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Virginia Tech's rushing attack humbled for a night

The numbers say Virginia Tech’s vaunted rushing attack had a clunker of a season debut Monday night against Boise State. The Hokies finished with 128 yards on 44 attempts on the ground, an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.

But even that paints a rosier picture than reality. Senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor actually accounted for 73 of those rushing yards, a number largely based on his scrambling outside the pocket on pass plays. The Hokies stable of running backs had 27 rushes for just 55 yards, which means Virginia Tech was averaging barely two yards per carry when it decided to hand the ball off.

The Hokies had nine carries that resulted in a loss of yardage or no gain, and seven came in the first half alone. In 2009, Virginia had the nation’s 14th-best rushing attack, and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

“With [Boise State] being as physical as they were up front, they were able to penetrate,” said running back Ryan Williams said postgame. “There was a lot of times I got the ball and I had a defender right in my face.”

In particular, it seems the right side of the Hokies’ offensive line had trouble. Left tackle Andrew Lanier, making his second career start, and left guard Greg Nosal, a first-year starter, graded out the worst amongst Virginia Tech’s offensive linemen when the coaching staff looked back at the film.

As for distribution amongst the running backs, Williams carried the ball 21 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns and junior Darren Evans got three carries for 12 yards. Sophomore David Wilson rushed just once for two yards, while converted fullback Josh Oglesby gained zero yards on the one rushing attempt he had.

And since much of the talk in the offseason concerned how Virginia Tech would divvy up the playing time amongst its trio of talented backs, here’s the breakdown. Williams got the majority of playing time on offense as he was on the field for 50 offensive snaps. Evans saw action on 18 plays, while Wilson got in for eight offensive plays.

The one positive the Hokies can take from this is that the running game did improve slightly in the second half, once the team climbed out from under that 17-point first-quarter deficit. Williams had eight carries for nine yards at halftime, but averaged almost 2.7 yards per carry on his 13 carries in the second half.

“I know their defensive line was well prepared and was well coached and they had some good schemes,” said wide receiver Danny Coale. “Once we communicated that, and we made our checks, and our guys got settled down, we had some success. But it’s just tough having a hole like that.”

By Mark Giannotto  |  September 9, 2010; 8:13 AM ET
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