2008 Football Game Recap: Improving Hokies Down Nebraska 35-30

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Virginia Tech.......  9  9 10  7 - 35
Nebraska............  7  3  7 13 - 30

Scoring Summary:

1st Quarter
08:35 VT - Virgil blocked punt for safety
05:22 VT - Evans 1 yd run (Keys)
03:54 NU - McNeill 32 yd pass from Ganz (Henery)

2nd Quarter
14:51 VT - Keys 19 yd FG
10:45 NU - Henery 48 yd FG
07:10 VT - Keys 38 yd FG
01:15 VT - Keys 27 yd FG

3rd Quarter
10:45 VT - Keys 36 yd FG
06:54 VT - Evans 19 yd run (Keys)
00:04 NU - Helu, Jr. 12 yd run (Henery)

4th Quarter
07:52 NU - Swift 88 yd punt return (2-pt. failed)
02:28 VT - Taylor 2 yd run (Keys)
01:32 NU - Peterson 17 yd pass from Ganz (Henery)


Lincoln, NE – Virginia Tech went into Lincoln on Saturday night and beat Nebraska 35-30 in front of a crowd of 85,831. The Hokies dominated the stats until late, when Nebraska tacked on a late touchdown to make the game closer than it actually was. Tech is now 4-1 on the season, and still holds a 2-0 mark in ACC play.

Virginia Tech’s offense had been struggling this season, but they were much better on Saturday night against Nebraska. The Hokies had 377 yards of total offense, including 206 on the ground. 87 of those yards came on the legs of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who scored on a quarterback sneak late in the game to give Tech a double digit lead.

Taylor also threw the ball well, completing 9-of-15 passes for 171 yards, with no turnovers. The Hokies did not turn the ball over in this game, while they intercepted Nebraska once, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Nebraska finished with 333 yards of total offense, but 126 of that came in the final 2:28 of the game, with the Cornhuskers attempting a late rally. The Hokies shut down the Nebraska running game, limiting them to just 55 yards on 25 carries. Quarterback Joe Ganz was 17-of-26 for 268 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, but 118 of those yards came in the final 2:28. For the majority of the game, the Nebraska offense as basically shut down by a rapidly improving Tech defense.

Virginia Tech defensive ends Jason Worilds and Orion Martin played an excellent game. Worilds led the team in tackles with seven, and also added 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. Orion Martin added four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

The Hokies were able to hit some big plays in the passing game, with Jarrett Boykin catching two passes for 58 yards. Andre Smith had two receptions for 54 yards. Thanks to big plays in the passing game, and a solid rushing attack, Tech was able to control the ball for 34:44, nearly 10 minutes more possession time than Nebraska could manage.

The only negative of the game is that starting rover Davon Morgan tore the ACL of his right knee while returning a kickoff. He is out for the season. Dorian Porch filled in for Morgan and played well.

This was only Nebraska’s fourth loss in a home night game. Their other losses came to #4 Washington in 1991, #7 Texas in 2002, and #1 USC last season.

Recap

The Tech defense was all over the Nebraska offense from the very beginning, forcing them to go three and out on their first series. The Cornhuskers lined up to go for it on fourth and one from their own 41, but a delay of game penalty forced them to punt the ball away.

That’s when Macho Harris made his first big play of the game. Harris returned the punt 28 yards to the Nebraska 49, slipping through tackles and juking Nebraska defenders. His return set the Hokies up with good field position.

However, the Tech offense couldn’t take advantage of it. After Kenny Lewis picked up a first down, Tyrod Taylor went deep to a wide open Dyrell Roberts down the sideline. Taylor’s pass was a little wide, and Roberts couldn’t keep his feet inbounds. The Hokies were close to getting an easy touchdown on their first drive, but instead they were forced to punt. Brent Bowden pinned Nebraska on their own 6.

Despite not capitalizing on the good field position, the Macho Harris return put Nebraska in bad field position, and set up Tech’s next big special teams play. After the Cornhuskers went three and out again, Stephan Virgil flew in from the outside and blocked the punt out of the back of the end zone. It was Tech’s first points of the first quarter this season, and they led 2-0 with 8:35 left in the quarter.

