HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Now that the preliminaries are over, it's time for No. 13 Virginia Tech to find out just how good it is.
David Wilson rushed for 132 yards, Josh Oglesby scored two touchdowns and No. 13 Virginia Tech improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2006 with a 30-10 win over Marshall on Saturday. But it was another uneven, lackluster victory over an opponent from a non-BCS conference for the Hokies and the pressure's about to ratchet up with No. 21 Clemson due up next.
"We had some good plays and we had some that were not so good," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "We were not consistent. My point is that if you can be good sometimes, you can do it all the time."
"Consistent" was the buzz word for the Hokies after the game. Virginia Tech displayed some big-play ability and kept the turnover-prone Thundering Herd (1-3) in their own end for much of the game. But Marshall continued to expose Tech's vulnerabilities in the worrisome way East Carolina and Arkansas State did earlier this season.
And the Hokies showed they could bungle things all on their own as well with a missed field goal, a fumble and an interception late that kept them from running away from Marshall.
Meanwhile, No. 21 Clemson is rolling after beating No. 11 Florida State and then-No. 21 Auburn in consecutive weeks.
Not to worry, though, say the Hokies.
"This is one of the most explosive teams we've had since I've been here," Oglesby said. "I'm not worried. But we've got to get it together now."
The message may have been consistent afterwards, but the Hokies were anything but during the game.
Wilson rushed for big yards and a touchdown as expected, but had that late fumble which came after a long run in Marshall's end. Quarterback Logan Thomas completed 22 of 33 passes for 229 yards and rushed for a score, but missed some open receivers and threw a late interception that also kept Clemson from running away.
The Hokies continued to lack an offensive spark and proved vulnerable to big plays on defense, despite pushing their streak of games with an interception to 11. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato hit receiver Aaron Dobson with a long pass deep into Virginia Tech territory on the game's fourth play, but Jayron Hosley punched the ball out of Dobson's hands after chasing him down from behind and recovered the fumble.
"I don't know what that did to us, to be honest," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "It would have been nice to have kept the ball, that's for sure."
It took even more help from Marshall for Virginia Tech to get on the board early. Herd punter Kase Whitehead shanked punts on consecutive drives, helping the Hokies to an early lead.
The first traveled 23 yards to the 50, setting up Thomas' 5-yard run to open the scoring midway through the first quarter. Whitehead's next kick traveled just 29 yards to the Hokies 42 and Wilson carried four consecutive times to end the drive, scoring from 3 yards out late in the quarter. Marshall blocked the extra point to keep it 13-0.
Oglesby added a 4-yard score with a nifty spin move early in the second quarter to make it 20-3, but even that drive was kept alive by a third-down pass interference call on Marshall. Even so, it looked as if the Hokies might take a comfortable lead into the locker room. But Cato cranked up the deep passing game again, moving the Herd 71 yards in 38 seconds, capping the drive with a 29-yard scoring pass to Dobson, who beat his man easily at the line in single coverage and jogged into the end zone to cut Tech's lead to 23-10.
Things weren't that much better for Virginia Tech in the second half. Oglesby added a 5-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter to seal the win. But the team executed a clumsy finish with an interception, a fumble and a missed field goal, and Cato, who passed for 245 yards, drove the Herd to the Hokies 13 late before they turned the ball over on downs late in the fourth.
The Hokies defended their cupcake schedule this week after needing a late touchdown to beat East Carolina of Conference USA 17-10 -- a win that nevertheless dropped them two spots in the Top 25 -- and failing to run away from the Sun Belt Conference's Arkansas State in a 26-7 win last week. The Tigers, meanwhile, come to Blacksburg, Va., after beating No. 11 Florida State 35-30 on Saturday.
"We've got to have all the parts working next week," Thomas said.
The day started poignantly for Beamer, who laid a memorial stone at the Marshall University Memorial to the 75 players, coaches and members of the university community killed in a 1970 plane crash about 2½ hours before the game. Two of the coaches killed in the crash -- coach Rick Tolley and assistant coach Frank Loria -- were Virginia Tech graduates and Loria and Beamer played together in the Hokies secondary in the mid-1960s.
Loria was the school's first consensus All-American.
"Two bright coaches," Beamer said at the cemetery. "... Their lives were taken away too soon. Of course, I was great friends with Frankie and knew of Rick. (Loria was) just a guy that had a great future as a football coach and he was just a good person. He had a bright future and he was just taken way too soon."