As a fullback for Virginia Tech last season, Galax’s Steven Peoples showed flashes of the ability that made him a record-breaking player for the Maroon Tide. Now a tailback for the Hokies, Peoples had a breakout game Saturday in Virginia Tech’s 38-0 victory over Old Dominion in Blacksburg.
All of the 5-9, 220-pound junior’s talents were on display Saturday as Peoples scored three of the Hokies’ five touchdowns. Having scored three career touchdowns prior to Saturday, the bruising tailback matched that total in three quarters against the Monarchs.
With the Hokies leading 3-0 and struggling in the early going, Peoples finally got 13th-ranked Tech in the end zone, catching a screen pass from quarterback Josh Jackson and rambling 17 yards for a score. The Galax tailback was back in the end zone less than six minutes later, this time scoring on the ground with a 1-yard touchdown run just before the half to put VT up 17-0, making Peoples the first Virginia Tech running back to have a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in a single half since Ryan Williams did it against Boise State in 2010.
The biggest highlight of the day came on the third play of the third quarter when Jackson unleashed a bomb in the end zone that bounced off receiver Cam Phillips and into Peoples’ arms for a 43-yard touchdown, the Galax native’s third of the game.
“The fact that he stayed with it the entire time, that is kind of who he is,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said of Peoples’ highlight reel score. “He is a hustling…he knows one speed and one speed only. We do feel good about him catching the ball. He caught the screen for the touchdown (in the second quarter as well) so we feel comfortable with that. I think it speaks volume about his effort on the field.”
“It’s Cam. I thought he was going to catch it,” Peoples said of the long touchdown reception. “As soon as it bounced off him, I caught it and I was like, ‘Man, that’s a big-time catch.’”
Peoples finished with 135 yards of total offense on the day, carrying the ball 13 times for 62 yards and a score while also catching three passes for 73 yards and two more touchdowns. His three receptions for 73 yards are both career highs, while the 43-yard catch was the longest of his career. His 13 rushes matched a career high set in the West Virginia game to open this season and his 62 rushing yards were another career best for Peoples.
“I think it has helped him, not that he wasn’t productive or didn’t do a good job at fullback,” Fuente said of Peoples’ full-time move to running back. “It was kind of a deal last year we were mixing and matching what we were doing at the H-Back position and he was helpful there, but there was a point in the season where I really felt like he would be better suited carrying the football. And the fact that now he has had a full spring and two-a-days and four games to kind of really understand what we are trying to do back there has helped him fully focus on what we are trying to do.”
The 4-0 Hokies will open ACC play this Saturday in a monumental showdown with second-ranked Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) and a primetime 8 p.m. game on ABC. ESPN’s College GameDay will also be in Blacksburg for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN