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December 1, 2007

Hokies pull away to claim ACC title

Box score

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Frank Beamer built the Virginia Tech program on Beamerball, a combination of tough defense and outstanding special teams play.

These days, the Hokies' coach is more famous among his players for the "Beamer Ball," an impromptu dance in the locker room following Virginia Tech wins.

The coach first broke it out after the Hokies clinched a trip to the ACC Championship Game with a win over rival Virginia last weekend.

"Dancing With the Hokies" made a return engagement in Jacksonville, Fla., when Virginia Tech's ACC title gave Beamer, 61, more reason to celebrate. At the urging of his team, Beamer showed off his moves for the second time, this time joined by members of his staff and the trainers.

Beamer's Hokies avenged an October loss to Boston College and claimed their second ACC title in four seasons with a 30-16 win over the Eagles in front of a relatively paltry crowd. The victory sends Virginia Tech to the Orange Bowl.

No word yet on whether Beamer's dance will make a reappearance in Miami should the Hokies (11-2) win there, too.

"We just gave him a 'go ahead' and started cheering him on," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "Everyone was egging him on to dance and he couldn't resist it. He does a wave (with his arms out) and moves his shoulders."

The celebratory dance was a long way from where Virginia Tech's emotions were the first time these teams met. On Oct. 25, the Hokies led 10-0 until BC scored twice in the final 2:11.

There would be no heroics from BC quarterback Matt Ryan this time.

Instead of touchdowns, Ryan's last two possessions resulted in interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown by linebacker Xavier Adibi with 11 seconds left. It was a suitable ending for a defense that clamped down in the second half after Boston College (10-3) moved the ball at will prior to halftime.

Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 16
Offensive player of the game
Much has been made of the Hokies two-quarterback system, but it's Sean Glennon who plays at the most critical times. Glennon was named the game's MVP after going 18 of 27 for 174 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive player of the game
Virginia Tech LB Vince Hall missed the first meeting between the teams, but he was a difference-maker Saturday. He had 11 tackles and an interception in the red zone with 2:16 left to help seal the win.
Turning point
With Virginia Tech leading 23-16 in the fourth quarter, BC had marched to Virginia Tech's 13. But that's when Hall came up with his interception.
Key stat
BC had four second-half first downs. The Eagles had 20 in the first half.
What this means for Virginia Tech
The Hokies are the new kings of the ACC. Virginia Tech won its second ACC title in the four seasons since the league expanded in 2004. (The Hokies also have lost once in the championship game.) Tech will play in the Orange Bowl.
What this means for Boston College
BC's hopes of winning its first conference championship of any kind will have to wait. The Eagles await a bowl bid, likely to the Chick-fil-A or Champs Sports bowls. Boston College will have to hope bowl suitors look at the Eagles' 10-3 record rather than its ability to sell tickets. Boston College sold only about 3,500 of its allotted tickets to the ACC Championship Game.
Boston College FS Jamie Silva could have been the MVP of the first half with a 51-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception. Boston College TB Andre Callender finished the game with 13 catches for 92 yards to go with 51 rushing yards. Virginia Tech is the first Coastal Division member to win the ACC title game. Previous winners Florida State and Wake Forest are Atlantic Division members. Both participants in the title game were former Big East teams.
The Eagles had 277 yards of offense in the first half, 231 coming from Ryan on the ground and in the air. Boston College, though, went to the locker room tied at 16 because of a Virginia Tech touchdown in the final minute.

Two BC drives also ended scoreless inside the Hokies' 30. One ended on a blocked field goal, the other a change of possession on downs. In addition, Hokies offensive tackle Duane Brown, who blocked the field goal, blocked an extra point that was returned for a two-point conversion.

In the locker room before the game with Virginia, Beamer held up a piece of paper with "6:01" printed on it. That's how much time was left when the Hokies' collapse started against BC in October. In the final 6:01 that night, Virginia Tech had a three-and-out on offense, then allowed two touchdown drives.

Saturday, Virginia Tech staffers wore T-shirts with "6:01" printed on them. Similar shirts were sold in the campus bookstore in Blacksburg.

But forget the final 6:01 - Virginia Tech owned the final 30 minutes Saturday. The Hokies held Boston College to four first downs after the intermission.

