- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. | Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor of No. 4 Virginia Tech and Josh Nesbitt of No. 19 Georgia Tech are as likely to run by defenders as they are to burn them with their arms.

Their do-everything style will be showcased in a pivotal ACC matchup Saturday. Both teams are 5-1, and the winner gains a big edge in the Coastal Division.

Taylor, the Hokies’ full-time quarterback after two years of sharing the job with Sean Glennon, has changed his style significantly. Once criticized for being too quick to pull the ball down and run, some of his highlights have come after allowing passes to develop.

And Nesbitt, who has ACC offensive player of the year Jonathan Dwyer in the backfield, has become a more prolific runner thanks to the attention Dwyer draws.

The dual skills of Taylor and Nesbitt make everything possible for their teams.

Taylor’s 81-yard pass to Danny Coale in the closing minutes against Nebraska came after a defensive back went for a pump fake. His game-winning, 11-yard touchdown pass three plays later came at the end of a nine-second scramble.

Last week against Boston College, the junior again held the ball for several seconds before hitting Coale for a 24-yard touchdown pass. In between, Taylor had a career passing day against Duke; he was 17-for-22 for 327 yards and two touchdowns.

“He is in complete control,” coach Frank Beamer said.

Early on, it appeared Taylor’s reluctance to run was driven by his need to stay healthy. Now, with eight touchdown passes to just one interception, his success has only enhanced the danger he poses to opponents.

He threw just two touchdown passes last season in 173 attempts; his eight scoring throws this year have come on 104 tries, placing him 10th in the country in passing efficiency.

“He knows exactly what he is doing,” Beamer said. “He knows when it needs to go and where it needs to go. I think he is an exceptional quarterback right now.”

Nesbitt is best known for his running skills, but that, too, could be changing. He has been increasingly efficient as a passer, throwing for four touchdowns this season with only two interceptions, including none in the past four games.

Still, his running - and its frequency - stands out.

“He’s a warrior,” tackle Austin Barrick said. “It really makes you want to sell out for a quarterback when you see him take as many carries as he does.”

Nesbitt had a career-high 32 rushes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against North Carolina and is averaging more than 27 carries in the past three games, all victories. He set a career high with 266 passing yards two weeks ago at Mississippi State, going 11-for-14 with a touchdown pass while carrying the ball 23 times for 53 yards.

The Hokies said they will approach Nesbitt more like a rugged running back than a fragile, exposed quarterback. It doesn’t hurt that Nesbitt baffled them to the tune of 151 yards on 28 attempts in 2008.

“It’s hard to hit a guy like that in the mouth because he’s so elusive,” defensive tackle John Graves said. “We’re just trying to get him on the ground… any way we can.”

In the Hokies’ 20-17 victory last season, Nesbitt was sacked with 2:15 to play, allowing the Hokies to hang on. Taylor ran 2 yards for a touchdown just before halftime when the Hokies were out of timeouts, ignoring orders to throw the ball away if the designed pass play wasn’t open.

The quarterbacks take center stage again Saturday.

“We felt like we should have won [last year], but we hurt ourselves too much with the little things,” Nesbitt said. “This time around we’ll get a second chance, and we’ll try to make up for it.”

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