ACC: Huskers-Hokies 091909

Hokies get just enough against Huskers

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
9:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Every Tuesday, Virginia Tech goes through a drill called “deep balls,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like – quarterback Tyrod Taylor practices throwing the ball deep. And at least twice a week, he practices scrambling drills, trying to establish some organized chaos.

AP Photo/Steve Helber
Dyrell Roberts hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor.
If practice doesn’t make perfect, it sure goes a long way in winning football games.

Taylor’s 81-yard pass to Danny Coale with about a minute remaining set up the game-winning touchdown pass to lead the Hokies to a 16-15 come-from-behind win over Nebraska. It was the longest pass completion since Bryan Randall threw a pair of 87-yard receptions against Syracuse in 2002.

And then came the scramble. Taylor took the shotgun snap and scrambled for just over nine seconds -- nine seconds -- before releasing the ball for an 11-yard game-winning touchdown to Dyrell Roberts.

“He fired that one,” Roberts said. “He put something on that one. That’s one of the fastest balls Tyrod ever threw to me.”

After almost four quarters of nearly no offense, Virginia Tech put two game-changing plays together that will keep the Hokies among the nation’s top teams. After losing to Alabama in their season opener, Virginia Tech’s national title chances took a significant hit, but the Hokies haven’t given up on that goal, and they didn’t give up against Nebraska.

The last time Virginia Tech came from behind to win in the last minute was in 1999 when Shayne Graham kicked a 44-yard field goal as time expired to give the Hokies a 24-22 win at Morgantown, and coach Frank Beamer said this one was definitely comparable.

“It’s right up there,” Beamer said, “I promise you that.”

This team is reminiscent of last year’s scrappy ACC championship team in that it appears to be doing just enough to win and improving every week. After racking up 444 yards on the ground last week against Marshall, the Hokies got away from their strength in the running game against Nebraska and seem to have limited Taylor’s called run plays this season for fear of getting him hurt. His feet, though, can still win them games by keeping plays alive.

The difference on Saturday, though, was that Taylor won that game with both his feet and his arm. Taylor finished with 192 yards and one touchdown on 12 of 27 pass completions.

“There’s always a chance if you’ve got Tyrod,” Beamer said. “… The bottom line is we don’t win this ball game if we don’t have a quarterback that’s athletic as Tyrod is and can throw the football down the field the way he threw it. … We don’t with without Tyrod.”

It was a significant win to build upon, as Virginia Tech will host Miami on Saturday in a game that will help determine who the best team is in the Coastal Division.

“We’ve played an exhibition season now,” Beamer said. “We’ve had three nonconference games. Now it’s serious time.”

Those within the program know there’s still work to do. Virginia Tech had just 86 yards rushing, and Taylor was sacked four times.

“We had a rough day, but I believe the offense played well down the stretch,” Taylor said. “It builds confidence for me of course and for the offense. We played good down the stretch, completed some passes and protected well. We just have to build off of that, watch film and get better for next week.”

Nebraska's comeback delayed by Hokies

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
8:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- With one play, Nebraska’s chance at a statement road win against a ranked opponent was wiped out, and so was any heart its defense had left. Several Huskers dropped to the field in sheer disbelief after Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed an improbable 81-yard pass to Danny Coale that set up the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute left in the game.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Tyrod Taylor’s back-breaking pass late in the game crushed Nebraska.

The play changed the game, and the timetable for which Nebraska will make its comeback on the national stage ... not today.

For the majority of the game, it looked like Nebraska would get a statement road win against No. 14-ranked Virginia Tech. It even felt like the Huskers should’ve been leading by a touchdown or two, but they couldn’t cross the goal line and depended solely on five field goals in a 16-15 loss to Virginia Tech.

“We all take responsibility for not finishing the deal,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “You have to finish the job and we didn’t do that. Each and every guy that walked on the field had a hand in us not winning the football game. Coaches included. They made the plays. We didn’t. Pretty simple. In a game like that, you’ve got to make a play.”

Instead, Virginia Tech made two. The 81-yard pass led to Dyrell Roberts' 11-yard touchdown reception with 21 seconds left on the clock.

