Hokies take down Huskers, 35-30

LINCOLN, Neb. - Behind the throwing of Tyrod Taylor and a balanced running attack, Virginia Tech’s much-maligned offense got untracked, scoring on six straight possessions at one stretch and seven of eight, helping the Hokies to a 35-30 upset of Nebraska on Saturday night in front of 85,831 fans at Memorial Stadium – the largest crowd in stadium history.

With the victory, Tech moved to 4-1 overall on the season. Head coach Frank Beamer moved to 4-3 overall against teams from the Big 12 Conference, and as a program, the Hokies improved to 6-7 all time against teams from the Big 12. Nebraska fell to 3-1 overall on the season and lost to a team from the ACC in the regular season for the first time in the program’s illustrious history (5-1).

Using 13 plays of 10 or more yards, the Hokies racked up a season-high 377 yards of total offense for the game, running for 206 yards and throwing for 171. Taylor, a sophomore from Hampton, Va., completed 9-of-15 for 171 yards, nearly surpassing his passing total from the past three games combined (199). On the ground, Tech got 87 yards rushing from Taylor and 72 from Darren Evans, who scored twice, giving him a team-leading six on the season.

“We worked on the passing game all week and guys made catches all week,” Taylor said. “We had a chance to go out there and execute plays, and that’s what we did.”

Taylor’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:28 left capped an impressive 80-yard drive and gave the Hokies a 35-23 lead. Nebraska scored on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Joe Ganz to receiver Todd Peterson to cut the lead to 35-30 with 1:32 remaining, but the Cornhuskers’ onside kick failed as Tech’s Greg Boone caught the ball in midair and fell to the ground.

Nebraska got one last shot with 25 seconds left. But that last-gasp drive ended when Peterson fumbled after catching a pass from Ganz at the Tech 44. Dorian Porch recovered for the Hokies, and Taylor took a knee to run out the clock, starting a celebration on the Tech sideline.

The win marked Tech’s fourth straight following a season-opening loss to East Carolina. Perhaps more impressively, though, they won in one of college football’s grandest shrines – Memorial Stadium – and place where opponents often meet their demise.

Nebraska lost for just the fourth time at home in a night game, falling to 26-4. The other opponents to beat the Cornhuskers – No. 4 Washington in 1991, No. 7 Texas in 2002 and No. 1 Southern Cal in 2007.

“We play in front of a lot of people all the time,” Evans said. “We knew there were going to be a lot of people here tonight and that it was going to be a sea of red and all that. I’m glad nobody got star-struck. We just went out and played hard and got it done.”

The Hokies quieted the large crowd early in this thanks to a huge play by the Pride and Joy team – the punt block squad. Tech’s Stephan Virgil came off the edge and blocked the punt attempt of Nebraska punter Dan Titchener – the second blocked punt of Virgil’s career (Duke, 2007). The ball rolled out the back of the end zone for a Tech safety, which gave the Hokies a 2-0 lead with 8:35 left in the first quarter.

Tech expanded on it just moments later. On the first play of Nebraska’s ensuing possession, Tech cornerback Macho Harris intercepted Ganz for his 11th career interception, and his 15-yard return gave the Hokies the ball at the Nebraska 5. On third-and-goal, Evans punched it in from a yard out, scoring a touchdown in his fifth straight game. Dustin Keys’ extra point gave the Hokies a 9-0 lead with 5:22 left in the first quarter.

The nine points marked the first time this season that the Hokies had scored in the first quarter.

Nebraska got on the board with an impressive drive midway through the first quarter. It took the Cornhuskers just three plays to go 68 yards, with the final play accounting for 32 yards on a scoring pass from Ganz to tight end Mike McNeill. Alex Henery’s extra point cut the Tech lead to 9-7.

But the Hokies got three field goals in the second quarter from Keys to build an 18-10 halftime lead. His first came from 19 yards out on the second play of the second quarter and then he later hit 38- and 27-yarders. The 27-yarder with 1:15 left in the half gave Tech its eight-point halftime lead.

Keys, a redshirt senior from Stafford, Va., drilled four field goals in the game. His 26-yarder with 10:25 left in the third quarter gave Tech a 21-10 lead.

The Hokies then took an even bigger lead less than five minutes later. A 21-yard punt return by Harris gave Tech possession at the Nebraska 33, and three plays later, Evans scored on a 19-yard run to give the Hokies a 28-10 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

“We’ve been doing a great job of getting better every day in practice,” said Harris, who had six tackles to go along with his interception. “The younger guys have really stepped their game up. Our practices are like games. They are so intense. We emphasize that all week, so that when Saturday comes around, it’s nothing. We practice like that all week, so when we play, it’s going to be like that.”

Ganz completed 17-of-26 for 278 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception to pace the Cornhuskers. Nebraska only rushed for 55 yards on the evening.

The only down note for the Hokies on the evening was the injury to starting rover Davon Morgan. The sophomore from Richmond tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a kickoff return early in the second quarter. Surgery is pending and he will miss the remainder of the season.

The Hokies wrap up their non-conference slate with a game against Western Kentucky next Saturday at Lane Stadium. The game will serve as Homecoming and is slated to kick off at 1:30 p.m.