BLACKSBURG, Va. — Three times last season, Virginia Tech trailed by at least 10 points in the first half and came back to win. The most remarkable of those three games was at North Carolina State, where the Hokies were down 17-0 early in the second quarter and won 41-30 — the largest deficit they have ever erased under coach Frank Beamer.
Now, in Beamer's 25th season, the Hokies are showing how comfortable they feel playing from behind. They did it again Saturday at Lane Stadium, as they beat Boston College 30-14 after trailing 7-0 in the first quarter and 7-6 at halftime, and despite playing with a defense that continues to be depleted by injuries.
The win wasn't nearly as impressive as last year's other two comeback victories — from down 10 points against East Carolina and 14 against Georgia Tech — but it was the second straight week that the Hokies' offense dominated after a slow start. Last week, they beat Wake Forest 38-17 after trailing 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
"It's a familiar situation, so you know what can happen if you just keep your foot on the gas," said tailback David Wilson.
The Hokies (7-1, 3-1 ACC) sputtered early against a Boston College (1-6, 0-4) defense that entered the game allowing 440 yards and 27 points per game to Bowl Subdivision opponents. The Hokies punted on five of their first six drives. None of those five drives consumed more than six plays and 31 yards.
Then they drove 10 plays and 61 yards in a minute to get a field goal on their final possession of the first half. They scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half, got a field goal on their fourth and finished with 482 yards — after gaining 473 and 482 in the previous two games. They hadn't gained 400-plus yards in three straight games since 2005.
Wilson carried the ball just six times for 21 yards in the first half as quarterback Logan Thomas threw 25 passes — an absurdly high number for Tech's offense. "Let's run the ball more," Wilson lobbied to running backs coach Shane Beamer late in the first half. In the locker room at halftime, Beamer told the running backs that Tech would do just that.
On the first two drives of the second half, Wilson carried six times for 72 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown on an option pitch to end the first drive. Wide receivers Jarrett Boykin and Marcus Davis sprung him with critical blocks. On the first three second-half drives, Thomas was 8 of 8 passing for 112 yards, and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Davis on the second drive.
With four regular season games left in his first year as the starter, Thomas is proving himself plenty capable of putting the Hokies in position to win their fifth ACC championship in eight seasons in the league. He finished Saturday 22 of 36 for 268 yards and a rushing touchdown to go with his passing score. He is the first quarterback under Beamer to throw for at least 260 yards in three consecutive games, and the first to have three games in a season with at least 22 completions.
Tech might need to rely on its offense, as the defense is hurting.
Two starters are already out for the year with injuries. Cornerback Jayron Hosley (hamstring) missed Saturday's game. Defensive end James Gayle aggravated an ankle injury during the first series and didn't return. In the third quarter, inside linebacker Bruce Taylor sprained his foot and didn't return. And outside linebacker Alonzo Tweedy, who was promoted after a season-ending injury, left with an ankle injury. So the Hokies were down five defensive starters and playing with a third-stringer at outside linebacker — redshirt freshman Nick Dew.
But one of the backups, inside linebacker Barquell Rivers, made a huge play to set up Tech's second drive of the second half. Rivers hit Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig as he threw from Tech's 22-yard line, and inside linebacker Tariq Edwards picked off the ball. Boston College trailed 13-7 before the pick, and was down 20-7 after the Hokies capitalized on it for an 89-yard touchdown drive. Game over.
Beamer certainly doesn't want to play with second-string defenders, and he wants his offense to get off to better starts. But, he said, "We like to think that we get better as the day goes on."
• Read Darryl Slater's Virginia Tech blog at VTeffect.com