Hokies carve up Cavaliers in 38-0 rout
Virginia offense, defense both sputter in seasonís first shutout as Virginia Tech wins eighth consecutive Commonwealth Cup
On the third play of the fourth quarter during Virginia's regular season football finale against No. 6 Virginia Tech, Hokie junior halfback David Wilson sprinted through the heart of the Cavaliers' typically stout defense, seemingly untouched, for a 38-yard touchdown run.
Wilson's best Usain Bolt impression opened the floodgates as Virginia Tech assumed a 28-0 lead, and the steady stream of Virginia fans departing Scott Stadium quickly became a stampede on the Cavaliers' next possession. Virginia Tech sophomore defensive end J.R. Collins picked off an ill-advised pass by sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco and set up sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas' 7-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Marcus Davis.
With Virginia Tech leading 35-0, the Scott Stadium crowd began to regress to its typically sparse self and started to resemble the Hokies' own Lane Stadium in maroon-clad color and allegiance.
Against a hated in-state rival which had won the last seven meetings and with the program's first-ever ACC Coastal Division crown on the line, the Cavaliers seemingly caught a bad case of stage fright at the most inopportune time and played their worst game of the season - equal parts disappointing and uncharacteristic.
"Me personally, I go out there every game no matter what's on the line and just give it my all," junior tailback Perry Jones said. "But I'm not quite sure that the guys all really knew and understood what was at stake. We just didn't get it done as a collective team."
Virginia rushed for just 30 yards - almost 150 below its season average - and forced Rocco to shed his familiar game-manager identity and win the commonwealth clash on his own. As evidenced by the goose egg in Virginia's points column - the Cavaliers' first shutout suffered this season - that proved far too tall a task against a ferocious Virginia Tech pass rush which sacked Rocco four times for -31 yards, had at least that many quarterback hits and knockdowns, and forced Rocco to commit three turnovers.
"I thought they did a great job playing defense," coach Mike London said. "It's what they do. It's unfortunate for us because one of the things we pride ourselves on is being able to run the ball. I give them all the credit. They did a good job, and beat us in a lot of ways to make us become more one-dimensional ... You can't let that happen because then you pin your ears back to rush the passer and get pressure on the quarterback."
It also didn't help that Virginia's defense, which had surrendered 34 points combined in stifling its last two ranked opponents and had played as well as any in the ACC during the course of the season, finally cracked under the pressure of the Hokies' high powered offense. Thomas tallied three total touchdowns - two passing, one rushing - and the offense converted clutch third downs seemingly at will.
Wilson ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and routinely appeared only a shoestring tackle from breaking another big gainer. Junior Marcus Davis led all receivers with 119 yards and a score. The Hokies outgained the Cavaliers by more than 150 yards, held a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession and committed no turnovers to Virginia's four.
"That's not our brand of football," junior linebacker Steve Greer said. "They made a lot of plays, but at the same time, that's not how we want to play football ... It was a little bit shocking to see that score because that's not how we want to play."
After forcing the first of many punts by senior Jimmy Howell, Virginia Tech took over and immediately demonstrated its multi-faceted offense. On his first play under center, Thomas threw to Davis, who made a great 36-yard catch on the student section sideline despite blanket protection from the Cavalier in coverage. Wilson then ran 17 yards for another first down, and on second and 10 at the Virginia 14, Thomas finished off a six-play, 83-yard drive when he ran 14 yards into the end zone untouched on a perfectly executed quarterback keeper.
A steady dose of the intermediate passing game to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tim Smith and senior wideout Kris Burd moved Virginia into the red zone on the ensuing possession. Sensing the offensive firepower lurking on the opposite sideline, London gambled on fourth down with fewer than three yards to go, but the Hokies stuffed Jones just short and Tech took over on downs.
"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 on your favorite 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."
After the teams traded punts, Thomas continued his scorching start with a 52-yard bomb to Davis and then capped Tech's 11-play, 96-yard scoring drive with a perfectly placed 16-yard touchdown toss to senior wide receiver Jarrett Boykin for a 14-0 advantage the Hokies carried into halftime.
The break didn't slow down Thomas, who completed four of four passes for 41 yards on the first offensive drive after halftime, and it certainly didn't slow down Wilson. The speedster ran three times for 33 yards on the drive, which he capped with a shifty 27-yard touchdown scamper punctuated by an emphatic stiff-arm on senior safety Corey Mosley at the goal line.
Down 21-0, Virginia wasted its best chance to avert the shutout when Rocco and the rushing attack moved into field goal range late in the third quarter, but senior kicker Robert Randolph sent a 38-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Virginia Tech took the opportunity to pile 17 fourth-quarter points on Virginia, sealing the Hokies' place in the ACC Championship game against Clemson and their eighth straight win against the Cavaliers. Its regular season finished, Virginia now awaits word of its postseason destination when bowl bids are announced next week.
"To have worked hard to get yourself in a position to play in a big game ... and then to have a game get away where you get beat on the field offensively and defensively is disappointing," London said, but then noted, "that disappointment can't be overshadowed by the fact that there was a lot of achievement that happened this year"