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.