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Hokies TB trio mixes styles, produce same results
BLACKSBURG, VA. (AP) - Ryan Williams is the touchdown maker, as likely to run away from a defender as run over him. Darren Evans runs over tacklers and while David Wilson runs around them.
The Virginia Tech trio gives the No. 12 Hokies the advantage on the ground against Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game on Saturday.
The Hokies rank 17th in rushing at 211 yards per game; the No. 20 Seminoles are 34th (177).
Using three backs goes against the conventional wisdom of allowing a running back to find his rhythm in a game, but coach Frank Beamer said it has worked well for the Hokies (10-2, 8-0).
"Only got so many carries in you, people say, so I think being able to stay fresh and take care of yourself, I think that helps in some regard, too," the coach said Tuesday.
Freshness will be critical this week since Florida State ranks second nationally with an average of 3.58 sacks, and a tailback can help combat that by blocking, and other ways.
"They're big in the game plan, as far as draws or things like that to try to get the ends up the field and freezing the linebackers," Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a running threat himself, said. "They can be really big for us, open up the passing game for us."
The Seminoles need only glance at tape of the Hokies win against Miami, when Williams ripped off an 84-yard run, or of Central Michigan, when Wilson went 68 and Taylor went 72, or of North Carolina State, when the more imposing Evans even had a 54-yard scoring burst.
"I feel like it's probably the best we've seen all season," safety Terrance Parks said of the Hokies backfield. "They run the ball very well, physical. You give them a crease and they can run and take off for a touchdown. We are going to have to be on our toes."
So, too, will the Hokies.
The Seminoles have also used three backs this year, but Jermaine Thomas won't be available because of injury. That makes 5-foot-8 Chris Thompson a man the Hokies will likely key on because the sophomore has touchdown runs of 70, 83 and 90 yards this year.
Thompson's size can make him hard to find, Virginia Tech defensive tackle John Graves said.
"Definitely, you know 5-8, he could definitely get lost in the shuffle," Graves said, "and that's what makes them dangerous as well, just his height and his quickness."
Ty Jones, who will also play, averages 6.4 yards per carry with a 57-yarder.
Those big numbers will surely get the Hokies attention, since they have been prone to allowing long running plays. Boise State's D.J. Harper scored on a 71-yard run in the Hokies' opener, and Josh Harris of Wake Forest ran for 241 yards on just 20 tries against them. The total was a record against Virginia Tech, and included scoring runs of 33 and 87 yards.
Graves said the Hokies have addresses the problem by focusing on fundamentals, and free safety Eddie Whitley thinks more attention to getting bodies to the ball got it fixed.
Still, Georgia Tech Joshua Nesbitt ran for a 71-yard touchdown against the Hokies a month ago, and Miami's Lamar Miller burned them for 163 yards, including a 47-yard burst.
The solution for Saturday is simple, Whitley said.
"We saw a couple plays yesterday that (Thompson) can break a couple tackles and he likes to run his feet on contact," Whitley said. "... Everybody's got to get to the ball. We've got to play that hungry, nasty defense we've been trying to play the last few games."
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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