From one of the biggest national television spotlights of the season to a game only available on the Internet. From a top 5 opponent to one that struggled to beat a lower-division team the week before.
Didn’t matter for Virginia Tech. After looking very non-BCS-like in the Kickoff Classic against Alabama, the No. 14 Hokies needed a feel-good, cathartic win, no matter what the setting. They got just that Saturday in a 52-10 victory over Marshall.
“We just needed to prove to ourselves that we can do it,” said tailback Ryan Williams, one of two Virginia Tech backs to rush for 160-plus yards, a first in modern Hokies history.
“Outside of football, we really don’t care about what anybody has to say about us, or what critics have to say, but we had to prove to ourselves that we can move the ball down the field, we can run the ball, we can pass the ball, we can block, we can pick up blitzes, all those things offensively.”
Williams ran for 164 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns. Fellow freshman David Wilson, performing mostly mop-up duty in the second half, actually outdid Williams by a yard, gaining 165 on 12 attempts. Virginia Tech (1-1) managed only 155 total yards a week ago, but that tally was topped before the end of the first quarter against the Thundering Herd (1-1).
“Coming off of last week and people asking, ‘Could we get back up?’ ‘How much is that going to hurt us?’ ‘Mentally, what did it do to us?”‘ coach Frank Beamer said. “I thought our kids and coaches went out there and gave them a response today.”
Marshall barely laid a hand on Williams during his 57-yard scamper up the middle in the first quarter. Williams added scoring runs of 4 and 28 yards in the second as the Hokies took a 35-7 halftime lead.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor took a bit longer to find some rhythm. He started 0 for 4 with an interception in the end zone, but began to use his scrambling ability to find receivers open downfield. He certainly has an arm: He threw off his back foot and back across the field to hit Dyrell Roberts in the end zone for a 21-yard score late in the first half.
“I saw him running in the back of the end zone with his hand up,” Taylor said. “And he’s been talking to me since preseason, ‘If you see me in the end zone, throw me the ball and I’m going to make the play.’ He made a great catch.”
Taylor finished 9 for 16 for 161 yards and two touchdowns and was done for the day late in the third quarter. He also ran seven times for 58 yards, including a 46-yard run after a well-sold fake to Williams that fooled the entire Marshall defense. The Hokies gained 444 of their 605 yards on the ground.
And, of course, with Beamer as the coach, there was a special teams highlight. Jayron Hosley took a line-drive punt down the right side for a 64-yard touchdown return in the second quarter.
Marshall’s highlights came from two players who returned after serving one-game suspensions for drug arrests. Tailback Darius Marshall had a 61-yard touchdown run and finished with 109 yards rushing, and cornerback DeQuan Bembry had the diving interception in the end zone.
“They took us behind the woodshed and whipped us,” Marshall coach Mark Snyder said. “They were fired up and brought it – and brought it good.”
The Hokies sported an unusual look in their home opener – all-white uniforms and a throwback helmet with a white “V” below a red “T.” The helmet paid tribute to Frank Loria, a Hokies safety in the 1960s who later became an assistant coach with the Thundering Herd and died in the 1970 Marhsall plane crash.
Virginia Tech’s white uniforms caused another unusual sight. Marshall, according to school officials, wore all-green on the road for what was believed to be the first time in modern school history.
Virginia Tech ran its home nonconference winning streak to 31. It gets a tougher test next week when the Hokies get a visit from No. 22 Nebraska.
On Saturday, however, it just felt good to bounce back.
“I think we really needed this,” Beamer said. “I know we needed this.”