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Oglesby Gets His Turn, and Steps Up

Ryan Williams was named Virginia Tech’s starting running back before the season opener and has starred in the leading role. David Wilson received attention in the preseason and showed promising signs early. Josh Oglesby was the forgotten member of the Hokies’ backfield.

But on Saturday, Oglesby got his turn and made the most of it, running for 59 yards on six carries and scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns that sealed Virginia Tech’s 34-26 win over Duke.

“I’m a patient guy,” Oglesby said after the game. “It’s good to see everybody excel. We’re winning. I just felt like I got to do my part today.”

When Darren Evans, the Hokies' leading rusher in 2008, went down with a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, there was an open competition for playing time at running back. But because Williams reported to campus out of shape, unable to complete a running test, Oglesby sat atop the depth chart. Among the three running backs competing for time, Oglesby’s 38 career carries represented the lone playing time among the inexperienced group.

The week of Virginia Tech’s opener, Sept. 5 against Alabama, Williams was named the starter. From then, he has flourished. He has three 100-yard rushing performances and is a three-time ACC rookie of the week. He has not only been the Hokies’ lead running back, he had been their main, and sometimes only, offensive weapon.

In the four games before Duke, Williams had rushed for 492 yards and eight touchdowns; he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Oglesby had 25 carries for 131 yards and no touchdowns; he averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

Although Oglesby was not seeing as much playing time with Williams’s emergence, he said it was hard to fault the coaches for making the choice they did.

“He makes a lot of plays that guys couldn’t make,” Oglesby said of Williams. “That’s the thing: He just has the big-play factor.”

But against the Blue Devils, the Hokies were absent their big-play rushing offense. Duke loaded the box to account for Williams, a powerful runner with shiftiness in space. What resulted was a difficult afternoon for Williams, who rushed for 83 yards on 24 carries.

It took until the fourth quarter for the Hokies’ rushing offense to get moving. Virginia Tech changed up its play calling, running more runs to the outside instead of power plays to the inside. It had been tough to get moving inside against Duke’s imposing tackles Vince Oghobaase and Charlie Hatcher.

“I thought it was a couple of nice calls by our offensive guys, and I think our blocking was good,” Coach Frank Beamer said of the rushing attack late in the game, adding: “It was good running, and we needed it. We really needed it.”

The Hokies got what they needed after changing their approach. Williams and Oglesby worked in tandem to polish of scoring drives that gave the Hokies the win.

After Duke scored to make narrow Virginia Tech’s lead to 20-16, Williams ran six consecutive carries. He picked up gains of 10, 4, 3, 4, 8 and then 12 yards. After that, Williams took himself out for a breather. Oglesby sprung a 12-yard touchdown run on the next play. It gave the Hokies a 27-16 lead with 9 minutes 37 seconds remaining.

Oglesby and Williams collaborated again on Virginia Tech’s next possession. Williams opened the drive with five consecutive rushes. On the back end of the drive, Oglesby had three consecutive carries, the last of which went 19 yards for a touchdown to give the Hokies a 34-19 lead with 2:28 left.

“I’m happy for him,” Williams said. “I don’t think Josh gets enough credit. He’s a heck of a back. For him to be able to run the ball and score two touchdowns, it’s great. It’s great for me to know that I’m not the only back that can make things happen in the backfield. It took a lot of pressure off my shoulders today, because I was tired.”

While Williams has assumed most of the Hokies’ rushing responsibilities, Oglesby has not publicly complained about playing time and has maintained a team-first attitude. But by capitalizing on his moment Saturday, he might have done the most to make a case for more carries in the future as he showed a nose for the end zone in helping to take some of the workload away for a worn-out Williams.

“It’s definitely a good benefit,” Oglesby said. “It’s going to help us out down the road. I try not to get down, just know that when I’m called, I need to get in there and do what I need to do. That’s my mind-set.”

By Mark Viera  |  October 5, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
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