BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Sam Rogers wasn’t intentionally the focal point of Virginia Tech’s offense early against Virginia on Saturday, but with a couple of early touchdown runs to get the Hokies going, he became one, and he turned an emotional Senior Day into one he’ll not likely forget.
Rogers ran for a career-best 105 yards and two touchdowns and Virginia Tech tuned up for next Saturday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship showdown against No. 4 Clemson with a 52-10 victory — their 13th in a row against their state rivals.
“We’re not done yet,” first-year Hokies coach Justin Fuente told the crowd after the game.
Rogers, one of 13 seniors honored before the game, scored on runs of 8 and 32 yards for the Hokies (9-3, 6-2), whose ticket for the title game was punched when North Carolina lost to North Carolina State on Friday. It will be Virginia Tech’s first appearance since 2011.
Rogers’ long run came on a between-the-tackles play that didn’t set up the way it was supposed to.
“Everything just got jumbled up in the middle and I just peaked outside,” Rogers said. “Everyone was still running right, so I ran left.”
The victory sent Virginia (2-10, 1-7) to its seventh consecutive loss.
Jerod Evans threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for Virginia Tech, allowing the junior college transfer to set school single season records with 26 touchdown passes (Tyrod Taylor had 24 in 2010) and 3,752 total yards (Logan Thomas had 3,500 in 2012).
Fuente, whose team was going through a walk-through yesterday while the North Carolina game was going on, congratulated his team on earning the trip to Orlando, Florida, next week, and even in his first year at Virginia Tech, said he knew they would remain motivated.
“In this scenario, I would have been worried about it, but not in this game,” he said. “This game means too much.”
Virginia went with a quarterback rotation, sometimes from play to play, and was outgained 579-247.
“It is a little bit of a different challenge than we’re obviously used to,” said Kurt Benkert, the starter for most of the season who was benched last week after struggling in several games. “We felt like we were able to do everything we need to, but we just didn’t.”
He finished 9 for 26 for 122 yards with one touchdown. Matt Johns was 4 for 10 for 17 yards and threw two interceptions.
“I struggled a bit with that,” Johns said of the rotation. “It was hard to find my rhythm and really get a feel for the game.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers have a long way to go to get to the talent level and mindset Bronco Mendenhall expects. Returning Benkert to the field after a series of skittish performances behind shaky protection and benching last week was probably meant to give him something to build on, but the Cavaliers will also have to rebuild their offensive line and replace Taquan Mizzell and Keeon Johnson, two key seniors.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ three most recent victories were all by three points and all on the road: at Pittsburgh, at Duke and at Notre Dame. In between, they lost a home game to Georgia Tech in there, so dominating should bolster confidence heading into next weekend.
“It was good to get back and have a dominant defensive performance,” Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.
RECORDS AND MILESTONES
Evans broke Taylor’s TD pass record on a 39-yard throw to Cam Phillips in the second quarter. … Evans broke Thomas’ total yardage record on a 14-yard pass to Isaiah Ford in the first quarter. … Ford caught four passes and became the 17th player in ACC history with 200 career receptions. Virginia’s Taquan Mizzell became the 19th Virginia player to rush for 2,000 career yards on an 8-yard run late in the first quarter. … Mizzell needed six receptions to join Ford in the 200-catch club, but caught just one.
HE SAID IT
“I think this game was a statement game, to tell Clemson that we’re coming. ” — Virginia Tech defense end Ken Ekanem.
Virginia Tech will face Clemson in the ACC championship game next Saturday in Orlando, Florida.
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