Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Taylor puts signature on victory

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Not much was said. Nothing really needed to be.

They all knew the history, the past failures, the responsibility.

So when Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor stepped in the huddle with 4:35 left in the game, his team trailing by two points, he kept the pep talk brief.

"We need to shut it down," he said.

In other words, score. Take control of this game like strong offenses do. Win it with one great drive.

And then, in front of the third-largest crowd in N.C. State history, against a team that was confident and unblemished, the Hokies did it. Taylor led them 76 yards down the field and into the end zone for the go-ahead score in a 41-30 victory.

Call it Tyrod's signature drive. Even bigger than the one against Nebraska last year. That one seemed more miracle than mastery -- busted defensive coverage on a long pass play, a "scramble drill" dropping the team a lifeline.

Saturday's was an actual drive: Seven plays, three first downs, successful runs setting up a perfect 39-yard touchdown strike to Jarrett Boykin.

This didn't happen against Boise State and James Madison. And if it hadn't happened Saturday, it wouldn't have mattered that Tech put up a bunch of yards, that Darren Evans had a breakout day, that the Hokies had rallied from 17 points down to take the lead earlier in the fourth quarter.

The pressure, then, was immense.

Taylor didn't feel it.

"It's just about maintaining your composure," Taylor said. "Just knowing that we have time, we don't have to rush anything."

The most critical play came on third-and-3 at the Tech 47. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring called for a pass play, but when Taylor saw nobody open, he took off, gaining 12 yards and a first down.

Two plays later, the Hokies were ahead.

"That's big leadership," said running back David Wilson, whose kick return for a touchdown to open the second half provided a spark. "I think out of everybody, he made the most big plays out there. A lot of third-down conversions.

"When the offense was struggling, he took it in his own hands."

He did it despite getting knocked silly in the second quarter by Wolfpack linebacker Nate Irving. Taylor told teammates he was feeling dizzy, and they could tell he was a little disoriented, but he didn't want to come out.

On the sidelines, backup quarterback Logan Thomas asked Taylor if he felt all right.

"Yeah," Taylor told him. "One of my legs would have to fall off before I come off the field."

He was close, though.

"I was bad," Taylor said. "My back -- everything locked up. I had to take a muscle relaxer [at halftime]. But that's what I lift weights for -- to be strong."

Taylor tied a career high with three touchdown passes and ran for 121 yards. Strong, for sure.

A quick word here about Stinespring. If you're wondering why he's yet to receive credit for this 440-yard outburst, that's because he's not the one who called the plays.

Really. Just ask him.

"We put a whole new offense in this week," Stinespring said with a smile in the postgame interview room. "I should call my [16-year-old] son Daniel, he's around here somewhere. I heard somebody say a ninth-grader could do a better job in the red zone than you. So I brought Daniel down here, and God, man, you're right.

"I said, 'What do you think?' He called it out. Boom -- touchdown. He's out there still celebrating."

And this was worth celebrating. It was good to see the Hokies laughing again, smiling again, willing to joke. Particularly for those affiliated with this offense, who carry the heavy burden of expectations.

On Saturday, they met them. They made their voices heard. And Taylor led the way, without saying much at all.

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