No. 6 Va. Tech rushes past Duke
Taylor threw for a career-high 327 yards with two long touchdown passes to help the sometimes-sloppy Hokies dodge a letdown and beat Duke 34-26 Saturday.
Taylor was 17 for 22 with TD tosses of 36 yards to Danny Coale and 28 yards to Jarrett Boykin, and Josh Oglesby had two late touchdown runs once the rushing game opened up for Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
"I know we have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball," Taylor said. "It's just my job to get the ball to them."
Playing one week after dominating then-No. 9 Miami, the Hokies were nowhere near that crisp this time. But they were good enough to claim their ninth straight victory against Duke.
"I don't think that's the old Duke football team," Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
Thaddeus Lewis was 22 for 40 for 359 yards with two touchdown passes, including a 4-yarder to Austin Kelly with 25 seconds left. But Lewis said the pesky Blue Devils (2-3, 0-1) too often settled for field goals, with Will Snyderline kicking four, including a 43-yarder that pulled the Blue Devils to 27-19 with 7 minutes left.
"We needed to get seven points, and we didn't do that," Lewis said. "But three points is better than no points."
The Blue Devils, 17-point underdogs, kept this one tight throughout, but were denied their first win over a top-10 opponent in two decades. Before last year's 14-3 loss in Blacksburg, Duke hadn't come within 24 points of the Hokies since they joined the ACC in 2004.
"We got close enough in the fourth quarter to go beat a great team," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "Once you taste that, you like it. I wouldn't say we spit it out - it wasn't a choke - but we just didn't finish."
Indeed, Tech spent much of this one looking ripe for an upset after routing the Hurricanes 31-7 to vault back into the top 10. By halftime, the Hokies had matched their season highs with seven penalties for 55 yards, and they finished with 12 flags for 105 yards.
"Too many penalties and too many long plays," Beamer said. "We weren't as sharp as we would like, but I don't think it was lack of effort. Part of it was Duke, and part of it was us. ... Sometimes I think you've just got to win some games that's not real pretty on the road, and this is probably one of those."
Ryan Williams, the nation's No. 6 rusher, was held to 83 yards on the ground, 40 fewer than his average. But he had 41 yards and a pair of third-down conversions during the drive that ended when Oglesby's 12-yard touchdown run made it 27-16 with 9 1/2 minutes left. Oglesby added a 19-yard score 7 minutes later that made it 34-19.
For much of the way, Duke keyed on stopping the ground game, and Taylor took advantage.
"When we needed to run the football, and we did, and got points, that was critical to this ball game," Beamer said. "They were going to take the run away, so you've got to be able to throw the ball."
Taylor led the Hokies to 17 points in a 9-minute stretch of the first half, then made just enough plays down the stretch to preserve their early lead. He directed three straight scoring drives to help the Hokies rally from an early 7-0 deficit, countering Duke's first touchdown pass with his touchdown to Coale.
Then, one series after Matt Waldron's 40-yard field goal put Tech ahead to stay, Taylor put the Hokies up 17-7 with his scoring pass to Boykin - who wrestled Duke's Leon Wright for the ball and came down with it near the sideline in the end zone.
Later, Taylor connected with Boykin for 64 yards on third-and-34 to keep alive a drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal by Waldron to put Tech up 20-13.
"He told me, 'Just get the ball down the field, and if the guy makes an interception, you tell your wide receiver to make the tackle,"' Taylor said. "Jarrett kept the play alive, he went down there and I found him down the field and he made a great catch."
Taylor went on to surpass his previous best of 287 yards set two years ago in his first college start against Ohio.
Duke's only lead came late in the first quarter when Lewis faked a handoff and hit wide-open Brandon King in stride down the left side for a 48-yard score. Snyderwine added field goals of 29, 25 and 47 yards for Duke.