Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 26, 2012

Hokies' Taylor embraces trophy — and leadership role

By LARRY EDENS for the Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLACKSBURG, Va. — There’s an old saying that goes, “What happens in Blacksburg stays in Blacksburg.”

OK, maybe it wasn’t Blacksburg. But the point is, after Virginia Tech’s last-second 17-14 win over Virginia on Saturday, the world may never find out if Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor really did shower with the Commonwealth Cup like he said he would.

Or sleep with it. Or even flatten anyone who tried to pry it loose from what he called his kung-fu grip.

Clinging to that trophy in the post-game media conference room was a reward for a win that meant much more to the fifth-year senior than securing a bowl bid for the Hokies.

“This is by far the best feeling I have had all year, this being my last game in Lane Stadium,” Taylor said. “I would have been heartbroken — the worst you have ever seen — if we had not gotten it done today.”

Taylor overcame a severe right-foot injury last season to become Tech’s third-leading tackler this year (65) behind Jack Tyler (112) and Kyshoen Jarrett (77).

“I’m very proud of and happy for this team,” he said. “Where we have come from, that month where we weren’t very good to knowing we could still make something out of this season. These past few weeks everybody has been taking charge and doing what they needed to do.”

What they needed to do was win their final two games to become bowl-eligible with six wins. It certainly wasn’t easy.

Win number five was an overtime road victory over always-tough Boston College and on Saturday Cody Journell’s 29-yard field goal as time expired propelled Virginia Tech to their ninth-straight win in the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry.

The field goal was set up by a pass-interception-and-return by Antone Exum to the Virginia 24-yard line.

Quarterback Logan Thomas was also instrumental in the victory with 89 yards rushing on 29 carries and one rushing touchdown. It was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season. He also passed for 129 yards, including a seven-yard scoring strike to tight end Randall Dunn.

Taylor believes that because he and Thomas are quarterbacks on their respective sides of the ball, they share a leadership responsibility that has made them close.

“I say more to motivate him when the offense has tough times and he did the same for me when the defense wasn’t doing so hot,” Taylor said. “That’s the sign of a great teammate: a guy that’s always on your side, has your back, never gets down on you and wants the best for you. That’s the kind of leadership Logan and I have.”

As a captain of the football team, the leadership role was not unexpected for Taylor, but the sheer weight of it was.

Taylor said, “The burden that was placed on me as captain was a little heavier than I expected. With the expectations of the defense coming into the season, I wasn’t anticipating me being the only guy to be the talker, to make sure guys are doing the right thing.”

“But I’m glad it happened. I feel like I have grown as a teammate and player by learning from the heartache.”

Taylor admitted that Saturday’s home win was an emotional experience because he would not play in Lane Stadium again “in front of our great fans.” Still, he has a “ton of memories” and a bowl game to look forward to.

“I don’t know what bowls we are eligible for, but I’d like to go somewhere warm and where there is a beach. Hawaii would be nice; Orlando would be nice,” he said.

“[Regardless], we have one more shot to win another game. That would be a happy ending to a very long season.”