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Posted at 10:03 PM ET, 11/20/2010

RB Ryan Williams finally breaks loose, and some more notes

By Mark Giannotto

If there was a player who came to define Virginia Tech's disappointing start to this season, it was sophomore running back Ryan Williams.

After a freshman campaign that saw him break an ACC rushing record and land on many preseason Heisman Trophy lists this year, the Manassas native struggled early and then slightly tore his hamstring in Virginia Tech’s third game of the season. Williams would miss the next four games, and before Saturday, had yet to eclipse the 100-yard mark this season.

But with his career long 84-yard touchdown run in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Williams not only propelled the Hokies to a Coastal Division title and a spot in next month's ACC Championship game, he also proved a point to himself.

"Coming off the season I had last year, I hated doubting myself," said Williams after he gained a season-high 142 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. "There were so many times at night I couldn’t sleep just thinking about like ‘Will I be able to contribute like I used to? Am I still the same guy?' I would go on YouTube sometimes for a good hour and watch my highlights just to remind myself of what I could do. I feel like I’m back to my original self and it feels great.”

That long touchdown run was the longest by a Virginia Tech player since the Hokies joined the ACC, and Miami never was able to come back. Williams was sprung by huge blocks from fullback Kenny Younger and left tackle Andrew Lanier. The running back said he tripped on a similar play earlier in the game and once he broke free from the line of scrimmage, he "was just hoping and praying I didn’t get caught from the back.”

Williams admitted that when he returned to the lineup and had to share carries with Darren Evans and David Wilson, "it messes with your mind." But most important to him, though, was the feeling he got from playing a role in the Hokies resurgence.

"All I want is to win an ACC championship, and I feel like I’m contributing and that’s all I really want," he said.

Some more notes and quotes

*If you're not impressed with what this year's Virginia Tech team has now accomplished, I'm not sure what will. Sure, those two losses in five days to begin the year were disappointing and disheartening for Hokies fans hoping for a national championship. But at this point, it's about time we savor just how remarkable this nine -game winning streak has become.

The Hokies have allowed an opponent to score a touchdown on its opening drive in seven of 11 games, and yet they've won six of those contests. They now have the longest winning streak since Coach Frank Beamer's legendary 1999 squad won 11 straight to begin the season. They're now one win away from winning 10 games for the seventh-consecutive season, and one conference victory from becoming the first team since Florida State in 2000 to go undefeated in ACC play.

Mind you, it was only 70 days ago that some folks in Blacksburg feared the apocalypse had come when the Hokies lost to James Madison.

“I don’t think you come back from two, I say devastating losses within a week, I don’t think you come back from that unless you got really good people on your football team and really good people leading your football team," Beamer said afterwards. "Somehow we’ve found a way to win together. And it’s been together, that’s what I like and I think it’s very much a team deal."

*The best place to start with this one is the turnovers. Virginia Tech forced six of them today, and without a doubt, it's the single biggest reason the Hokies escaped with a victory. Miami's freshman quarterback, Stephen Morris, fell apart in the fourth quarter, throwing three interceptions. The Hurricanes also had three fumbles, meaning Virginia Tech's defense has produced 12 takeaways in the past two games.

That's even more remarkable considering cornerback Rashad Carmichael barely played after suffering a left ankle injury on the first series of the game, forcing freshman Kyle Fuller into extensive action. Sophomore Jayron Hosley had a subpar day by his standards, giving up a couple big receptions, but he redeemed himself with a fourth-quarter interception that set up Tyrod Taylor's 18-yard touchdown run. As Beamer said in his postgame news conference, "With Hosley, I wouldn’t challenge him twice."

That being said, it wasn't a banner day by any means for Bud Foster's defense. They gave up 464 total yards, including 262 on the ground. Miami redshirt freshman gained 163 of those yards, showing off the speed and quickness that will make him a threat every time he touches the ball the next few seasons.

"We’re just not quite mature enough defensively right now to play as consistent as we want," Beamer said. "I don’t think it’s an effort thing, I just think we’re just not quite mature enough.”

*Speaking of Carmichael, though he was favoring that ankle after the game, he told a couple us reporters that he should be fine for next week. It remains to be seen what the status of wide receiver Marcus Davis is after he suffered a concussion in the first half following a gruesome-looking helmet-to-helmet hit. Davis lay on the ground for several minutes and appeared to be knocked unconscious for a bit on the play.

*No offense to Boise State, Boston College or North Carolina, but this Miami defense was the most physical, hard hitting group the Hokies have faced this year. But on the Hokies first touchdown drive, Virginia Tech showed the resiliency that has come to define this season.

After watching Davis and Taylor limp to the sideline on consecutive plays, back-up quarterback came in to complete a 24-yard pass to Danny Coale on third-and-long. Even on that play, a Miami defender knocked Coale's helmet off. But it didn't matter, and four plays later, Williams scampered into the end zone on a 14-yard run. Thomas's completion was not overlooked in the postgame aftermath.

"There probably aren’t too many guys that can come in cold and do that," Coale said. "But he’s one of them.”

*That's all I got for now. I'll be in Greensboro tomorrow for the basketball team's game against UNC-Greensboro -- yes, I've been on the road since last Monday, but Miami ain't so bad. Now the Hokies face Virginia with a chance to go undefeated in conference play.

And after Beamer picked up his 238th career win, tying him for ninth all-time with Woody Hayes, he scoffed at the notion that there would be any letdown with the rival Cavaliers coming to Blacksburg.

"We’re gonna go to Charlotte and bring a bunch of people to Charlotte and see if we can’t sell that thing out like an ACC championship game should be – sold out," he said. "But I think you can’t be content. When you start feeling satisfied, you’re in trouble and we’ve got a big, big game next Saturday. A rival and the Commonwealth Cup, and to me, you don’t dare let momentum get away from you.”

By Mark Giannotto  | November 20, 2010; 10:03 PM ET
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Next: Even without postseason ramifications, many layers to Virginia Tech-U-Va. rivalry


Thomas's throw was nothing short of brilliant.

It was the shot in the arm the Hokies needed, when they needed it the most. It was the absolute right call, and perfectly executed.

That said, can you stop mourning the first two losses of the season already?

This team has talent in droves, and though it may not have completely gelled as a team greater than the sum of its parts, it certainly has been able to take advantage of the talent it has to win games.

Instead of continuing to view the glass as 1/6th empty, why not start looking at it as 5/6ths full already?

I'd like to see this team play up to its potential against Virginia.

Posted by: Benson | November 22, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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