BLACKSBURG – After spending much of the first half of the season trying to unearth why his offense wasn't everything it was advertised as being before the season, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring may have found some answers in a 52-21 win against Wake Forest.
Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, Tech (5-2 overall, 3-0 ACC) hadn't had a day on offense against a conference foe like the one it had Saturday. With 605 yards, Tech had a team record outing in an ACC game against Wake Forest's overmatched defense.
Now, with a five-game winning streak under its belt, Tech will likely get back into the Associated Press rankings for the first time since falling out after a disastrous Sept. 11 loss to James Madison that dropped the Hokies to 0-2.
More importantly, Tech remained the only team without a conference loss in the ACC's Coastal Division – a big boost considering it still has November games left against division contenders Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami.
"I think we took another step," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I really do. Last week (in Tech's 45-21 win against Central Michigan), I was worried about a couple guys maybe assuming we're going to be OK and not going out there and playing, but I thought for the most part (Saturday)…we took another step."
What went right for Tech's offense against Wake Forest (2-5, 1-3)? Everything. You name it – it was effective.
Of course, it would've been difficult for Tech's offense to be anything but steamroller-like, considering it held the ball for 41 minutes and 26 seconds, compared to just 18 minutes and 34 seconds for Wake Forest's offense. It was the widest favorable time of possession margin in Beamer's 24-year tenure.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a Hampton High graduate, completed 19 of 27 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out for all but one series in the second half. Tech added 291 yards rushing on 54 carries, led by David Wilson's 105 yards on 15 carries. It marked the third consecutive game Tech went for 220 or more yards on the ground.
In the Central Michigan game, Tech failed to convert on all eight of its third downs. Against Wake Forest, Tech picked up first downs on 12 of 17 third-down plays.
"We met (as an offense) at 6:45 Monday morning, and we took all the third down situations," Stinespring said. "It was a rather lengthy session before we split up. We went through those third downs, because that was horrendous on our part to go 0 for 8. We're better than that…To have a group go out and respond and make the plays like they did to keep some drives alive – oh, absolutely – that's rewarding."
Tech scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight drives in the opening half. Taylor completed passes of 23, 36 and 42 yards to Smithfield High graduate Dyrell Roberts, and 25, 27 and 37 yards to Danny Coale. Roberts finished with career highs in receptions (six) and yards (134 yards).
While Tech's offense erupted like never before in an ACC game, Wake Forest running back Josh Harris gave Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster something to be concerned about in practice.
Harris ran 20 times for 241 yards, the most rushing yards ever by a single player against a Tech defense. His effort topped Temple's Paul Palmer, who had 44 carries for 239 yards in 1986. Harris broke runs of 33, 37 and 87 yards.
"He's really fast," Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor said. "On film, we saw his speed, but it's a little different when you see him in person breaking those runs. A few times, I thought he'd break down the field, but I thought one of our guys would catch up with him."
Freshman quarterback Tanner Price couldn't provide any support for Harris' running, completing only 3 of 16 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Wake Forest never ran a play inside Tech's red zone.
What about all those red-zone issues Tech had early in the season? Gone. Since scoring touchdowns on just nine of 18 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line in the first four games, Tech has bounced back to put the ball in the end zone on 12 of its last 15 red zone ventures, including six of eight times against Wake Forest.
"I've been telling the guys every week, especially this week, that we needed to come out and start early from play one, get on top of the guys and kind of control the game," said Tyrod Taylor, who helped Tech build a first-half lead that reached as high as 35 points. "That's what we did (Saturday)."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times