NCF Nation: Hokies-Volunteers 123109

A quick look at Virginia Tech’s 37-14 victory over Tennessee on Thursday in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:

Ryan Williams
Dale Zanine/US PresswireVirginia Tech running back Ryan Williams rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee.
How the game was won: Virginia Tech dominated the second half, outscoring Tennessee 20-0 after halftime. The Vols couldn’t tackle Virginia Tech freshman running back Ryan Williams, who rolled up 79 yards in the third quarter alone before getting hurt. That’s after Tennessee held him to 38 yards on 17 carries in the first half. The Vols generally unraveled in the second half, and no play defined that any more than a wide-open Denarius Moore dropping a sure touchdown pass on a deep ball with just under 13 minutes to play in the game.

Turning point: Virginia Tech broke a 14-14 tie just before halftime with a Matt Waldron 21-yard field goal as time expired. It looked like the Vols would go into halftime with all the momentum after fighting back from a 14-0 deficit. But with 18 seconds to play in the first half, Tyrod Taylor uncorked a 63-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin down to the Tennessee 4. The game clock ran out on the field, but the play was reviewed, and the officials ruled that Virginia Tech called timeout with two seconds remaining. That left enough time for Waldron to kick the field goal and steal the momentum away from the Vols.

Stat of the game: The Hokies rushed for 230 yards, which was the third time in the past five games that the Vols have given up at least 200 yards on the ground.

Unsung hero: Even though he had the early interception, Tennessee senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton came back and played courageously the rest of the way in his final game.

What it means: The Vols (7-6) were looking to put an exclamation mark on their first season under Lane Kiffin. Instead, they put more of a question mark on a season that was highlighted by quality losses and moral victories. Tennessee played respectably in hard-fought losses to Alabama and Florida, improved significantly on offense after a dismal 2008 season and had a defensive stretch during the middle of the season when it played as well as anybody in the league. But in the end, this season will be remembered more for what Kiffin did and said off the field than anything the Vols accomplished on the field.

Second guessing: What was Tennessee’s coaching staff thinking at the end of the first half? In that situation, there’s no excuse for having the defensive backs in any position where a receiver can get behind them.

Here's a quick breakdown of the Hokies' win over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:

How the game was won: Virginia Tech won the battle up front on both sides. The Hokies’ defense stifled the Vols' running game, sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton six times, and forced two turnovers, both of which led to points. Virginia Tech was able to run the ball, which opened things up for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies sustained drives and mixed things up offensively, keeping the Vols off guard all night with a balanced offense that racked up more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. It was a group effort, as the Hokies were able to overcome an injury to leading rusher Ryan Williams with 2:46 left in the third quarter.

Tyrod Taylor
AP Photo/John BazemoreHokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 10 of 17 for 209 yards and also had a rushing touchdown.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Not only did he showcase his ability to keep plays alive with his feet, but Taylor also made several impressive deep throws and showed significant improvement in the passing game. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 209 yards and one interception. He also had five carries for 26 yards and a touchdown.

Unsung hero of the game: Virginia Tech’s offensive line. They paved the way for a record-setting night for Ryan Williams and gave Taylor the time and protection he needed.

Best call: With eight seconds remaining in the first half, instead of taking a knee, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring caught the Vols sleeping when he called a deep vertical pass to Jarrett Boykin that went 63 yards and landed the Hokies’ on the 4-yard line. An official review determined there was still two seconds left on the clock, and a 21-yard field goal sent Virginia Tech to the locker room with a 17-14 lead.

What it means: It was a significant step forward for both Virginia Tech and the ACC, as the SEC had won the past four Chick-fil-A Bowl games. Virginia Tech had also lost four straight games to SEC teams dating back to 2002. The win gave Virginia Tech its first back-to-back bowl wins in school history, and it gave the Hokies their sixth straight 10-win season, joining only Texas in that streak. It should put Virginia Tech in the top 10 heading into 2010.

Record performance: Williams needed 110 yards to set the school’s single-season rushing record, and with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter, he passed Kevin Jones in the record books with a three-yard run. The play set up Taylor's one-yard touchdown run. Williams finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries before he was injured late in the third quarter. With the two touchdowns, he also set the ACC’s record for total touchdowns in a season with 22, breaking the previous record of 21 set by UNC’s Don McCauley in 1970. Williams also tied Don McCauley’s record for 100-yard games in a season with 10.

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