- - Thursday, October 27, 2011

BLACKSBURG, Va. — During the offseason, Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson typed a list of goals and printed a couple copies on orange paper. He hung one copy in his locker, so he could look every day at the lofty standards he set for himself. Wilson, a junior, was about to begin his first season as Tech’s every-down back and he felt determined to have a better season than anybody who preceded him in Blacksburg.

The goals he typed: All-American, all-ACC, no fumbles, at least 100 yards per game, score a touchdown every game, 1,700 yards for the season, 20 touchdowns, average at least six yards per carry and run for 260 yards in a game.

On top of the sheet, he typed: “Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, nobody will. Be great. Be the best at whatever you do.”

After printing out the goal sheets, he walked into the office of new running backs coach Shane Beamer, placed a copy on the desk and told Beamer matter-of-factly, “Here are my goals for this year.”

Wilson’s only modest goal was touchdowns — seven shy of Lee Suggs’ school record from 2000. Wilson has boldly stated his desire to break Tech’s single-season and game rushing yards records — 1,655 by Ryan Williams in 2009 and 253 by Darren Evans in 2008.

He is on his way to the former. Heading into Saturday’s game at Duke, he ranks third nationally with 129.6 yards per game. If he continues that pace, he will have 1,685 yards in 13 games — the number of games Williams played in 2009.

Wilson, who is averaging 6.32 yards per carry (0.06 ahead of Andre Kendrick’s school record from 1999), also ranks fourth nationally with 30 runs of 10-plus yards and second with 11 runs of 20-plus yards. His four runs of 40-plus are second, as well. To put those long gains in context, Wilson has been stopped for a loss just 20 times this season, and stopped for no gain 12 times.

He is remarkably consistent. With the exception of 85 yards against Arkansas State and 162 against Appalachian State, he ran between 123 and 137 yards in the other six games. Despite reaching 1,000 yards (1,037) in eight games, Wilson thinks he has yet to play a truly dominant game — maybe even a 260-yarder.

“I’m still waiting for that game where it all comes together,” he said. “I think it’s building up (to that). It’s going to pop up.”

The Hokies are certainly throwing the ball well this year. Their 232.1 passing yards per game would be their most since 1972 (304.4). But they are running the ball 59 percent of the time — just three percent less often than last year. Wilson’s running still accounts for 30 percent of Tech’s total offensive yards.

This season hasn’t been flawless for Wilson. He lost three fumbles in the first five games, so he had to amend the “no fumbles” goal on his sheet by writing “more” between the two words. And he hasn’t lost a fumble in the past three games.

Despite the early hiccups, nobody ever really stopped believing in him. Least of all Williams, who bumped into Wilson in downtown Blacksburg after last Saturday’s win over Boston College, in which Wilson had 17 carries for 134 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown on which he refused to be pushed out of bounds. The two backs are close friends, and Williams is excited to see Wilson chasing his record.

“He said he saw me out there [against Boston College], I’m doing good and I’m going to easily crush his record,” Wilson said. “Those were his exact words.”

As Beamer watched film of Wilson’s games last year, he noticed Wilson sometimes was too impatient, not trusting his initial read if the blocking looked suspect at first.

“I think he’d get the ball in his hands and just kind of go wherever he wanted to go,” Beamer said. “Whereas on every play, there’s a specific step, read, aiming point.”

Now, Beamer said Wilson is “trusting” what he sees after taking a handoff. He took 17 of them in each of the past two games (six in the first half against Boston College), after averaging 21.7 carries in the first six games. Wilson, eager in everything he does, wants as many carries as possible. Though the coaches are careful to not wear him out, Beamer said he has no problem giving Wilson 30 carries if a game warrants it.

“It’s hard to get him tired,” Beamer said. “He looks at me like I’m an idiot for taking him out of the game. He’ll tell me when I take him out, ‘Don’t take me out. I’m getting into the flow of things.’”

• Read Darryl Slater’s blog at VTeffect.com

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