Hokies take care of mistake-prone Cavs
All week long, the chatter about Virginia being on the rise left out an important fact in the mind of Virginia Tech’s players: They were still the best in the commonwealth until proven otherwise.
The No. 6 Hokies showed they were tops Saturday night, blanking the No. 24 Cavaliers 38-0, their first shutout loss at home in 172 games – since a 55-0 defeat to Clemson on Sept. 8, 1984.
”The guys definitely took it as a slap in the face. It’s kind of been our way, the rivalry, for the past couple years and nobody was talking about us,” Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas said after throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. ”They were all talking about Virginia and how good Virginia was going to play against us and how they were going to do.”
David Wilson added two second-half touchdown runs for the Hokies, who led 14-0 at the break and drove 79 yards with the opening series of the third quarter, and then let their defense do the rest.
Virginia, which came in averaging better than 177 rushing yards, finished with 30 on 26 carries. They had just 241 yards overall, and quarterback Michael Rocco was sacked four times and intercepted twice.
”I felt like we didn’t receive any respect in our home state after all we’ve done, and we went out there and made a statement,” defensive end James Gayle said after registering two of the sacks.
”We weren’t getting respect, so we went out there and took it.”
And the Hokies (11-1, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) earned the league’s Coastal Division title and a rematch with No. 18 Clemson in next weekend’s ACC championship game in Charlotte. They suffered their only loss, 23-3 against the Tigers on Oct. 1, and were eager for a rematch.
”Everybody wants it,” Thomas said. ”We know that we didn’t play our best ball that day.”
Nope, they saved that for their state rivals, and beat them for the eighth time in a row and 12th time in the last 13 meetings. They will be seeking their fourth league championship in five years.
Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid likes their chances. He prepared all week to try and stop Thomas and Wilson in the running game, and said film didn’t do them justice.
”When you see those two characters up front, let me tell you, David Wilson is excellent on tape, but he is really dynamic and magnificent in person,” Reid said, adding that when he saw Wilson running by him on the sidelines, the only thing he could think to say was ”Whoa!”
The Cavaliers (8-4, 5-3) had won four straight and seemed ready to finally challenge their state rival, but without a running game, Rocco was under steady pressure. He also fumbled on a sack.
”We just couldn’t finish,” he said. ”We got down to the red zone a bunch of times, but it was just little things. Either we had a penalty or a dropped ball or a bad pass – we didn’t finish. We talk about being finishers all year and didn’t finish in the red zone today. It hurts. It doesn’t feel good.”
The tone was set very early.
Thomas hit Marcus Davis for 36 yards on the Hokies’ first play from scrimmage, and Wilson broke off a 17-yard run on the next play. A 5-yard run by Wilson and 15-yard facemasking penalty on Chase Minnifield moved the Hokies to Virginia’s 14, and Thomas ran it in from there.
It was his 10th rushing touchdown, a regular-season record for a quarterback in the 25 years Frank Beamer has been the coach, and Beamer once had Michael Vick as his QB.
Virginia tried to answer, driving to the Hokies’ 6, but on fourth-and-2, the Cavaliers elected to go for it, and Kevin Parks was tripped up by Jack Tyler after gaining only a yard.
”We made a stop right there, made a statement right there,” Beamer said.
The Cavaliers were trying to do the same thing, second-year coach Mike London said.
”It was the opportunity to send a message to our guys up front that if you’re going to win championships, if you’re going to win games, you’ve got to be able to knock people off the ball and gain a yard, particularly when you’re favored in run-play,” London said. ”They did a good job of defending it, and we didn’t get it. It set the tone for them to go the other way.”
Virginia had no answer for Thomas early or Wilson late, and when the Hokies drove 79 yards for a touchdown to open the third quarter, extending their lead to 21-0, the largest crowd of the season at Scott Stadium (61,124) grew quiet – except for the Hokies fans.
Wilson capped the drive with a 27-yard burst off the left side. He added a 38-yard run up the middle for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and fans headed for the exits.
”It was visible on the field and you could see it in the stands” that the Cavaliers were deflated, Wilson said. ”When we first came out for warmups, we couldn’t get (the fans) to shut up.”
Wilson finished with 153 yards on 24 carries and tied the ACC record with his 10th 100-yard game of the season. Thomas was 13 for 21 for 187 yards and ran for 27 yards on seven tries.
Following an exchange of punts, which found the Hokies starting at their own 4, Thomas twice converted third down plays with first-down runs, then hit Davis again, this time for 52 yards.
On third-and-8 from the Virginia 16, he hit Jarrett Boykin over the middle for the TD.
Minnifield, one of 31 fourth- or fifth-year players honored by Virginia before the game, had three 15-yard penalties in the first half, but one was waved off because Davis beat him for the 36-yard catch, and another on a deep ball was negated by a holding call against the Hokies.
J.R. Collins’ interception of Rocco and return to the Cavaliers’ 6 set up the last touchdown, Thomas’ 7-yard pass to Davis. He finished with five catches for 119 yards.