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Williams's remarkable freshman season

Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams has six piercings, and the studs in his ears or jeweled bar in his right eyebrow twinkle when television cameras affix a bright light on him. The imagery is fitting for a running back who has shone brighter than any other Hokies this season.

“I think I’ve done the unexpected,” said Williams, a redshirt freshman. “I really didn’t set any goals for the season. My main goal was just to try and help the team as best I could to win. I think I did that very well. That’s the only thing I really wanted. Yardage, touchdowns, ACC teams – none of that really mattered to me.”

But after his career-high 183 yards rushing and another four-touchdown performance in Saturday’s 42-13 win over Virginia, Williams has earned himself plenty of individual attention. He is a likely all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.

Williams has 1,538 yards rushing this season, only 110 shy of breaking the school’s single-season record, set by Kevin Jones (1,647) in 2003. Williams’s nine 100-yard rushing games ties the school’s single season mark, also set by Jones in 2003.

Williams’s 20 total touchdowns is an ACC freshman record. His 19 rushing touchdowns have tied the ACC single-season mark, with Georgia Tech’s Robert LaVette in 1982 and North Carolina’s Don McCauley in 1970.

“It’s always fun to watch him,” wide receiver Danny Coale said of Williams after the win over the Cavaliers. “He always puts on a show, so no disappointment there.”

On Saturday, Williams was once again a touchdown machine.

On Virginia Tech’s opening possession, quarterback Tyrod Taylor connected with Coale on passes of 41 and 36 yards over Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling before Ryan Williams capped the seven-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Williams scored on a 20-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes 43 seconds left in the second quarter. He took an option pitch, slashed a Virginia defense that seemed to be standing in quicksand and then dove into the end zone to give the Hokies a 14-10 lead.

At some point during the day, Virginia linebacker Denzel Burrell started referring Williams as Sonic the Hedgehog, the speedy character from the popular video game. In their conversations on the field, Burrell told Williams to slow down.

In the third quarter, after Virginia Tech’s defense scooped up a Cavaliers’ fumble, Williams finished the two-play possession with a four-yard touchdown run to give Virginia Tech a 21-13 lead. That touchdown proved to be the turning point, as the Hokies’ scored 28 unanswered points.

But Williams’s day was not done. He scored on a two-yard run in the Hokies’ opening drive of the fourth quarter to make it a 28-13 game. And on the first play of the Hokies’ next possession, Williams broke off a 51-yard run, sprinting down the sidelines before being stripped by Dowling. The ball bounced into the end zone, where Jarrett Boykin recovered it.

“I got touchdown-happy,” Williams said of the run. “As soon as I saw one man to beat, I really don’t think there’s one man out there” who could stop him.

He added, “I that confident in the open field.”

After a resounding debut season, he has good reason for confidence. Similar to his earrings, Williams has been like a sparkling star under the spotlight.

By Mark Viera  |  November 30, 2009; 1:33 PM ET
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