- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech looked more like a primetime football team than a daytime drama for the first time in weeks as it defeated outmatched Southern Mississippi 36-6 at home.

The defense gave up a field goal on the Golden Eagles’ opening possession, but the offense answered with a scoring drive of 71 yards in six plays that ended in a 2-yard Branden Ore touchdown.

After the Hokies led at halftime for the first time since taking down Duke in the third game of the season, the defensive unit locked down Southern Miss (4-3) — holding it to a pair of first-half field goals while creating six sacks and a safety.

“[We] set our goals so high at the beginning of the year that when people do score on us we’d sit back and look and like, we’d start thinking about getting our goals instead of going out there and playing football,” senior defensive end Noland Burchette said. “The coaches told us to stop doing that and [that] they made big plays, don’t worry about it. Just get back in the huddle, don’t worry about the stats of it. Get back in the huddle and keep competing hard. So we just put big plays behind us, we came back and put them behind the sticks, and made big plays.”

For the first time since beating Cincinnati on Sept. 23, Virginia Tech (5-2) took the field without having a single player serving an arrest-related suspension. The only personal foul was a roughing the kicker penalty called on senior Cary Wade, who made his first career start at rover and looked to have a legitimate shot at a block of a punt. The special teams unit grounded three Nic Schmitt punts inside the Southern Miss 10-yard line — two within the five.

“That field position was key in this ballgame,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “And when you can make a team drive the field 95 yards, 98 yards, I think the percentages go in your favor a lot.”

Offensively, sophomore tailback Ore rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns.

“I knew when I first came to Virginia Tech that we were a running team,” he said. “So that’s pretty much every game. If our running game is clicking then we have a good chance of winning and when it’s not, then it’s kind of chancy for us.”

Though the drama was minimized for the most part, coaches followed through on broad hints earlier in the week by temporarily tossing the keys to the offense to backup quarterback Ike Whitaker.

“At first I thought — maybe I misinterpreted or over-exaggerated at first — but I kind of took it as a shot on me at the beginning,” starter Sean Glennon said. “But [quarterbacks] coach [Mike] O’Cain said it’s 100 percent not a shot on you, you’re still our guy and I don’t see that changing, but we just have a talented guy who’s spending the whole season on the sideline and we just want to get him a few plays to see if he can do a few things with his feet.”

In his first collegiate series, the redshirt freshman Whitaker completed a 2-yard pass to tight end Sam Wheeler, handed off once to Ore for two more yards, then called his own number for a 1-yard loss.

Glennon, a redshirt sophomore, marched on for the next series and promptly completed his only touchdown pass of the night, a 38-yarder to Josh Morgan.

“I never felt too in jeopardy, but definitely I wanted to come out and, you know, I didn’t want to create any kind of controversy,” Glennon said. “I wanted to show that, hey, I’m still making plays out here, I’m still the guy that we can depend on.”

With a 29-6 lead in the fourth quarter, Whitaker stepped in again, organizing Virginia Tech’s final scoring drive as Kenny Lewis rushed for a 14-yard touchdown. Whitaker finished 2-for-5 for 14 yards with five carries for 26 yards.

Despite Glennon’s confidence and the win, the touchdown drive and Beamer’s post-game reaction virtually assured a quarterback controversy before Thursday’s visit from Clemson.

“I think Ike can help this football team,” Beamer said. “And, you know, we’re going to sit down as an offensive staff and decide how we want to do it next week. But, I mean he’s got a gear to him that can make people miss.”

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