By Bill Roth
As part of the current American nomenclature, we throw the word “great” around as the all-in-one adjective to describe anything we like.
“He’s a great guy.”
“That was a great game.”
“The service at Hardee’s was great!”
With no offense to the ageless Tony the Tiger, who’s been pitching the quality of Frosted Flakes for a half century (“They’re Grrrrreat,” as you know), true greatness, in reality, should be hard to find. It should be uncommon and rare.
So when you read that Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams is having the greatest freshman season in the history of Virginia Tech football and the greatest freshman year in the history of the ACC, understand that in this instance, the word is used in its intended form.
He hasn’t had just a good season. Or just an incredible season.
Ryan Williams is putting together an extraordinarily special and unique rookie season for the 2009 Virginia Tech Hokies.
He’s been great.
Williams has rushed for 1,538 yards, which is the all-time ACC and Virginia Tech freshman record. He’s scored 20 touchdowns (19 rushing), which is also the all-time ACC and Virginia Tech freshman record. He’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry and an ACC-best 128.2 yards per game.
Only three freshmen have ever led the ACC in rushing, the last being Terry Allen of Clemson 22 years ago. And no freshman has ever led the league in both rushing and scoring. Williams tops the charts in both departments as of the end of the regular season.
Entering Virginia Tech’s bowl game, Williams needs 110 yards to break Kevin Jones’ school record for yards in a season (1,647 set in 2003), but keep in mind that year was KJ’s third year in the program when he posted those numbers on 281 rushing attempts. Williams has carried the ball 268 times so far this season.
“He’s been amazing,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “He has a way of making plays, of keeping his balance. He runs hard with lots of power.”
“Special,” is the word his head coach, Frank Beamer, uses.
“He’s a humble guy who cares about his teammates and cares about this team, but when he gets the football, whooh,” Beamer said.
As this season has gone along, Williams has shown more of his skills, like the balance he displayed after getting spun around by a Maryland defender. Williams was able to keep his feet and ran for another 15 yards.
Against N.C. State, he proved his ability to run between the tackles for a hard-earned 120 yards and four touchdowns, the most memorable of which was when he dragged defender Earl Wolfe down the sideline 12 yards on a 19-yard touchdown run.
And in the regular-season finale at Virginia, Williams zoomed for 183 yards and four touchdowns in the Hokies’ romp.
In the press box in Charlottesville, one observer, getting a first-time look at Williams, sounded as if he was instead at the Autobahn, critiquing a new 2010 Maserati. “He goes from zero to 60 in two seconds,” the observer said.
He has the speed, but what Williams is most proud of is his emerging toughness and his ability to get tough yards and grind it out between the tackles.
“That’s one of the real things I learned from Darren [Evans] last year,” Williams said. “And to run hard every play. I’m used to being able to juke my way through certain situations because that’s the way it was back in high school. We talked after the BC game last year and I saw bruises on his arm. He scored 60 touchdowns as a senior in high school, and now you’re here in college and not breaking all the plays as easily.
“He said the main thing you have realize is that you don’t break every play. Three or four yards don’t hurt. That’s what keeps the drives going. The defense isn’t going to allow 15- or 20- or 30-yarders. The 3- or 4-yarders are what help the team more. Darren told me that and I keep that in my head. Not breaking long ones isn’t as important as getting those three or four yards. Get the short chunks and then get the long one eventually.”
Evans, missing this season after tearing his the ACL in his knee in August, has proven to be a great role model for his teammates, especially Williams. And as of now, the two Hokies sit atop the all-time ACC list for rushing yards by a freshman.
“That is cool. Just to be able to share that title,” Williams said. “Darren is my big brother. I love him to death. I’m glad to be able to share that with him with what he’s going through this year. I’m excited for him to come back. I can’t wait for next year.”
What we’ve seen the past two years from Evans and Williams is truly remarkable. The production, the consistency, the unselfishness and the ability of each reflects not only on their individual talents, but also their mental maturity as well.
Greatness is thrown out there as hyperbole so frequently that we can get numb to its meaning. But clearly in the case of Ryan Williams, this freshman has had the greatest rookie season of any running back in school history. And with one more game, and more seasons to follow, you wonder how high he can climb up the charts.
But with one game left, Williams is going to leave his mark on the Tech and the ACC freshman rushing records with marks that figure to last quite a while.
He’s been that good this year.
Actually, he’s been great.
Defense in November has been stifling
How good was Virginia Tech’s defense during the Hokies’ four-game November winning streak? Well, in four games, the defense didn’t allow a single second-half point. Not one. Maryland did score a touchdown when it recovered a Tyrod Taylor fumble in the end zone at College Park, but Tech’s defense has been nearly perfect in the second half of its past four games.
By the numbers:
|Game||2nd half Pts Allowed||Total 2nd half yards allowed||3rd Down % in 2nd half|
In the past four games, the opposition had 25 possessions against the Hokies during the second half without scoring a single point. Clearly, Virginia and Maryland had offensive woes all season long, but East Carolina, which won the Conference USA East title, and N.C. State have been big scoring outfits, especially in November. To play four games and not allow even a field goal in the second half speaks volumes about Tech’s coaching staff and the conditioning of its players. Tech outscored its foes 54-6 in the second half of its four November games.
Receivers Stepping up
Danny Coale, who had a career game at Virginia, made several terrific catches, including a remarkable grab early in the fourth quarter following a Taylor scramble. Coale was able to leap and keep a foot inbounds along the Virginia sideline. Earlier, Coale had made several terrific grabs adjusting to the ball in flight.
Over the few weeks, we’ve seen Jarrett Boykin, Dyrell Roberts, and now, Coale make terrific plays catching the football. Through 12 games, the Hokies are averaging 17.2 yards per catch, which is their highest since 1999.
This is going to be an exciting week for Virginia Tech basketball with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, as well as a visit to Cassell Coliseum by the Georgia Bulldogs.
Tech’s men’s team faces the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road Tuesday night – 9:30 on ESPN2 and on ISP Sports Radio Affiliates – in what will mark the Hokies’ first visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hokies (4-1) chartered right to Iowa following their Saturday night win over Delaware in Philadelphia. Iowa (2-4) is struggling on offense, averaging just 59.7 points per game. In their last game, Iowa was just 3-for-20 from beyond the 3-point arc in a win over N.C. Central.
Tech’s women’s team faces Michigan on Thursday night inside Cassell on the women’s side of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Tech (4-2) has faced the Wolverines only once before in women’s hoops, losing 79-63 in December of 1996 in a game played in Honolulu. This will be Michigan’s first visit to Blacksburg. Remember to get your ‘Maroon Monsoon’ t-shirt for the game and wear it to both the Michigan game on Thursday and the men’s game against Georgia on Sunday.
The Hokies and Dawgs will meet for the seventh time in a series that dates back to 1963. Georgia leads the series 5-1, including last year’s 67-66 thriller decided at the buzzer in Athens. Sunday’s game tips at 3:30 following the women’s game with N.C. Central. You can see both games Sunday on Hokies All-Access. There is no live television coverage of either game.