Darren Evans scored two touchdowns, Dustin Keys kicked four field goals and Virginia Tech held off Nebraska's comeback bid in the second half to win 35-30 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Hokies (4-1) have won four straight after losing their opener to East Carolina. The Huskers (3-1) lost a nonconference home game for only the third time since 1991.
"We didn't play well enough to win the football game against a pretty quality football team," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "We needed to play better. We had the crowd on our side. It's about emotions, fundamentals. We had too many breakdowns."
The Huskers started their rally after trailing 28-10 in the final minute of the third quarter. Roy Helu scored from 12 yards out and Nate Swift ran back a punt 88 yards for a touchdown.
QB Tyrod Taylor scored from two yards out to give Virginia Tech a 35-23 lead with 2:28 left, but Joe Ganz led the Huskers 80 yards in :56, hitting Todd Peterson with a 17-yard touchdown pass to get the Huskers to within five.
Virginia Tech recovered the onside kick, but failed to run out the clock. The Huskers started their last possession at their own 10 with :25 left. Ganz hit Niles Paul for 21 yards and Peterson for 25 more, but cornerback Stephan Virgil knocked the ball loose and safety Dorian Porch recovered to secure the win for Virginia Tech.
"There are some good things about a team that battles and hangs in there and gives all the effort you ever want," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "We're a better football team than we were a couple of weeks ago. For as emotional as we were, I thought we played tough. It's just a great win for the ACC and for Virginia Tech."
Taylor, 8-0 as the Hokies' starting quarterback, rushed for 87 yards and completed 9-of-15 passes for 171 yards. Ganz was 17-of-26 for 278 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
"We're growing up, but we still have a lot of growing up to do," Taylor said. "We like being the underdog because that gives us a chance to go out there and prove ourselves to people."
Virginia Tech got out to a quick 9-0 lead, marking the first time in seven games that the Hokies scored in the opening quarter. Virgil came up the gut untouched to block Dan Titchener's punt out of the end zone for a safety, making this the 16th straight year that Virginia Tech has blocked at least one.
"We just blew it," Pelini said. "We didn't lay a hand on the guy on the punt."
The Hokies added to their lead after Victor "Macho" Harris returned an interception to the Nebraska 11, setting up Evans' one-yard touchdown.
"It's never good to spot a team nine points, not a good team like this," said Swift.
The Huskers pulled to within 9-7 when Virginia Tech's secondary bit on a play-action fake and Ganz hit Mike McNeill for a 32-yard touchdown.
Virginia Tech was up 18-10 at half after Keys kicked field goals of 19, 38 and 27 yards on consecutive possessions and he added a 36-yarder to end the first series of the third quarter.
The Huskers feasted on Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State before facing a Virginia Tech team that started the season in the Top 25 and is poised to get back in the national rankings.
"It's not like we're playing New Mexico State," said Ganz. "These are some big boys, Virginia Tech. It's hard to move the ball against a great defense like that."
Pelini said the Huskers need a better effort next Saturday against Missouri in the Big 12 opener. "This game, you've got to let it go. It will help us if we learn from our mistakes. If we don't, we're going to be sitting here in a similar situation in the future."