is in trouble Saturday against Miami. The most impressive team of this young college football season, the Hurricanes are wicked fast, well-rested and riding a big-armed quarterback.
But unbeaten Miami is not unbeatable. Not if Tech coaches let Tyrod be Tyrod.
Junior Tyrod Taylor is the Hokies' starting quarterback, a dual threat capable of touchdown production from anywhere on the field. But in 2009, Taylor appears prisoner to the pocket, hesitant or under strict orders not to run.
On one level, it makes sense. Sean Glennon's graduation left Tech without an established alternative, and if Taylor gets nicked, the operative word in Blacksburg becomes "yikes."
Moreover, refining Taylor's raw passing skills becomes problematic when he's darting upfield at the first sign of protection breakdown.
But let's not kid ourselves. Taylor is a more accomplished runner than passer, and smothering his instincts would be pure folly.
Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain insists Tech is doing nothing of the sort.
"He has become a better quarterback by being able to stay in the pocket and throw the ball," O'Cain told the Daily Press' Norm Wood on Monday. "I think he will give us more of a chance to win (that way) than if every time something flashes in his face, he pulls it down and goes.
"He hasn't been coached any differently. I think the maturation process of understanding what's going on, having confidence in his protection and being able to find the second and third (receiver) now have made it so he hasn't had to pull it down."
But let's look at some numbers.
Last season, Taylor ran for 738 yards on 147 attempts. That's 5 yards a pop and includes sacks.
In three games this season, he's netted 10 yards on 26 rushes. That's 0.4 yards per carry, again sacks included.
No question, the ornery defenses of Alabama and Nebraska are part of the reason. But last year the stout D's of Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia and Cincinnati couldn't contain Taylor. Nor could Clemson's and
's in 2007.
Virginia Tech is 9-1 when Taylor rushes for at least 45 yards, the lone defeat last year at Boston College, where he ran for 110. And even when Taylor hasn't posted big totals, he's made a difference.
His 31-yard scamper set up the go-ahead touchdown against Boston College in the 2007 ACC championship game. A week earlier, his two short scoring runs keyed a 33-21 victory at Virginia.
Taylor has broken 16 runs of 20 yards or more as a Hokie, some on called rushes, others strictly freelance. But only one has come this season, a 46-yarder against Marshall.
Alabama smothered Taylor for minus-26 yards on 10 carries in a 34-24 victory. Remove sacks from the equation, and Taylor gained 12 yards on five attempts.
Nebraska limited Taylor to minus-22 yards on nine rushes. Absent sacks, the numbers were 3 yards on five carries, and only a last-ditch drive fueled by Taylor's 81-yard pass to Danny Coale rescued the 11th-ranked Hokies (2-1).
O'Cain said all three Tech opponents used a "spy" to shadow Taylor and harness his running.
"The opportunities he's had to run, when they've presented themselves, he's taken advantage of, but he hasn't forced it," O'Cain added. "That's the thing I like. In the past, boy, when that pocket collapsed, he was out of there. There's a time for that, but there's a time when you've got to be able to hang in there and find that Danny Coale down the sideline, or whatever it may be."
Fair points, but listening to O'Cain, you'd think the Hokies were gaining 400-plus yards a game. Uh, no.
Tech managed a meager 155 against Alabama, 278 versus Nebraska. The Hokies' first six possessions of the second half against the Cornhuskers netted 58 yards, two first downs and no points.
Similar numbers won't suffice this week against No. 9 Miami. Idle since Thursday's thumping of Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes (2-0) return eight starters from a defense that last year limited Virginia Tech to a season-low 77 yards rushing in a 16-14 Canes victory.
Against an opponent that ravenous, with a blossoming quarterback such as Jacory Harris, in a game that could well decide the ACC's Coastal Division title, the Hokies need to unleash all of their weapons. Hey, if Nebraska's Zac Lee can run 17 yards on a quarterback draw against Tech, Taylor can do the same against Miami.
"He has the (skill) to make a lot of people miss," O'Cain said. "You get him out in open space and he can do it. But if the chances are to run for 15 yards or throw for 15 yards, you're probably going to throw for it easier than you're going to run for it. ...
"I've been pleased with the decisions he's made from that standpoint. There's maybe been once or twice where he should've pulled it down, or maybe should've thrown it, but that's playing the game. You can't coach that. ... You've just got to let him play."
Agreed. Let him play. Let Tyrod be Tyrod.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at
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