Tyrod Taylor the ACC"s best

The ACC's soon-to-be Player of the Year made 6-year-old Connor McGuire's Saturday.

As Virginia Tech players celebrated their 31-17 conquest of Miami and fourth Coastal Division title in six years, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and others reached high into the stands to greet their fans. Among them were Connor and his dad, Mike, who had traveled from Atlanta.

Thinking as fast as Taylor runs, Mike pulled off the No. 5 jersey Connor was wearing and handed it, along with a Sharpie, to the young man who's made that number iconic in Tech annals. One autograph later, bare-chested Connor had a keepsake.

"I had tried to slap his hand," Taylor said of the child, "but I missed him, and when I went back they handed me the jersey. I was glad to do it."

Saturday's game was far from Taylor's finest. Miami's fast and ferocious defenders battered him from every angle, knocking him out for one play and sacking him a season-high five times.

But when it mattered, with the Hokies' two-month winning streak at stake, Taylor delivered. Again.

"It all starts with Tyrod," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "Number 7 had a big game this past Monday, but Tyrod does a lot of the same stuff Michael Vick did."

Vick wore No. 7 at Warwick High and Virginia Tech and does for the Philadelphia Eagles. And while Taylor, a senior from Hampton High, isn't quite as quick or electric, his impact is immeasurable.

"Always an honor to be mentioned with Mike," Taylor said. "I think I bring some of the same things to the table."

Such as a sixth sense of when to scramble and when to risk life and limb by staying in the pocket.

Such as the open-field moves that make accomplished tacklers look silly.

Taylor did both in the second half Saturday as Tech (9-2, 7-0 ACC) won its ninth consecutive game and clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

Late in the third quarter he ignored a running lane, braced himself for a jarring hit and found Danny Coale in-stride on a crossing route for a 43-yard touchdown that gave the Hokies their first lead at 17-10.

Late in the final quarter, with Tech ahead 24-17, Taylor executed a quarterback draw perfectly, pausing for just a beat before racing 18 yards to the decisive touchdown. If there were any doubts about ACC Player of the Year, they ended as Taylor juked safeties Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong en route to the end zone.

"God blessed me with a talent," Taylor said. "I just had to use it."

Not to suggest Taylor beat the Hurricanes (7-4, 5-3) solo. As throughout this season, teammates renowned and obscure were invaluable cogs.

Logan Thomas replaced Taylor for one snap and threw a 24-yard strike to Coale on third-and-16. Four plays later, Ryan Williams' 14-yard touchdown run tied the game at 7.

On his first snap of the game, true freshman defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins pounced on a fumble by quarterback Stephen Morris, the second of six Miami turnovers.

Fullback Kenny Younger plowed the path on Williams' 14-yard score and caught a 5-yard pass in the fourth quarter to convert a third-and-3.

Cornerback Jayron Hosley not only made the defensive play of the game, a fourth-quarter interception, but did so playing the boundary side in place of Rashad Carmichael, who sprained his left ankle on the opening series.

Williams gave the Hokies the lead for good with an 84-yard burst off left tackle that answered any questions about his recovery from a pulled hamstring.

All this against a mistake-prone — receiver Travis Benjamin dropped a sure 64-yard touchdown pass that would have tied the game at 24 — but seriously gifted opponent.

'That's a great team we played," safety Eddie Whitley said. "They have athletes everywhere. Any misstep, and they can expose it."

Indeed, Miami outrushed and outpassed Tech and punted only three times. But the Hurricanes could not overcome their turnovers and the Hokies' resolve.

"I think there's something special about this group," Beamer said.

Connor McGuire would agree.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette