TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Another Atlantic Coast Conference championship in hand, Frank Beamer posed one more challenge for his young Virginia Tech football team: Win the Orange Bowl and finish with at least 10 victories for the fifth straight year.
A tall order, yes. But one the Hokies certainly are capable of achieving after overcoming injuries and the loss of key personnel from last season to make an improbable run to their third league title in five seasons.
“It’s the youngest team we’ve had in some time, I think with the toughest schedule, with some key injuries, and some people that kind of gave up on us,” Beamer said after Saturday’s 30-12 pounding of Boston College in the ACC championship game.
“But this football team hung together when it was tough. … It says a lot about the kids in this program and the coaching staff. They play smart. We kind of got eyes straight ahead, don’t pay too much attention to a lot of things and come out with a championship. I think this one’s special.”
Reeling after losing to BC, Florida State and Miami within a four-week span of October and November, Tech (9-4) regrouped to beat Duke and Virginia to win the Coastal Division and set up a rematch of last year’s ACC title game.
The Hokies put it all together Saturday to climb back into the Top 25 at No. 21. They moved the ball when it needed to against BC’s stout defense, forced four turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown and posted their largest margin of victory this year.
“It was good to be able to breathe at the end of the game for a change,” Beamer said.
The coach will rest even easier if the Hokies can finish strong in the Orange Bowl, where last season ended with a 24-21 loss to Kansas. Tech was beaten by Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two years ago.
A victory New Year’s night will enable Tech to keep pace with Texas and Southern California as the only Football Bowl Subdivision schools with 10 or more wins each of the past five seasons.
“One thing I’ve learned, and these guys have learned—these things stay with you a little while. The alumni don’t forget those things real quick, but we didn’t either,” Beamer said. “I think it’s very, very important that we not only represent the ACC in this Orange Bowl … but win.”
Boston College (9-4), which tumbled out of the Top 25, has not played in the Orange Bowl since New Year’s Day 1943. The disappointment of falling short of the ACC’s BCS spot for the second straight year is deepened by the fact the Eagles won both regular season meetings against the Hokies.
BC allowed Tech’s Darren Evans to run for a league championship game-record 114 yards on 31 carries after limiting opponents to just 57 yards per game rushing over the last five weeks of the regular season.
Redshirt freshman Dominique Davis threw for 263 yards and one touchdown in his second college start, but was intercepted twice and had a fumble returned for a TD. Additionally, the Eagles were held to 45 yards rushing on 24 attempts.
“Their game plan was we are not going to let you run it, and you have to beat us throwing the ball. … They take something away, you have to be able to do something else,” BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. “We just didn’t throw it effectively good enough.”