After Virginia Tech's resounding 31-7 victory Saturday against No. 9 Miami, Hokies running back Ryan Williams sat with his hands and forearms bleeding as he rubbed his sore left ankle.
Those were the only signs of weakness shown by a No. 11 Tech team that needed to make an impression in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener. With 150 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 34 carries, Williams earned his scars on a water-logged afternoon that left Miami (2-1 overall and ACC) with far more wounds to heal.
Miami came to Blacksburg hoping to gain an almost insurmountable advantage in the ACC's Coastal Division. Now, it's a race again.
"When you carry the ball that much, I felt like I was getting stronger throughout the game," said Williams, whose biggest run came on a 44-yard dash in the third quarter.
"It was a great feeling getting the ball that many times, and with me getting the ball that many times, I knew that the team relied on me to push the ball up the field."
The win improved coach Frank Beamer's record against top-10 opponents to 7-28. It also was Tech's first win against a top-10 team since 2006, when Tech defeated No. 10 Clemson 24-7. The 24-point margin matched Tech's largest margin of victory against a top-10 team under Beamer — equaling a 31-7 win in '03 against No. 2 Miami.
Tech (3-1, 1-0) dominated Miami in every possible way, limiting the Hurricanes to a season-low 209 yards, including just 59 yards rushing — a massive improvement for a Tech defense that was giving up 200 yards rushing per game (107th in the nation coming into Saturday). Tech also held Miami, which had just 54 yards in the first half, to 1-of-11 on third downs.
Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris had been discussed all week as a serious early candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He had only been sacked once. Tech held him to 9 of 25 passing for 150 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times, including 11/2 times by defensive end Jason Worilds.
On Miami's opening drive, Harris was sacked by Dorian Porch on a safety blitz that resulted in a fumble, which Porch recovered at Miami's 11-yard line. Three plays later, Williams scored on a 2-yard run to put Tech ahead 7-0.
"That was a very confident football team coming in, and they should be," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I told (the players) we could hang in there, but I told them we need to hang in there early."
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a Hampton High graduate, unveiled a running game that had been dormant all season. He ran 10 times for 75 of Tech's 272 rushing yards. Several of his runs came on designed plays, which helped Tech beat Miami's pass-rush efforts. He was unable to come to postgame interviews due to a chipped tooth suffered during the game.
"The last four out of five times that we've played Virginia Tech I've told the players this was going to happen: Whoever can stop the run, and whoever doesn't turn the ball over, that's usually who wins the games," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "You look at it tonight — they ran the football, we did not stop the run, we had turnovers, they maybe had one."
Though Taylor completed just 4 of 9 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, his biggest completion helped Tech build an early lead. On third-and-7 from Miami's 48 in the second quarter, Taylor spotted wide receiver Jarrett Boykin running behind cornerback Chavez Grant in the middle of the field. Boykin scored on Taylor's pass to extend Tech's lead to 14-0 with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter.
"When you're able to hit a big play down the field that goes for a touchdown, I think it has to send a message out there that you're willing to take those shots — not only that you're willing to take those shots, but they're going to pay dividends for you," Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said.
Tech's special teams helped boost the lead to 21-0 with 4:39 left in the second quarter when Jacob Sykes, a deep reserve who had played just two plays (both on special teams) entering the game, broke through the line when Matt Bosher tried to punt from Miami's 25. Sykes blocked the punt and the ball rolled back to the 1, where Matt Reidy scooped it up and stepped in the end zone.
Miami showed some life to start the third quarter, as Harris completed passes of 14 and 30 yards on the opening drive to lead the Hurricanes on a touchdown-scoring drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Javarris James that cut Tech's lead to 21-7 with 13:17 left. The drive marked the last time Miami would get inside Tech's red zone, as the Hokies forced two punts, two turnovers on downs and an interception the rest of the way.
"There's a lot of work to be done," Worilds said. "We're nowhere near the team that we can be and we understand that. The biggest thing is to not get complacent and to not stop working."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun