November college football dawned at Virginia Tech as it usually does these days: with a Hokies' victory.
Thursday night's victim was Maryland, 23-13, in an odd game Tech attempted to give away with special-team gaffes during the third quarter.
Seasons hinge on November. Pressures rise, temperatures drop, division titles are won.
What better way to navigate those conditions than with no-frills football?
Run the ball.
Stop the run.
The Hokies did both Thursday, outrushing the Terps 273 to minus-12. Freshman tailback Darren Evans did most of the damage with a school-record 253 yards.
"When he got hot we just kept giving it to him," Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
One second-quarter sequence told all.
Tech linemen Jason Worilds and John Graves stuffed Davin Meggett for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 from the Terps' 44, forcing a punt. The Hokies (6-3, 3-2) took over at the 20, and Evans promptly burst off left tackles for 50 yards.
Seven plays later, he vaulted into the end zone from the 1 to give Tech a 14-3 lead.
Evans dominated the fourth quarter, rushing for 87 yards on 13 carries as the Hokies hogged the ball and milked the clock. He converted a fourth-and-1 early in the period and later single-handedly took Tech from inside its own 5 to Maryland's 18.
The Terps (6-3, 3-2) were gassed. Evans kept pounding, and they kept grasping.
'Twas not a fair fight.
Prior to Thursday, no Tech tailback had busted a run of 25 yards or more. Evans had three on this night, of 50, 45 and 29 yards.
His timing was impeccable. The Hokies had lost two straight, the offense looked impotent, and quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon were hobbled with ankle sprains — Glennon played in Taylor's stead Thursday.
Now Tech is within a half-game of Coastal Division leader Georgia Tech and is a legitimate title contender, especially with home games against Duke and Virginia to close the regular season.
"I told you I thought our offense was better (than it had showed)," Beamer said, "and I think we did some things tonight that showed it."
The most encouraging sign for Hokies' faithful was the season-best 273 yards rushing, more than Tech had managed combined in recent losses to Boston College and Florida State.
Evans and the defense saved the Hokies when their special teams, a source of embarrassment all season, threatened to give the game away.
After a blocked punt gave Maryland possession at Tech's 45, Cody Grimm sacked Chris Turner for an 11-yard loss. But the subsequent punt bounced off Kam Chancellor's leg, and Tony Logan recovered for the Terps at the Hokies' 11.
Maryland managed only a field goal, drawing within 20-13, after linebacker Brett Warren clocked Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 1-yard loss on a third-down pass.
Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies are 14-1 in the penultimate month, their only stumble to Miami here in 2005. And this season's November drive continues next Thursday at Miami, where Tech will encounter the conference's hottest team — the Hurricanes have won four straight.
One second-quarter drive could have haunted the Hokies.
The possession began at Maryland's 45 thanks to Dyrell Roberts' 55-yard kickoff return. Tech led 7-3, and Evans already had rushed for 61 yards.
More of the same?
Nope. Evans wasn't even in the game.
A first-down play-action pass fizzled when an indecisive Glennon dumped the ball to Josh Oglesby for a 5-yard loss. Glennon took a 4-yard sack on second down and scrambled for no gain on third.
Bad play-calling. Bad quarterback play.
But give offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring his due. With the quarterbacks hurting, he added some wrinkles to the attack.
Tight end Greg Boone, an all-state quarterback at Chesapeake's Oscar Smith High, took several snaps in a spread formation. He handed to Macho Harris or kept the ball, lunging his 280-plus pounds into the line.
Think Tim Tebow — without the Heisman Trophy potential.
Boone also caught a 26-yard pass from Glennon on the Hokies' final drive of the first half, setting up a Dustin Keys 35-yard field goal that extended the lead to 17-3 at intermission.
"I think that's got some possibility," Beamer said of the snaps to Boone. "Give Bryan Stinespring and that whole offensive staff credit."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.