September 21, 2013
Blocked kicks key in Hokies overtime victory
By Marc Mullen

BLACKSBURG – It seemed that every other game during the 2012 Virginia Tech football season went into overtime or came down to the final play of the game, and that was actually true for four of the Hokies’ six wins last year, with three going into the extra session.

Thanks in part to ‘Beamer Ball,’ the Hokies secured their second win of the year in the game’s waning moments, as Tech defeated Marshall 29-21 on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium in the game’s third overtime.

“We came after them quite a bit, and we got one kick and we almost got another one, and then I thought we had a great return on that one punt,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “Then we block a field goal, and it was good to get back to doing some things that we’ve done for a long time that win ball games.

“Blocking that field goal … then we got a touchdown off a blocked kick, so it’s coming together. It’s slow, but we’re getting prettier all the time.”

The tally sheet for touchdowns by the defense and special teams increased to 133 – since Beamer has been the head coach – in the first quarter. Kyle Fuller blocked Tyler Williams’ punt on Marshall’s opening drive, and Derek DiNardo picked up the ball at the 11-yard line and ran it into the end zone for the first touchdown scored by the redshirt junior in his Tech career.

It was the 50th special teams touchdown under Beamer and the 18th blocked punt returned for a touchdown.

“I had a feeling Kyle was going to block it before they even snapped the ball because they rotated a guy to the other side, which made it an even tighter edge with only two guys over there [on Kyle’s side] rather than three,” DiNardo said. “So when he came off the edge and when I saw the personal protector block down, I knew Kyle was going to block it. I just scooted right in on the punter, and I saw [the ball] bouncing.

“I just scooped it up, and it was like a dream. I was on cloud nine. It was just weird. So then I just turned and celebrated with everyone. It was crazy.”

Trailing 21-14 at the half, Tech’s special teams appeared to set up the offense for a great scoring chance early in the third quarter when Kyshoen Jarrett returned the ball deep into Marshall territory. However a block-in-the-back call brought the return back and still baffled many afterward.

“Did you all see the block?” Beamer asked media members after the game. “They said it was No. 22, but we didn’t have a 22 in the ballgame, so I couldn’t figure it out.”

“I’m not really even sure who they called it on,” said DiNardo, who wears No. 41. “I was down there and made the block that kind of got him going, and I kind of hip-checked the guy and put my hands up. They teach us that, if it’s going to be questionable, kind of just give them a butt-block and they [the officials] won’t call it.

“So I’m not quite sure if they called it on me, but I don’t think my number should have been called.”

It will be discussed that special teams could have doomed the Hokies in this game, as backup field-goal kicker Ethan Keyserling, subbing for a suspended Cody Journell, missed on all three of his attempts in the game, though his first attempt hit the left upright and his second was from 50 yards. However, he made the most important kick when it truly mattered – an extra point – with 3:09 left in the contest.

After the offense marched 83 yards to tie the game on a Logan Thomas touchdown toss to Willie Byrn on fourth-and-goal from the 2, Keyserling calmly added the PAT to tie the game at 21-21, all but sending the game into overtime.

“He’s been around a long time, and he’s a good kicker and was put into a tough situation today with the weather, and some critical kicks, but he’s a good kicker,” Beamer said of Keyserling.

“We wanted to focus a little bit more and do our job and make sure we didn’t put anybody in a tough situation,” Thomas said. “Even though we did today, I thought that Ethan did a good job for the most part. This was his first time, but the more he does it and the better he’ll be. I’m just thankful we got this win.”

It hasn’t happened often, but for the eighth time under Beamer – and the first time since 2006 against Northeastern – the Hokies blocked both a punt and field-goal attempt in the same game. The field-goal attempt occurred on the final play of the first overtime.

Derrick Hopkins was credited with the deflection of Justin Haig’s 39-yard attempt to keep Marshall off the board after Tech failed to score on its first possession.

Hopkins would then provide – arguably – the most entertaining play of the game on a third-and-13 for Marshall in the second overtime when he picked up a fumble by Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato and rumbled 40 yards to the Marshall 19, almost ending the game with a defensive touchdown.

“When I saw Hop going down the field, I was excited,” Collins said. “I was hoping he would put the game away, but he wasn’t able to.”

“That would have made my week,” offensive lineman Andrew Miller said when asked about Hopkins scoring a touchdown.

It would be a short week, though, as the Hokies now need to turn their attention to Georgia Tech, their ACC opener, this upcoming Thursday night in Atlanta.

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

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