'Kind of Like a Shock' for Hokies

Boston College wide receiver Kevin Challenger celebrates with wide receiver Tony Gonzalez after Challenger scored the Eagles' first touchdown.
Boston College wide receiver Kevin Challenger celebrates with wide receiver Tony Gonzalez after Challenger scored the Eagles' first touchdown. (By Adam Hunger -- Associated Press)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass., Oct. 12 -- On Sept. 23, the Virginia Tech football team was 4-0, ranked No. 11 in the country and was the clear favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. All of its players, aside from the injured, were available. Expectations were tempered by nothing, and promise ran rampant.

In the wee hours of the next morning, defensive end Chris Ellis and wide receiver Josh Morgan were arrested, and that boundless promise begun to erode. Those players would not play against Georgia Tech that week, and the Hokies lost their first game of the season.

By the end of Thursday night, after the No. 22 Hokies slumped off the Alumni Stadium field following a 22-3 dismantling by Boston College, a completely different picture had begun to develop. The Hokies slogged through their second straight loss, and likely played their way out of contention for the ACC championship game and out of the polls for the first time since October 2004.

Starting wide receiver Josh Hyman missed Thursday's game, having been arrested for DUI last Friday morning and suspended by Coach Frank Beamer. His absence was felt, as the Hokies turned in their worst offensive performance in a regular season game in more than a decade.

"It really is just kind of like a shock," said quarterback Sean Glennon, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 148 yards and two interceptions. "One minute, we're 4-0, we're ranked whatever we were, things are looking real good. Then we lose two, we may not be ranked anymore. It feels like a quick turnaround. It's really kind of degrading for our program, which we feel is a very strong program, to be shoved out of the limelight like that."

Hyman would not have made up the 19-point difference alone, would not have made up for the four turnovers, the nine penalties for 88 yards, the 181 total yards of offense, the squandering of what rare good fortune found the Hokies.

But the things Hyman did this week, and actions like his that have occurred around the Hokies this season, have quickly submarined a season once so full of possibility.

"It's the principle of it," Glennon said. "Maybe receiver is a position where it isn't the worst thing in the world to lose of them because there's a lot of guys that can fill the spots. It's probably just the principle of a distraction. It's a distraction. There's attention focused on it that doesn't need to be."

Beamer vowed the team's play would be cleaner, but it wasn't. The Hokies (4-2, 2-2 ACC) committed four personal fouls Thursday night, two by Ellis. One came with five minutes left and eviscerated any hope the Hokies might have had. One came on a hold by Ryan Shuman that negated a touchdown toward the end of the first half.

The lack of discipline has been matched by a lack of execution, which last night added to the Hokies' lowest-scoring output since a 16-0 loss to Cincinnati in 1995.

"We need to evaluate our football team and how we're doing what we're doing it," Beamer said. "We need to determine what kind of team we are. Two weeks in a row, a turnover in the third quarter got us."

On the fourth play of the second half, Glennon dropped back and fired right. Boston College linebacker Alex Albright deflected the pass, intended for David Clowney, into the arms of Jolonn Dunbar, who returned the ball to the Virginia Tech 26-yard line.

Virginia Tech's defense held, and three plays later, on came kicker Steve Aponavicius, a name few here could pronounce before the game or forget afterward.

Aponavicius had played exactly three plays of football in his life before that moment, and they came on two kickoffs and an extra point earlier in the game. A walk-on, Aponavicius played soccer in high school in Easton, Pa., but never football. He showed up to Boston College football games last season wearing body paint and sat in the student section, but walked on this season. He was called into service because struggling starter Ryan Ohliger was suspended for his role in a fight on campus.

As the 35-yard field goal twirled end over end through the uprights, the 44,500 fans let out the biggest cheer they had all night. The Eagles (5-1, 2-1 ACC) led 10-3 with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter.

On Virginia Tech's ensuing possession, Glennon gave away the ball again. Scanning for an open receiver, Glennon held the ball a moment too long. He never saw Austin Giles as he drifted directly into the defensive lineman, and Giles, a redshirt freshman, blasted Glennon clean off his feet. The ball flew out of his hands as he smacked into the ground, and Boston College fell on it.

Boston College tacked on another touchdown and a safety on a botched long snap through the hands of Nic Schmitt, but that scoring was cosmetic.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company