Where was a good lightning storm when Georgia Tech needed it?
Virginia Tech overpowered Georgia Tech on offense, defense and especially special teams Saturday in Blacksburg, swamping the Yellow Jackets 51-7.
The Hokies seemed to have been saving up touchdowns since 2000, when lightning canceled the last Tech-Tech game in Blacksburg. Georgia Tech stayed in the game for the first 11 minutes, until Virginia Tech blocked a field goal and ran it back for a 14-0 lead.
Then the roof was snatched off and whirled into the evening. In the second and third quarters, Virginia Tech scored as easily as Wilt Chamberlain at an All-Star game, as Barry Bonds at slow-pitch softball, as Ron Jeremy at a swinger's convention. They piled up more points than the combined ACT scores of their backfield (Kidding. Maybe).
Eager to dismiss a challenge for the ACC Coastal Division lead, the No. 4-ranked Gobblers (4-0, 3-0 ACC) scored on offense, defense and special teams. Sideline spies report they were working on a way for the coaching staff to score when head coach Frank Beamer called off the dogs. The good news: VPI will not score on Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1) again this year.
Tech's Reggie Ball recovered from viral meningitis well enough to throw three touchdown passes. Unfortunately, two of them were caught and run in by Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi and Chris Ellis on consecutive third-quarter passes. While Ball had some success throwing to Calvin Johnson, including a 59-yard bomb to set up a touchdown, Tech's running game stuttered like Porky Pig at a spelling bee.
For the Yellow Jacket faithful, this was Tivo game, because you could fast-forward through the more gruesome bits. The only real debate about the game afterward was whether VPI pulled down Tech's pants in order to paddle a little behind, or to kick it, real hard. Most observers believe it was more of a kickin' situation.
Superb special teams have been a trademark of Beamer, who personally coaches his kicking and return teams. It showed Saturday. Five of seven Hokie kickoffs went for touchbacks. The punt team averaged more than 40 yards net on six kicks. And there was that block for a TD, a Hokie signature they hadn't achieved this year until Saturday.
Georgia Tech couldn't even kick off consistently after replacing freshman Mahomed Yahiaoui with Travis Bell. Bell's second kickoff was returned to the 43, with a face-mask penalty tacking on 15 more to set up the Hokies for a quick field goal. Bell also struggled with field goals, missing a later attempt after the block.
Virginia Tech's punting was spectacular, while Georgia Tech's stellar punter Ben Arndt had (for him), an unspectacular game, averaging 42.2 yards on 11 kicks. His one shank set the Hokies up at midfield before their first touchdown drive. They enjoyed that sort of field position for most of the day, in part because of costly penalties by Tech's kick coverage teams.
The other obvious mismatch was Virginia Tech's brutal defensive front four vs. Georgia Tech's inexperienced, smallish offensive line. The Hokies gave Ball few opportunities to set up and throw, and shut down the Jackets' running game.
Starting most drives near his own goal line, and running for his life, Ball finished 13 for 32 with two interceptions and a touchdown. Tech's lone score came on a pretty 11-yard fade from Ball to Calvin Johnson. Johnson provided the sole bit of bragging rights for Tech fans by outplaying All-American corner Jimmy Williams, catching five passes for 123 yards.
But Tech's one senior, three sophomores and a freshman up front were bullied by Virginia Tech's defensive line, starting two seniors, a junior and a sophomore, with senior backups.
P. J. Daniels ripped off a 29-yard run on the drive that led to Tech's frustrated field goal attempt, but that was it for Tech's running game. With Tech's line unable to pass-block effectively against a four-man rush, the Hokies were able to stack linebackers against the run, shutting down Daniels and Tashard Choice. Daniels' nine other carries went for only 24 yards, and Choice gained only 29 on nine carries.
Injuries hurt the Jackets on defense. Eric Henderson, Tech's best pass rusher, missed another game with a bad ankle. Joe Anoai, Tech's top defensive tackle, left the game with an ankle injury before halftime and did not return. Marcus Vick took advantage of the time he got to throw, completing 13 of 18 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown.
With Tech's defense thus hobbled -- although they did sack Hokie quarterbacks three times and hold the Hokies to 97 yards rushing -- Virginia Tech cashed in on good field position all day, scoring three touchdowns and two field goals on five trips inside Tech's 20.
Georgia Tech gets a welcome respite next Saturday and time to heal before taking on beatable N.C. State (1-2, 0-2) the following Thursday night in Atlanta.