10 down, one to go

FSU final hurdle for Hokies on way back to BCS

Virginia Tech went from national-championship contender to pretender in a matter of hours on the rainy afternoon of Sept. 11, 2010, when James Madison shocked the football world with its 20-16 upset of the Hokies in Lane Stadium.

What was the second of back-to-back losses to open the 2010 season was backbreaking both with foresight and hindsight. It’s likely that had the Hokies won against the I-AA Dukes that they would at the least be on the fringe of the talk about the Jan. 10 BCS title game.

This not being the world of video games, you don’t get a do-over, and it’s not as if all talk involving BCS is over and done with. A win over Florida State in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte would put the Hokies into the Orange Bowl for the third time in four years.

“Any time you play Florida State, you’re going to play a good football team. We know that’s in line there,” said Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team is not unfamiliar with FSU on this particular big stage. In 2005, the Hokies and Seminoles battled it out in the first ACC Championship Game, and an underdog Florida State team upset its heavily-favored opponent from Blacksburg by a 27-22 final tally.

Tech (10-2, 8-0 ACC) is a five-point favorite this time around over FSU (9-3, 6-2 ACC).

“You know they’re going to be good players. They’re going to be well-coached. That’s the way I’ve always known Florida State to be, and that’s the way it is now with Coach Fisher,” Beamer said.

Coach Fisher – Jimbo Fisher – is in his first year at the helm at Florida State after replacing the legendary Bobby Bowden. Fisher had been the offensive coordinator under Bowden, and his ascension to the top job came with expectations from the Florida State fan base that he would quickly get the program back to prominence after the slide that marked Bowden’s final years in Tallahassee.

“At Florida State, the bar is always high. That’s what you’re expected. That’s one of the reasons this is such a great job,” said Fisher, whose team finished the 2010 regular season on a three-game winning streak, including a convincing 31-7 win over archrival Florida on Saturday.

The ‘Noles were third in the ACC in scoring offense (31.7 points per game) and second in scoring defense (17.8 ppg) and also led the conference in sacks (43). The team’s heart and soul is senior quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw for 2,038 yards and 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

Virginia Tech’s senior QB, Tyrod Taylor, led the ACC in pass efficiency (Ponder was third) while throwing for 2,258 yards and 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions and adding 613 yards and four more TDs on the ground.

Tech led the conference in scoring offense (34.8 ppg) and was third in scoring defense (17.9 ppg).

Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. The game is being televised nationally on ABC.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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