You have to hand it to Frank Beamer.
The Virginia Tech Hokies didn’t just lose in demoralizing fashion to start the 2010 season — they did it twice. It would have been easy for the Hokies’ head coach to lose control of his team after falling to Boise State and James Madison in a six-day span.
Yet, there’s a reason Beamer’s been doing this longer than all but one other man in college football. Since the 0-2 start, the preseason favorites to win the ACC have rattled off six straight wins in convincing fashion.
“I think we’ve taken steps toward where we want to go,” Beamer said.
As uplifting as the winning streak may be, it means nothing going forward. The combined record of Tech’s six victims after Saturday is 17-26. Additionally, Tech’s last three opponents are 5-17.
Tech hasn’t exactly faced a who’s who of great football teams. At this moment, the Hokies are woefully defined by the debacle that was early September. They can alter that drastically with a strong November.
The next three games come against Coastal Division contenders Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami — the last two on the road.
“We have a little time off here, we need to rest our bodies and rest our minds, we have a critical stretch coming up here,” Beamer said.
If Tech can’t get the job done in that stretch, nobody will remember how many points the offense scored against Wake Forest and Duke, or how great it felt to come back from 17 points to beat North Carolina State.
Tech prides itself on 10-win seasons and ACC Championships, not blowout wins against Duke.
“We’ve just got to play our ball, focus on that. We can’t worry about other teams. We just need to go hard from here on out, that’s all we can do,” said Jayron Hosley, sophomore cornerback.
If the Hokies indeed make it through the next month of the season unscathed, it will be because of Tyrod Taylor’s continued success.
The senior quarterback only played until midway through the third quarter, yet he had another spectacular performance, completing 13 of 17 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns. He made eye-popping plays on several occasions when it seemed like the play was dead.
“I just try to keep plays alive,” Taylor said. “We’ve got talented receivers, it’s my job to get them the ball.”
With another huge game, Taylor may have taken a stranglehold on the ACC Player of the Year race.
He now averages 200 passing yards and 76 rushing yards per game. He could easily approach 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards this season, something Michael Vick never eclipsed in Blacksburg.
“Our quarterback is playing real well, he gives us a chance,” Beamer said.
The other storyline on Saturday was the return of running back Ryan Williams. The star of the 2009 season had missed the last four games with a hamstring injury and finished the day with 10 yards on six carries.
His one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter may have received the loudest ovation from Hokie fans all afternoon.
“It felt real good, man,” Williams said. “I wish we could celebrate, because I would have been doing everything. Without me, we’ve still got great offensive players; I can just add a little bit more to the offense.”
A week after allowing Wake Forest running back Josh Harris to run for 241 yards, the Tech defense righted the ship on Saturday. The Hokies feasted on Blue Devil quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Brandon Connette.
Renfree was benched late in the first quarter, only to reappear after Hosley intercepted an ill-advised Connette pass along the Duke sideline.
Hosley would have scored if his left foot hadn’t grazed the sideline at the 24-yard-line.
“Man, I really didn’t think I stepped out. I was thinking ‘pick six’ the whole time,” Hosley said.
The sophomore’s rising stardom will be equally as important in coming weeks. He currently leads the ACC with five interceptions.
After a slow start to the season returning punts, he has exploded in recent weeks, with returns of 80, 58, and 61 yards in his last three games, including one touchdown.
“The first couple games, I didn’t really have a chance to get the ball in my hands much, but things are clicking much better for me now,” Hosley said.
Much of the sold-out crowd left for home by the start of the fourth quarter Saturday. They’ll be back in full force in a week and a half, when Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2 ACC) comes to town for a Thursday night, nationally televised game.
Fans can only hope to leave that game equally pleased.