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Virginia Tech's offensive line has its best game of the season

Offensive line Coach Curt Newsome can admit it now, a few days after his unit led Virginia Tech to a 49-27 victory over East Carolina, a game in which the Hokies rushed for 249 yards using four different tailbacks. He knew before this season began that the offensive line would face some criticism with so many talented skill position players back on offense.

“If we don’t score 50, I know where it’s coming," Newsome said with a laugh after Monday's practice. "We’re gonna get the blame when we don’t get it in the end zone, and well deserved. Now when we rush for 250 yards, we don’t get the credit. We understand that. I understand the world I live in.”

Newsome was in a far better mood after taking the James Madison loss particularly hard. Newsome was an assistant coach for the Dukes for seven seasons before arriving in Blacksburg five years ago, and last week called the defeat "the toughest of his career."

That was largely because of his displeasure with the offensive line's performance. The unit has been bashed often this season, especially as the Hokies got off to an 0-2 start. Running back Ryan Williams, coming off a record-breaking season, said he constantly had defenders in his face following Virginia Tech's season-opening loss to Boise State when he gained just 44 yards.

Then, in that shocking upset to James Madison, the Hokies failed to convert on several red zone opportunities. Against East Carolina, though, Virginia Tech scored 49 points and three different tailbacks (Williams, sophomore David Wilson, and junior Darren Evans) scored a touchdown.

"We needed to be better in the red zone," said Newsome. "We kicked too many field goals and that’s where I was disappointed. You’ve gotta be more productive in the red zone. ... so it was good to see when we got down there this week, we got touchdowns."

By any measure, though, the win over the Pirates was the offensive line's best showing this season. For the first time this year, all five starters graded out above 80 percent when the coaching staff went back and looked at the film. And a week after Coach Frank Beamer said the unit looked "gassed" at times in the James Madison loss, the Hokies got a couple encouraging performances from their back-ups.

Sophomore left tackle Nick Becton, the starter coming out of spring practice before being derailed by a turf toe injury this fall, played 25 snaps and graded out at 80 percent seeing his first action of the year. Redshirt freshman Andrew Miller played 12 snaps at right guard and had three pancakes in that limited time. Sophomores Michael Via and Bo Gentry and redshirt freshman David Wang also got on the field for four snaps apiece.

Starting left guard Greg Nosal was the offensive line's top performer on the day, grading out at 87 percent with six pancakes. After the game, he acknowledged the pressure facing this offensive line, seemingly the one uncertainty for an offense that features so much talent at the skill positions.

“We definitely took that personally, the last two weeks," Nosal said. "I think as a group, we’ve got such a great backfield and wide receivers and quarterbacks, that if the offensive line does their job, we’ll be okay. This win really helps.”

By Mark Giannotto  | September 21, 2010; 9:10 AM ET
 
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