Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tech Triumph at Orange Bowl

Photo Credit/ Sun-Sentennial Photo Jim Rassol

On New Year's Day the Virginia Tech Hokies, powered by fantastic performances from FS Kam Chancellor and RB Darren Evans, were not going to allow a repeat of last year's Orange Bowl performance.    

The Hokies took care of the Cincinnati Bearcats 20-7 for their first bowl win in the last three tries and the ACC's first BCS bowl win in its last nine attempts.   

First Half 
Victory did not come as easily as the final score suggests, though. Cincinnati drove down the field on the opening possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead when QB Tony Pike connected with WR Marshawn (Mardy) Gilyard for a 15-yard touchdown.   

Not to be outdone, the Hokies offensive unit marched down the field on its first possession with the help of a few nifty plays. An end around to Dyrell Roberts went for 26 yards and QB Tyrod Taylor hit a wide open Danny Coale on a post route to the middle of the field for 34 yards putting the Hokies at the Cincy 14 yard-line. Dustin Keys missed a 26-yard field goal, though, as the Hokies came up empty.    

With their third possessions of the game the Hokies and Bearcats reversed the accomplishments of their initial drives. Cincy came up short with missed 44-yard field goal by Jake Rogers while the Hokies put 7 on the board with a nifty 17-yard run by Tyrod Taylor.
The two teams traded punts on the next three possessions and what once looked like
a shootout settled down to a defensive battle. If not for their early game jitters the Hokies D might have putched a shutout as they continually forced Cincy QB Tony Pike out of the pocket and safeties Kam Chancellor and Victor "Macho" Harris were dominant against the Bearcats' aerial attack.   

Chancellor nearly had an INT during the 2nd quarter, assisted by a tip from Macho Harris, but the play was reversed after an official review. Chancellor's right hand came down in bounds but, in order to have possession, a player must have his forearm land in bounds.
Virginia Tech got the ball back and ran at will against an unusually porous Bearcats rush defense as RB Darren Evans amassed 49 of his game high 153 rushing yards on the drive. Evans became the first back to run for more than 100 yards against Cincy this season.
Tyrod Taylor threw an INT to Ohio State transfer Brandon Underwood to end the Hokies drive, setting up a Cincy drive down to the Hokies 8 yard line before Tony Pike was intercepted for the first of his 4 total INTs by VT cornerback Stephan Virgil. Dustin Keys connected on a 43-yard field goal to close out the first half with a 10-7 Hokies lead.     

Second Half 
Virginia Tech opened up the second half of play with a 13 play, 68-yard drive resulting in a Dustin Keys 35-yard field goal. The drive featured continued innovation by Hokies Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who experienced well deserved criticisum throughout the year due to inept performances by the Hokies O.    

The "Wild Turkey," which features mammoth TE Greg Boone behind center and is perhaps the greatest package name of all-time, was utilized during that opening drive and provided some spark for the relatively vanilla Hokies offense.    

Pike threw his 2nd pick of the game to Kam Chancellor on the Bearcats first possession of the second half.   The rest of the 3rd quarter was uneventful as neither team managed to cross the opposition's 40-yard line.   

With the score 13-7 entering the 4th it was clear that the Bearcats were only a few big plays away from igniting the pro-Cincy crowd into a frenzy. Cincy could not capitalize on its first possession of the quarter, though, as Pike was intercepted by DE Orion Martin at the Cincy 10-yard line. Darren Evans ran the ball three straight times on the ensuing drive, scoring on a 6-yard run to put the Hokies up 20-7.   

The Bearcats refused to quit, though, as they moved the ball at will through the air and drove deep into Hokies territory. A 7-yard completion from Pike to Dominick Goodman on 4th and 5 set up a Cincy first and goal from the 4-yard line. 

In rather peculiar fashion, however, the Bearcats chose not to run the ball until 3rd down after two consecutive incompletions. On 4th down Cincy opted go for it but the Hokies defense held its own to make the stop.

Momentum had clearly swung the way of the gobblers but Virginia Tech went 3 and out on their ensuing possession. A Cincinnati player ran into Hokies punter Brent Bowden to give the Hokies another opportunity to run down the clock. 

Cincinnati had one last shot when it regained possession with 2:31 remaining on the game clock. An ill-fated Pike pass was intercepted by LB Cody Grimm

As the game came to an end the few fans still in the stands, who were no doubt all Hokies fans, payed tribute to their conference affiliation with chants of "A-C-C!"

Considering how effortlessly the Bearcats scored against the 7th ranked defense in the nation it appeared that Hokies fans could be in for another episode of last year's Orange Bowl bash won by the Kansas Jayhawks.    

But the Hokies were determined not to let history repeat itself. A senior tradition that allows all VT seniors to forgo the first 3 days of bowl practice was broken to set the tone that this was a business trip and not just a fun reward for winning the ACC Championship.
While the Orange Bowl may not have been as hyped as the other BCS bowls this season it certainly was the most entertaining to date. Alabama started playing one quarter too late as the Crimson Tide was blown out by the Utah Utes in the Sugar Bowl and USC pounded Penn State in the Rose Bowl.  

Virginia Tech fans may be pleased at the moment but make no mistake about it - they will not be truly satisfied until the trophy case "reserved for the national championship trophy" is finally occupied.             

Virginia Tech finishd the season a perfect 6-0 in games where its defense allowed 13 points or less. The Hokies were 4-4 in games when 14+ points were surrendered.

Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber is known as "Phil Mickelson" in the clubhouse for his ability to back up balls inside the 10. 

Tyrod Taylor entered the game having thrown 2 TDs and 6 INTs this season. His stat line for the game: 13 of 22 for 140 yards with zero passing TDs and 1 INT. 

VT finished the season 10-4 for their fifth straight 10-win season, trailing only Texas (8) and USC (7) in that category.

FS Kam Chancellor announced to reporters after the game that he would return for his senior season.

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