Boston College's short passing game, which worked so well in the first half, was disrupted by an adjustment in coverages. The Hokies also adjusted their blitzes to more effectively pressure Ryan.

"I told our kids they were dinking and dunking, so we made an adjustment to take away their checkdowns," Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "We were able to get pressure on the quarterback, and we were able to do that from the second quarter on."

Virginia Tech's day of redemption didn't end with the defense. Quarterback Sean Glennon, criticized at the end of last season and benched in the second week this year, was the game MVP after going 18 of 27 for 174 yards and three touchdowns.

Glennon ended the day on the midfield podium, choked up and hoisting the game's MVP trophy as several thousand Virginia Tech fans chanted his name.

He started the season under fire because of a three-interception game against Georgia in last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl. The arrival of five-star true freshman Tyrod Taylor didn't help, either.

It all bottomed out for Glennon when he was benched in the second week of the season during a 48-7 loss at LSU.

While Glennon did not start for the next five games, he told Beamer the Hokies would need him to win the ACC title.

Never to return?
A second consecutive season of poor attendance likely means the ACC Championship Game will not return to Jacksonville, Fla., next season.

Announced ticket sales for the third ACC Championship Game were 53,212, but the crowd appeared to be noticeably smaller than that figure. Fans were sparse in the end zone, and only a few dozen fans sat in the upper deck. Attendance has dipped each year, from a sellout crowd when Florida State defeated Virginia Tech in 2005 to 62,850 when Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech last year.

"It's not up to the standard we are looking for in terms of a championship football game," ACC commissioner John Swofford said before the game.

Three cities are bidding to host the title games from 2008-10: Charlotte, N.C.; Tampa, Fla., and Jacksonville. Charlotte is more centrally located for the bulk of the ACC, but could have cold weather in the first week of December. Tampa is even further away from the rest of the ACC than Jacksonville, but there are more direct flights to its airport.

The ACC is likely to make a decision in the next few weeks.

Hurting the attendance is the lack of Florida schools in the game. Florida State played in the first title game. Miami has yet to play in a title game.

This year, Virginia Tech sold all of its 10,000 tickets, but BC sold only about 3,500, forcing the school to buy the remaining 6,500.

-- David Fox
He was right.

Glennon regained his starting spot when Taylor went down with an injury in October. When both quarterbacks were healthy, the Hokies used Glennon and Taylor in tandem for the final four games of the season.

"He was devastated. He was hurt. But that makes him appreciate it even more," said wide receiver Eddie Royal, Glennon's high school teammate in Chantilly, Va. "I've never seen a bigger smile on his face (than Saturday). He kept saying it was the worst day of his life, to have your dreams taken away. Now he's really appreciating it. He put a lot of hard work into it and he deserves it."

Virginia Tech switched quarterbacks 14 times against Boston College, but the day was all Glennon's. He recovered from a second-quarter interception to lead an 80-yard touchdown drive on the next possession. Virginia Tech went into the locker room tied at 16 after Glennon avoided the rush to find Josh Hyman on the doorstep of the end zone. Hyman fell the final yard for the 13-yard touchdown catch.

Glennon's biggest moment, though, came in the fourth quarter.

Taylor started a drive on Tech's 16, then ran 31 yards on a draw. Glennon entered the game to guide Virginia Tech to Boston College's 19.

A false start moved the Hokies back to the 24 on third down, but Glennon connected with Royal for the game-winning touchdown pass.

"It's been such an emotional roller coaster this season," Glennon said. "For it to end on the most unbelievable high note of my athletic career, it just shows how blessed I've been."

BC will have to wait at least another season before it has the same feeling as Virginia Tech. The Eagles' season will end with a ninth consecutive bowl appearance. But the loss ends Boston College's bid to win its first conference title in school history. Boston College spent most of its existence as an independent until joining the Big East in 1991, and subsequently the ACC in 2005.

"I'll take a 10-win season," first-year BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "Anytime you get double-digit wins in football, I think that's a good year. We just came up a little bit short."

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, will dance all the way to Miami.

That was a prospect that didn't look too promising after the rout in Baton Rouge, La., then the fourth-quarter collapse against Boston College.

"That loss hurt us but helped us," Brown said. "It helped us stay together and stay focused. We knew we could get where we are today."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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