, helping the Hokies roll past rival Virginia 37-7 in the regular-season finale played Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The victory – Tech’s seventh straight over the Cavaliers and the 11th in the past 12 meetings – capped an amazing regular-season run for the Hokies, who ripped off 10 straight wins after opening the season with losses to Boise State and James Madison. Tech, now 10-2, 8-0 in the ACC, has won 10 games in each of the past seven seasons – the only Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team to do so in that span.
Tech, ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and 16th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll heading into the game, also became the first ACC to finish with an unblemished league record since 1999 when Florida State went undefeated and won the national championship, beating a Michael Vick-led Tech team in the Sugar Bowl.
“We were at a point where we were just trying to win the next game,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said of his team’s starting the season 0-2. “But it makes a statement about these players and this coaching staff. We had good players. We just had two tough losses.
“Some teams would have taken it to the house. But this team didn’t. They supported each other. We have a tight-knit group here. So far, it’s been quite a year. The two losses make you appreciate these 10 wins even more. I’m proud of these guys.”
Taylor, the senior from Hampton, Va., completed 13-of-23 for 176 yards and a touchdown. He became Tech’s all-time passing yardage leader (6,532 yards), surpassing Bryan Randall (6,508 yards from 2001-04) and Taylor needs just three touchdown passes in the Hokies’ final two games to set the single-season mark for touchdown passes (Maurice DeShazo, 22 in 1993).
Taylor, who has 20 touchdown passes and just four interceptions on the season, was taken out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and received a standing ovation from the Tech faithful.
“That’s the last time I’ll hear that in Lane,” Taylor said. “That’s what was going through my head at the time.”
Tech’s defense, which had struggled against the run this season, held the Cavaliers to just 70 yards on the ground, including just 29 in the second half. The Cavaliers’ only points of the day came with three minutes left against Tech’s backups. The Hokies also sacked UVa quarterback Marc Verica four times and intercepted him once.
That interception – the second of safety Eddie Whitley’s career – got the Hokies going. On the first play of the second quarter, he picked off Verica’s pass at the UVa 24 and returned it 19 yards to the UVa 5. On the next play, Tech tailback Ryan Williams went up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown run, and Chris Hazley’s extra point gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead with 14:45 left in the first half.
“We knew he [Verica] was a good quarterback, but at the same time, he was a quarterback who tried to do too much,” Whitley said. “We were going to try and capitalize on whatever he tried to do, and that’s what we did.
“It was just the right coverage at the right time. I capitalized on the decision the quarterback made and made a play. There really wasn’t anything special to the whole thing. I made the play and got the ball back to the ‘O’ in good field position so that we could score.”
Tech added to that lead on its next possession. UVa elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the UVa 45, and punter Jimmy Howell threw a pass to Colter Phillips on a fake punt. But Tech’s Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow stopped Phillips for a 1-yard gain, giving the Hokies the ball at the UVa 45.
Three plays later, Tech scored when Taylor hit David Wilson in the flat and Wilson did the rest, scoring on a 20-yard pass play. Hazley’s extra point gave Tech a 14-0 lead with 10:33 left in the half.
“We had seen on film that they like to do the rugby-style kick and run a potential fake off that play,” Bruce Taylor said. “If it looks open, they just dump it off. I knew it was fourth-and-short, so I just tried to run through him [Phillips] and made a good play.”
The Hokies scored right before halftime, taking a 17-0 lead on Hazley’s 40-yard field goal with 22 seconds left. Hazley, who has made 19 straight, has made all six of his attempts this season from 40 yards and beyond.
Tech dominated the second half, scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions of the half to put the game away. On the Hokies’ first possession of the second half, they drove 53 yards in just six plays, and again, Williams finished the drive. He scored on a 15-yard run with 11:24 left in the third that gave Tech a 24-0 lead.
On their second possession of the second half, the Hokies marched 88 yards in 11 plays. Darren Evans finished this drive, scoring on a 6-yard run with 3:51 left in the third quarter to give Tech a 31-point bulge.
Tech’s final score came on Wilson’s 5-yard run with under five minutes remaining. Wilson led the Hokies with 83 yards on 13 carries and he also caught three passes for 65 yards.
As a team, the Hokies rushed for 201 yards and finished with 383 yards of total offense.
Virginia (4-8, 1-7), which has lost 13 straight games in the month of November, finished with 291 total yards. Verica completed 12-of-20 for 168 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Hokies now gear up for the ACC championship game next Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Kickoff for the game is slated for 7:45 p.m.
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