Virginia Tech's offense the missing link

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- With about 10 minutes left in the game on Saturday, Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor stood on the Hokies’ sideline, his helmet nowhere in sight, chatting it up with defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who gave him a few congratulatory pats on the rear end.

Virginia Tech’s offense and defense have finally come together.

Virginia Tech has won three of the past five ACC titles and entered this season off a win over an up-and-coming Cincinnati team in the Orange Bowl. Yet a shadow of doubt has always followed the Hokies because of what they haven’t done offensively over the past three seasons -- finish better than 99th in the nation in total offense.

This season, though, has been different.

The Hokies ran the ball at will and it opened up deep passes for Taylor as Virginia Tech upended Boston College 48-14 and avoided any hint at an upset heading into next Saturday’s critical game at Georgia Tech. This is the kind of offense Virginia Tech needs to display every weekend if it’s going to be taken seriously as a national title contender, and after playing another complete game, it should be. Virginia Tech looked like the No. 5 team in the country and capable of playing with anybody, as it racked up 441 yards of total offense while holding the Eagles to just three yards in the first half and 163 for the game.

“I can’t remember, we haven’t had one like this in a while,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “It seemed like everything last year was down to the wire. Everything this year was down to the wire.”

Not against the Eagles. Taylor got the ball downfield and tied his career high with two touchdown passes, Ryan Williams rushed for 159 yards on just 18 carries, and the complete effort was a product of what Beamer has been seeing all season at practice -- the receivers have been going up and catching it, the protection is better and the tight ends have gotten involved. It was the first time Virginia Tech had thrown for 200 yards and rushed for 200 yards in the same game since the 2005 season against Boston College. It was one of the most balanced performances the Hokies have had in recent years, and it started in the first half.

“It kind of all fits in together,” Beamer said. “Everything fits. … I see us taking another step all the time, I like that.”

Aside from the obvious added year of experience, both Taylor and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring agreed the biggest difference in Virginia Tech’s offense this season is the increased confidence.

“I think he believes we have a lot of playmakers on offense, and we do,” said Taylor, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. “We just have to go out there and execute those plays he’s calling. He’s putting us in great situations and it’s our job to go out there and take advantage of those situations.”

Taylor entered the game having thrown for 327 yards and two touchdowns against Duke, showing marked improvement in his passing game. But with all due respect to the Blue Devils, it was against Duke. Taylor, who had gained a reputation for his elusiveness and ability to keep plays alive with his feet, had yet to showcase a formidable passing performance against a nationally ranked defense, save for his last-minute touchdown pass against Nebraska.

BC’s defense, though, came into the game ranked among the top 30 in the nation in seven different categories -- it was expected to at least keep the Eagles in the game. BC was holding its opponents to 15.4 points per game, but had already given up 17 less than a minute into the second quarter and Williams was running the ball at will.

“It builds confidence for us to go out there and prove people wrong,” Taylor said. “I know I love being in those type of situations, and I’m pretty sure a lot of our offensive guys on the team have been in a situation where you could prove somebody wrong. That’s what we do every week -- just go out there, play our game, and show people we can play.”

The Hokies have done that this year by beating two nationally ranked teams in Nebraska and Miami and head into Saturday’s game in Atlanta on a five-game winning streak. They’ll enjoy this one, though, until 6:45 a.m. on Monday when they get their Georgia Tech packets handed to them in their team meeting rooms.

On Monday, Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael said he expects the same message from Foster the defense got last year heading into the Georgia Tech game -- “It’s time to put the big boy pads on.”

The difference this year is the offense will be wearing them, too.