BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)—Virginia Tech stepped up in competition and stepped up its game, handing Georgia Tech a thorough beating in a 51-7 rout Saturday.
The fourth-ranked Hokies, coming off a pair of 45-0 wins against the likes of Duke and Ohio University, were at their all-around best against the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets: Marcus Vick threw for a career-best 223 yards and a touchdown and an avalanche of special teams and defense produced another 21 points.
“When everybody’s clicking on all cylinders like that, there’s no better time,” defensive end Chris Ellis said after returning a third-quarter interception 29 yards for a TD as part of a 17-point barrage in 44 seconds.
The Hokies (4-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) also got a blocked field goal that turned into a 78-yard scoring run by D.J. Parker and an interception for a touchdown by Xavier Adibi. Virginia Tech has outscored four foes 161-23.
“We’re out to prove something,” cornerback Jimmy Williams said. “A lot of people don’t feel we belong in the ACC. A lot of people think we lucked out when we won the ACC last year. We’re just trying to repeat, to tell you the truth.”
They looked more than capable against the Yellow Jackets (3-1, 1-1), who were trying to start a season with four consecutive victories for the first time since they shared the national title in 1990. Instead, they discovered Beamerball, starting with tight end Jeff King’s block of a field goal try with the score 7-0.
“I think that’s what changed this game around,” coach Frank Beamer said. “Instead of them being 7-3, it’s 14-0. It’s momentum. It’s points. It’s everything. There’s just no bigger play in football than when you block a kick, particularly a field goal.”
Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey was mighty impressed with the Hokies.
“I think that they’re the best football team I’ve seen since I’ve been in the ACC,” he said. “I said that earlier in the week. I didn’t change my mind tonight.”
King also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Vick, who now has thrown seven touchdown passes and just one interception. Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes both ran for TDs and Brandon Pace kicked three field goals in as many tries for the Hokies.
And even when the Yellow Jackets finally did something right, after falling behind 31-0 early in the third quarter, the Hokies response only seemed to make it worse.
Reggie Ball hit Calvin Johnson for 59 yards on a third-down play, and then found Johnson in the end zone again three plays later from 11 yards out for a touchdown.
It was the first touchdown the Hokies have allowed in 14 quarters since the opening drive of the season, and losing the shutout seemed to fire up the Hokies defenders.
After Virginia Tech drove for a field goal, Adibi stepped in front of Ball’s pass toward Johnson and went 25 yards for the touchdown. On the Yellow Jackets next series, Ellis did the same thing, taking it 29 yards to finish the 17-point outburst.
Ball, who sat out last weekend’s victory against Connecticut while being treated for viral meningitis and had had limited practice time this week, was not sharp. He finished 11-of-27 for 143 yards before being mercifully lifted in the late going.
“It was like playing catch-up from the get-go,” Ball, who was pressured all game, said. “They just dominated all phases of the game. … They played great.”
The Yellow Jackets finished with 217 yards.
“It was an old-fashioned beat-down,” tailback P.J. Daniels said.
The Hokies travel to West Virginia (4-0) next week.