Tech got the ball after the safety, but went three and out. After another Brent Bowden punt pinned Nebraska at their own 11, quarterback Joe Ganz dropped back to pass on first down. Ganz was doing for a receiver along the right sideline, but he didn’t see Macho Harris on the underneath coverage. Harris picked off the pass and returned it to the Nebraska 5.

It took the Hokies three plays, but they got it done. Darren Evans took a pitch to the right and scored from one yard out, putting the Hokies up 9-0 with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Things were looking good early, but Nebraska fought back. The Cornhuskers went 68 yards in just three plays. Ganz hit tight end Mike McNeill on a 27 yard gain to the Tech 41, and two plays later he found McNeill again for an easy 32 yard touchdown. Free safety Kam Chancellor was knocked to the ground by another Nebraska receiver on the play, allowing McNeill to escape for the easy score. With 3:54 left in the quarter, Tech led 9-7.

Tech made another special teams play on the ensuing kickoff. Kenny Lewis returned the kick 41 yards to the VT 44, setting the offense up with good field position. The Hokies advanced the ball to the Nebraska 43, but faced third and 10. Rolling to his left, Taylor found tight end Andre Smith down the middle for a 40 yard gain. Smith had gotten free behind the Nebraska safeties, and as usual, Taylor made a great throw while moving to his left.

However, the Hokies couldn’t capitalize for a touchdown. They went with a playaction pass on third down from the 2, but Taylor overshot a wide open Greg Boone in the corner for what would have been an easy touchdown. Tech settled for a 19 yard Dustin Keys field goal, and extended their lead to 12-7 with 14:51 remaining in the second quarter.

Nebraska was able to add a field goal of their own on their next drive. On third and 10 from their own 39, Marlon Lucky escaped free in the flat and hauled in a 29 yard pass reception for a first down. The drive stalled, but a 48 yard field goal from Alex Henry was good, making the score 12-10 Hokies with 10:45 left before halftime.

The Hokies pounded out a scoring drive on their next possession. Taylor hit Andre Smith for a 14 yard gain on the first play, but the rest of the drive was all runs. Kenny Lewis had a carry for nine yards, and later on had back-to-back 12 yard gains. It was the most successful conventional running drive for the Hokies all night. However, the drive stalled at the Nebraska 21. Dustin Keys was called on again, and he came through with a 38 yard field goal. Tech led 15-10 with 7:10 remaining in the second quarter.

Nebraska went three and out on their next drive, and that gave the Hokies another chance to tack on more points. This time it was Jarrett Boykin and Tyrod Taylor coming through in the passing game. Taylor first hit Boykin up the sideline for a 34 yard gain against a corner blitz. The play was similar to Josh Morgan’s touchdown from Bryan Randall against Georgia Tech in 2004, except the Nebraska safety didn’t overrun the play and give up an easy touchdown.

Later in the drive, Taylor found Boykin again, this time for a 24 yard gain to the Nebraska 7. Yet again however, the drive stalled, and Dustin Keys nailed a 27 yard field goal. Tech led 18-10 with 1:45 remaining in the half, and they took that lead into the intermission.

The Hokies continued their onslaught of field goals in their first possession of the second half. This time it was Greg Boone finally getting involved in the offense. Taylor found him for gains of 16 and 17 yards. On the latter play, Boone was split out as a wide receiver, ran a deep slant over the middle, and picked up 17 yards.

However, this drive stalled like many in the first half, and Dustin Keys came through again. This time he nailed a 36 yard field goal to put Tech up 21-10 with 10:25 left in the third quarter.

Nebraska went three and out again on their next possession. Joe Ganz was sacked by Orion Martin on third down, and Macho Harris got another chance to field a punt. For the second time, he was successful, this time returning the punt 21 yards to the Nebraska 33, setting up the Tech offense with good field position.

