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Tyrod Taylor's three touchdowns power Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech is back where most of its fans figured it would be at this point in the season: leading the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Tyrod Taylor threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns and the Hokies (No. 25 BCS, No. 23 AP) rolled to a 44-7 victory over Duke on Saturday, the sixth straight victory for a team that opened with two straight losses, including a stunning upset to James Madison.

"I do think we've got things to work on, but when you play well and you have success, it builds confidence," coach Frank Beamer said. "You can't talk your way into it. You've got to build it. The last couple of games, we've taken steps where we want to go."

Taylor was 13 of 17 passing and finished with 327 yards of total offense, putting him less than 100 away from becoming the school's career leader.

"We've got an opportunity," said Beamer, whose team beat Duke for the 10th consecutive time. "Our quarterback is playing real well, and he gives us a chance."

Ryan Williams, a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference running back a year ago, returned after missing four games with a hamstring injury. He only played two series but scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter as the Hokies (6-2, 4-0) opened a 27-0 lead by halftime.

Duke's lone score came on Jay Hollingsworth's 6-yard run in the third quarter. The Blue Devils (1-6, 0-4), who have lost six straight, finished with just 208 yards of total offense.

The Hokies were in control from the start, with Taylor leading them on a drive that he capped with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Andre Smith with 7:56 left in the first quarter.

Williams added his TD run a few minutes later, and Darren Evans made it 21-0 with 10:05 left in the second quarter when he scored from 2 yards out. Chris Hazley added two of his three field goals to put the Hokies up 27-0 by the break.

Virginia Tech added to its cushion right out of the break, taking less than 4 minutes to march down field. Taylor connected with Dyrell Roberts from 43 yards to make it 34-0.

"It all starts with Tyrod Taylor," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "You give him opportunities and he's going to make the most of them.

"I don't see a college quarterback playing any better in the country. Period," Cutcliffe added. "He might be the best dual-threat quarterback in the country. He might be the best quarterback in the country. He made some throws that were unbelievable."

Taylor's third touchdown pass covered 65 yards to David Wilson later in the quarter, making it 41-7, and Hazley added another field goal late in the third quarter for the final margin.

The Hokies finished with 491 yards of total offense and scored on eight of their first nine possessions in the game. They topped the 40-point mark for the fourth consecutive game -- a first since the 2000 season, when Michael Vick's team did it four straight to open the season.

"We're playing well, but I think there's still room for improvement," Taylor said. "We didn't play a perfect game and we haven't the past couple of weeks. I still think we can watch film and get better."

The victory keeps Virginia Tech in control of the ACC Coastal Division, where Georgia Tech was a game back in the loss column entering the day. The two teams meet a week from Thursday in a game that could help decide who plays in the conference championship game.

The Hokies then close with road games against Coastal Division foes North Carolina and Miami and a home game against rival Virginia.

"I'm excited," Taylor said. "We have some tough games coming up, including two games away [at North Carolina and Miami] that are going to be very tough going into that type of crowd. But I think we have the talent and the team to go out and excel in front of those types of crowds. I'm looking forward to the Georgia Tech game and the rest of the season."