Massive expectations at the start. Ailing by mid-September.
Flying again for a championship run.
Such is the story of Virginia Tech’s season.
So, too, is the story of Hokies running back Ryan Williams.
When Virginia Tech clinched another trip to the Atlantic Coast
Conference championship game by beating Miami 31-17 on Saturday,
Williams was one of many heroes. His 84-yard touchdown run – the
longest carry of his career – put No. 13 Virginia Tech ahead to
stay early in the fourth quarter, as he finished with 142 yards on
a mere 14 carries.
That hamstring he tore in Week 3? Not a problem anymore.
”I hate doubting myself, but I’m very confident in myself,”
Williams said. ”There were so many times at night, I just couldn’t
sleep, just thinking about, ‘Will I be able to contribute like I
used to? Am I still the same guy?’ A lot of nights, I’d kick that
around in my head.”
To get past that, Williams spent hours starting at old game
That’s right: Williams would looking up old highlight-reel
moments of his freshman season, as if needing to remind himself
that he really was one of the top runners in the nation.
The next time he goes to YouTube, he might want to check out the
simple up-the-middle play that he turned into a touchdown that
wrapped up the division title. He ran past the Miami defense and
may as well have kept going all the way to Charlotte, N.C., where
the Hokies will play Florida State or North Carolina State on Dec.
4 with a trip to the Orange Bowl at stake.
”Nobody’s going to catch him,” Virginia Tech coach Frank
Beamer said. ”That was a big run, right there.”
Beamer was beaming afterward, with good reason. A loss to Boise
State to begin the season was one thing, but losing at home five
days later to James Madison was a downright embarrassment to the
Hokies, who went on a freefall from No. 10 to out of the rankings
entirely – not getting one single vote – in the span of a week.
Now, they’re in position to become the ACC’s first undefeated
champion since 2000, and reach a Bowl Championship Series game for
the fourth time in the last seven seasons.
Virginia Tech closes regular-season play against rival Virginia
on Saturday, a game that the Hokies say they’ll be locked-in upon
even with a trip to the conference title game looming.
”I think it’s a relief knowing we’re going to go to Charlotte
and bring a bunch of people to Charlotte and see if we can’t sell
that thing out like the ACC championship game should be sold-out,”
Beamer said. ”But I think you can’t be content. I think you when
you start feeling satisfied, I think you’re probably in trouble,
and we’ve got a big, big game next week.
”To me, you don’t dare let momentum get away from you.”
That’s a lesson Williams learned the hard way this season.
It got off to a fine start, with two touchdowns against Boise
State and then 91 yards in the James Madison upset. But he limped
off after just six carries against East Carolina, didn’t play for
more than a month, and once he returned couldn’t manage much more
than a 9-yard carry until ripping off a 31-yarder last week against
And against Miami, he did a little bit better.
A whole lot better.
”I translated what I saw from my eyes to my feet, and I just
ran to daylight,” Williams said. ”I was just hoping and praying I
didn’t get caught.”
The Hurricanes have been one of major college football’s very
best against the pass, but they came into this weekend ranked No.
77 nationally against the run.
Williams was more than happy to find the holes. He hit Miami for
150 yards and two scores in 2009, then added 142 yards and two more
TDs this season in his matchup with the Hurricanes.
So he can stop wondering if he’ll contribute ever again for the
Hokies. Not only did he run away from Miami, he ran away from doubt
”It just felt good to be out there playing again and not
worried about what’s going on,” Williams said. ”I still wrap it,
just in case. But you know, I haven’t felt it. And it feels