This time, the offense cashed in. Taylor handed the ball to Darren Evans on three straight plays, and Evans found paydirt on a 19 yard scamper off the right side. The extra point made it 28-10 Hokies with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

Tech was looking good at that point, but Nebraska refused to roll over on their own home field. The Huskers embarked on a 12-play, 75 yard drive that resulted in a 12 yard touchdown run from Roy Helu, Jr. with four seconds left in the third quarter. Just like that, Nebraska was back in the game, trailing 28-17.

Midway through the third quarter, things still looked good for Tech. They were forced to punt from their own 41, but Brent Bowden got off a good punt, and it looked like Nebraska was going to be pinned deep in their own territory with about eight minutes left in the game.

However, return man Nate Swift got away from a Cris Hill tackle and returned the punt 88 yards for a touchdown, putting Nebraska squarely back in the hunt. The two-point conversion to cut the lead to three points failed, but with 7:52 remaining in the game, Tech led just 28-23.

That’s when the Tech offense took over and made plays late in the game, as they did the previous two weeks against Georgia Tech and UNC. The Hokies began at their own 20, and methodically marched the ball downfield. First, Taylor had a big 18 yard run. Three plays later, facing third down from the VT 45, he hit Dyrell Roberts for a 12 yard gain to convert the first down. Tech was 7-of-17 on third downs for the night, a solid number.

Later in the drive, a late hit out of bounds aided the Hokies. Taylor’s designed run to the right on third and four from the Nebraska 37 came up short, but Husker defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a late hit out of bounds, which gave Tech a first down at the 20.

That’s when Nebraska started falling apart. Head coach Bo Pelini was enraged at the late hit call, and the Huskers were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which gave the Hokies a first down at the Nebraska 10. Three plays later, Tyrod Taylor snuck it in from two yards out, and the Hokies led 35-23 with 2:28 remaining in the game.

Suh was flagged for another personal foul after the extra point, showing the frustration of the Nebraska defense. After the ensuing kickoff sailed through the end zone, Nebraska took over on their own 20. They managed to hit a couple of big plays in the passing game, and in just 56 seconds they went 80 yards for a touchdown, with Ganz hitting Todd Peterson in the corner for a 17 yard strike. The Huskers still had a chance, down 35-30 with 1:32 left and two timeouts.

Tech failed to pick up a first down, and Nebraska managed to get the ball back with 25 seconds remaining. Ganz hit Niles Paul for a 21 yard gain, and then nailed Peterson down the middle for a 25 yard strike. However, Stephan Virgil made another big play, knocking the ball loose from Peterson. Dorian Porch, in the game for the injured Davon Morgan, was able to snag the fumble out of the air. Porch smartly went down, the Tech offense came on the field, and the Hokies ran out the clock to hold on for the big win.

The resilient Hokies are back in action next Saturday in Lane Stadium when they face Western Kentucky. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30pm, and the game will not be televised. It will be available online on ACC Select.


STATISTICS

                           VT         NU
                         ----        ----
First downs                21          14
Rushed-yards           55-206       25-55
Passing yards             171         278
Sacked-yards lost         2-4        2-11
Return yards              157         231
Passes                 9-15-0     17-26-1
Punts                  5-34.6      5-29.4
Fumbles-lost              0-0         3-1
Penalties-yards          4-30        7-69
Time of possession      34:44       25:16
Att: 85,831

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 

RUSHING-Virginia Tech, Taylor 15-87, Evans 21-72, Lewis 17-50,
Coale 1-(-1), TEAM 1-(-2).
NU, Helu, Jr. 4-21, Ganz 8-18, Lucky 8-17, Castille 3-8, TEAM 1-(-3)
Paul 1-(-6).

PASSING-Virginia Tech, Taylor 9-15-171.
NU, Ganz 17-26-278-1.

RECEIVING-Virginia Tech, Boykin 2-58, Smith 2-54, Boone 2-33,
Coale 2-14, Roberts 1-12.  NU, Peterson 4-60, 
McNeill 3-66, Swift 3-58, Lucky 3-38, Paul 1-21, 
Holt 1-20, Young 1-10, Gilleylen 1-5.
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