Nebraska, in its second season under Pelini, came into this game with the hopes of knocking off its first ranked opponent under Pelini and trying to stop an 11-game losing streak against teams ranked 20th or higher. The Cornhuskers got an all-star performance from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had four pass breakups -- a record for defensive linemen. Quarterback Zac Lee played a respectable game, showed he can make plays with his feet, and running back Roy Helu Jr. almost single-handedly racked up as much total yardage (202) as the Hokies entire offense (278).

But it was all overshadowed by the final score, and at a storied program such as Nebraska, that’s the only thing that matters.

Final: Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
6:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech can exhale. The No. 14-ranked Hokies, with the help of a miraculous 80-yard pass to Danny Coale with just over one minute left to play, changed the entire game in an instant and overcame about 58 minutes of an unproductive offense to come-from-behind and beat the Huskers 16-15.

Tyrod Taylor scrambled. And he scrambled. And it seemed as if time stood still for him, setting up an 11-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts. It was a five-play, 88-yard drive.

It wasn't pretty, but Virginia Tech came up with the big plays when it needed it most.

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Virginia Tech's top playmakers quiet

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
6:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- I just had to ask Virginia Tech officials if Ryan Williams is hurt.

After all, he only carried the ball three times in the third quarter. You'd think he was doubled over on the sideline somewhere.

He's fine.

Virginia Tech's offense, however, is not.

Without Tyrod Taylor running the ball, and without Williams even getting a fighting chance, this offense goes nowhere. It's that simple. And that's exactly where it's gone in this game.

Nebraska hurting itself, VT just hurting

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
6:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Nebraska should be up by two or three touchdowns by now. Let's go ahead and say three. Instead, the Hokies are lucky they're only trailing 12-10. Nebraska's last possession summed up its inability to cross the goal line. The Huskers got as close as the 6-yard line, but two holding calls and two false starts pushed them back to the 37 and they wound up with zero points to show for an otherwise impressive drive.

Virginia Tech on the other hand, had one yard of offense in the third quarter. That's a top 15 team? What we saw against Marshall was no indication of how the Hokies will perform against ACC defense like North Carolina and Miami. If Virginia Tech performs like this next week, there's no question who will be leading the Coastal Division -- Miami.

Nebraska's Suh disrupting Hokies' offense

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
5:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is the real deal, just ask Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Suh has disrupted the passing game, he's manhandled Virginia Tech's offensive linemen, and he's a crowd favorite. Every time he makes a play (which has been a lot), the contingent of Nebraska fans here yells "Suuuuuhhh." Considering he's always disrupting Virginia Tech's offense on those plays, though, it's hard to tell if maybe it's not Virginia Tech fans saying "boooo."

Extra notes on Virginia Tech-Nebraska

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
5:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- A few additional notes:
  • Eddie Whitley earned his first collegiate start today in place of injured cornerback Stephan Virgil, who didn't dress for today's game. Fullback Kenny Jefferson also made his first collegiate start.
  • Long snapper Collin Carroll suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter and is doubtful to return. He has been replaced by senior walk-on Matt Tuttle.
  • Nebraska kicker Alex Henerey's four first-half field goals is closing in on a record. The Lane Stadium record for field goals in a game by an opponent is five by Rafael Garcia of Virginia in 1994. The stadium record is six.
  • If Virginia Tech allows Roy Helu Jr. to rush for 100 yards, it will mark the third-straight game the Hokies have allowed a 100-yard rusher. Virginia Tech hasn't done that since 2002.

Halftime: Nebraska 12, Virginia Tech 10

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
5:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Best player in the half: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He's all over the place, and he's almost single-handedly beating Virginia Tech's offensive line. It seems like he's in on every play. He's got four tackles and a half sack so far.

What team Virginia Tech needs to do: Continue to control the clock, get Ryan Williams the football, and stop giving up big plays on defense. They also need to let Tyrod Taylor run the ball. The coaches seem too afraid of him getting hurt. It's understandable, considering their inexperience at backup, but without Taylor's feet, the Hokies' offense struggles. So far they only have 72 rushing yards. Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. has more than that by himself (82).

What Nebraska needs to do: Seal the deal when in and around the red zone. The Huskers have scored on four straight possessions, but it's been all on field goals. They've been in the red zone three times -- all field goals.

Virginia Tech's defense not invincible

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
4:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The one area where Virginia Tech's defense is struggling is giving up the big plays, and it just resulted in Nebraska taking the 9-7 lead. Twice on the Huskers' last drive, the Hokies allowed Roy Helu Jr. 20-yard runs that put Nebraska in scoring position.

