BLACKSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Virginia Tech freshman tailback J.C. Coleman rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate start, helping the Hokies rally from a 20-0 deficit en route to a 41-20 victory over Duke on Saturday afternoon.
The comeback marked the largest by the Hokies under Tech head coach Frank Beamer, and with it, Tech snapped a two-game losing streak, moving to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.
The win also marked the 255th by Frank Beamer as a head coach, tying him with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne for seventh place on the all-time list. He needs just three more victories to move past former BYU coach LaVell Edwards into sixth place on the list.
Duke scored on its first three possessions, taking a 13-0 lead after back-to-back possessions ended with Ross Martin field goals. The Blue Devils then made it 20-0 when a pass by Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was bobbled by Tony Gregory into the hands of Duke safety Jordon Byas, who returned the gift interception 20 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
Duke's 20 first-quarter points were the second-most allowed in the first quarter by a Beamer-coached team (Georgia Tech, 2006). The Hokies had never won a game under Beamer when giving up 15 points or more in the first quarter.
From Byas' interception onward, the Hokies dominated the game. Arguably, Tech's biggest two plays came toward the end of the first half when Detrick Bonner intercepted a pass by Duke's Sean Renfree and returned it 39 yards to the Duke 42. On the next play, Thomas threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 19 seconds remaining in the first half that cut Duke's lead to 20-17.
In the third quarter, Tech scored on its first three possessions and held the Blue Devils without a first down to blow the game open. On the Hokies' first possession of the half, Coleman scored on a 45-yard run to give Tech its first lead. Thomas hooked up with Davis again, this time for a 47-yard touchdown strike, as the Hokies built a 31-20 advantage, and then Cody Journell's 41-yard field goal with 1:58 left in the quarter pushed the lead to 34-20.
Duke tried to climb back in it, driving to the Tech 9 early in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-12 from the Tech 14, a Renfree pass fell incomplete. On the next play, Coleman burst down the sidelines 86 yards for a touchdown to seal things for Tech.
Coleman's 183 yards came on just 13 carries. His rushing total is the most by a true freshman under Beamer and tied for the ninth-most in a single game under Beamer. His 86-yard touchdown run was the fifth-longest run from scrimmage in VT history and the ninth-longest play. As a team, Tech rushed for a season-high 269 yards.
Thomas and Davis also aided in the Hokies' 525-yard day. Thomas completed 14 of 23 for 256 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, and Davis caught five passes for a career-high 144 yards and two touchdowns. He caught passes of 47, 42 and 40 yards in the game.
Tech's much-maligned defense, which had given up at least 495 yards of offense in the Hokies' three losses, played arguably its best game of the season, holding the Blue Devils to 22 yards rushing and 329 total yards. More importantly, the Hokies forced four turnovers and sacked Duke quarterbacks a season-high five times. The game marked just the second multi-sack game for the Hokies this season.
Renfree paced the Blue Devils' attack, completing 20 of 33 for 235 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Hokies continue conference play next Saturday when they travel to Clemson for a noon kickoff.