RALEIGH, N.C. — Virginia Tech staged the largest comeback in Frank Beamer's 24 seasons as football coach Saturday.
The Hokies' challenge is to also make it the most important. The greatest comeback.
Ride the confidence and lessons from this zany, 41-30 victory at North Carolina State to an extended winning streak, Coastal Division title and appearance in the ACC championship game.
Anything less and fans will consider 2010 disappointing. And you know what? Considering the gaffes against Boise State and the inexcusable home loss to James Madison, that's a fair price for Beamer's program to pay.
Erase that 0-2 start, and maybe finishing second to Miami in the Coastal doesn't frost the faithful. Not now.
Please don't misunderstand. The Hokies showed immeasurable moxie Saturday. They overcame a 17-0 deficit, circus catches by State's receivers, and an unhinged, sellout crowd to better their 15-point rally against Virginia in 1995.
They were clutch on offense, defense and special teams, shrugged off three dubious pass interference penalties and scored five second-half touchdowns.
"I've been proud of this program a lot of times," Beamer said. "I don't know that I've ever been more proud than what I am of what we accomplished tonight."
In case anyone missed it, Beamer rephrased the comment later. Hard to blame him.
Jayron Hosley's three interceptions. Tyrod Taylor's three touchdown passes, matching his career-best, and 121 yards rushing. Darren Evans' 160 yards on a mere 15 carries, this after hurling his helmet with both hands after State stuffed him on a second-quarter third-and-one.
There are more. David Wilson's 92-yard kickoff return to start the second half. The offensive line paving the way for 317 rushing yards. Brian Saunders punting the Wolfpack inside its 20 three times.
None was as gallant as Taylor. A jarring, first-half hit from linebacker Nate Irving (virtually unblockable and a game-high 13 tackles) left Taylor doubled-over in pain, and he needed a muscle relaxer for his back at halftime.
Twice in the fourth quarter Taylor converted a third down by ducking pressure and juking defenders. He threw for two final-quarter touchdowns, the last from 39 yards out to Jarrett Boykin with 1:27 on the clock.
The Hokies trailed 30-28 when they took possession at their own 24 with four minutes and change remaining. Moments like that are all about the quarterback, and Taylor guided Tech 76 yards in seven plays.
"He was a difference-maker tonight," State coach Tom O'Brien said of Taylor. "He's done that a lot in the past. We couldn't get a handle on him. We tried to contain him and chase him down, but he was quicker than us."
This is the best of O'Brien's five Wolfpack teams. State was 4-0 for the first time in eight years, ranked (23rd) for the first time in seven and attracted the third-largest crowd in stadium history (58,083).
Yet despite allowing 507 yards and eight completions of more than 20 yards, Tech (3-2, 2-0 ACC) survived.
With an inexperienced defense, "there's gonna be a lot of games like this," said coordinator Bud Foster, who pitched his hat well onto the field after the third interference penalty.
That flag against Antone Exum put State in range for Josh Czajkowski's go-ahead, 42-yard field goal with 4:42 left.
"I don't know how you can play it any better," Foster said.
The Hokies' schedule couldn't set up any better either. Their next four games are at home, and following a non-conference visit from Central Michigan on Saturday, they host defenseless Wake Forest and Duke.
The JMU debacle should cure us all of gazing ahead, but if Tech isn't 4-0 in the ACC entering a Nov. 4 Thursday-nighter against defending conference champion Georgia Tech, then Beamer's proud moment Saturday is meaningless.
"I think we needed this one badly," he said.
Yes the Hokies did. Now they need more.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593