Nebraska's problem is its red zone offense. They can't punch it in. Zac Lee is doing a good job of scrambing just enough to keep the Hokies on their toes.

Virginia Tech controls clock, Nebraska

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
4:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech completely controlled the clock in the first quarter with a possession time of 11:44 to Nebraska's 3:16. Nebraska had zero yards of total offense on just six plays. The Hokies' defense is making life very difficult for Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee. It's still early, but if both of these teams keep this up, it's going to be a defensive game that could be decided by special teams. So far, that's what has Nebraska on the board, as the Huskers trail 7-6 in the second quarter with two field goals.

What goes around ...

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
4:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech got on the scoreboard early with good field position, but a 55-yard punt return by Niles Paul put Nebraska on the Hokies' 22-yard line with 2:25 left in the quarter. So far, it's been a game of defense and field position. The Hokies' defense didn't allow Nebraska any breathing room on its first possession, and forced the Huskers to settle for a field goal off a great return.

But as expected, the Huskers have settled down. (You'd think it would take at least a drive to get the jitters out if it it's your first time playing in Lane Stadium, and it did.) When Virginia Tech started on its own 20-yard line, it struggled to protect Tyrod Taylor and hurt itself with penalties.

Virginia Tech takes advantage of field position

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
3:48
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech's offense looks like worldbeaters when the Hokies have a 24-yard field to work with.

The Hokies capitalized on Dyrell Roberts' 76-yard kickoff return and took only seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on the Huskers.

Watching Ryan Williams in person is going to be fun. He's a tough runner and is going to be a great player for this program. He really muscled his way into the end zone. He plays with a lot of heart.

Virginia Tech-Nebraska lineup notes

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
2:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech tight end Greg Boone (SC joint sprain) is likely to start against Nebraska, while Stephan Virgil (knee) is still questionable. I just checked with a sports information director who said the staff wasn't even sure if Virgil would dress. They're going to try to get Boone in early, though, and see how he holds up.

The only possible lineup change for Nebraska is linebacker Phillip Dillard might start over Blake Lawrence at weakside linebacker. Dillard is a senior, and is a bit bulkier at 240 pounds to Lawrence's 225.

Virginia Tech or Nebraska: Who needs it more?

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
1:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Both Virginia Tech and Nebraska need wins today to reassert themselves on college football's national landscape. The Hokies have fallen out of the national title talk after losing to Alabama in their season opener, though they haven't lost sight of that goal, and Nebraska -- a storied program where a 9-3 season was grounds for dismissal -- is trying to get back to its glory days under Bo Pelini.

So who needs it more?

Nebraska is the team we know the least about right now. The Cornhuskers have looked good against overmatched opponents Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, but this will be their first true gauge as to how far they've come in just Pelini's second season. The Huskers were good enough to reel off four straight wins to finish the season last year, including a bowl win against Clemson, but they weren't good enough to beat the Hokies at home last September. And Nebraska, the program that has five national championships to its name, was 0-3 against ranked opponents last year. In fact, Nebraska hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2006. According to the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, No. 19 Nebraska is looking up at No. 13 Virginia Tech, and therefore they have more to prove. A win over the Hokies would mark the highest ranked team Nebraska has defeated away from home since a win over No. 6 Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. Frank Beamer says "Nebraska is back." Well, we'll see.

The Hokies, on the other hand, need this game to maintain and validate their status as a top-15 team. Alabama's defense is going to make a lot of offenses look subpar this fall, and the Hokies shouldrack up a lot of yards against an inferior opponent like Marshall. Nebraska is the most fitting opponent to reveal the true identity of Virginia Tech's offense. In addition to confirming Virginia Tech's status on the national level, it would also give the Hokies momentum and confidence heading into next weekend's key game against Miami.

Greetings from Blacksburg

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
12:26
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Hello from Lane Stadium, where it's much hotter than expected, and the Hokies are out in full force. I've only seen a handful of Nebraska fans, but they're an unusually nice group and were waving to Hokies who drove by.

We've got live coverage for you today on College Football Nation Live, so be sure to check it out. I'll be hanging around there, too. In the early games so far, it looks like Clemson has taken a 7-0 lead on Boston College. (C.J. Spiller returned a punt 77 yards.) I'll be giving updates and thoughts throughout the day as usual on all of today's ACC action. Let's kick it off!

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