Virginia Tech believes it's playing ACC Championship game for respect
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 12:26 AM
BLACKSBURG, VA. - Whether it's reality or perception, the Virginia Tech football team believes next Saturday's ACC championship is all about respect, or the lack thereof.
Though this will mark their third appearance in four years, and the fourth time overall that the Hokies will play in the conference's championship game since joining the ACC in 2004, players intimated they still feel they have to prove their place.
"We've always done fairly well and for the most part always been one of the top teams, but at the same time people still say the two Florida schools are key, they run the ACC and things like that," tight end Andre Smith said Monday. "I don't know what it's gonna take for us to distinguish ourselves as the dominant team in the ACC."
It's for this reason Saturday's matchup with Atlantic Division champion Florida State is so enticing to the Hokies. Not only are the Seminoles a ranked, marquee opponent, they've also been a thorn in Virginia Tech's side over the years.
Coach Frank Beamer is just 1-7 against Florida State, including an 0-3 record in the postseason. Beamer and the Hokies lost to the Seminoles in the 1999 national championship game, and Florida State also won the inaugural ACC championship game over Virginia Tech in 2005 - even though the Hokies entered the contest as heavy favorites ranked No. 5 in the country.
Virginia Tech's lone victory over the Seminoles came in 2007 when quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 204 yards and ran for another 92 as a freshman. Afterward, Florida State's coach, Bobby Bowden, quipped that he wasn't expecting to see "the second coming of [Michael] Vick."
"This is the perfect situation for us to go out and showcase our talents," Taylor said Monday. He echoed Smith's sentiments about the ACC's Florida schools before Virginia Tech faced Miami two weeks ago.
But this isn't the same Florida State program that won at least a share of the ACC title during its first nine years in the league. Before this season, the Seminoles were just 16-16 in conference play the past four years.
Coincidentally, just this past weekend, Virginia Tech became the first team since Florida State in 2000 to end the regular season with a perfect record against ACC opponents. It's an accomplishment first-year Seminoles Coach Jimbo Fisher acknowledged puts the Hokies at the top of the ACC mantel.
"To have seven straight 10-win seasons in a league as competitive as this one and play a good nonconference schedule and in their bowl games, [Beamer's] done one of the best jobs in all [of] America," Fisher said.
That statement doesn't change the perceived slight Virginia Tech is using as motivation this week. When asked about the Hokies supposed second-tier status this weekend, senior defensive back Davon Morgan quickly responded, "We've been in the ACC championship three times in my four years here, so we feel right at home."
Almost in the same breath, though, he concluded that winning this weekend would be the most meaningful victory of his career.
"Just the things we've overcome this season, to start off the way we did, with such high hopes that we had, it's big that we get to play Florida State in this game," Morgan said. "We're looking forward to it."
The all-ACC football teams were announced Monday, and not surprisingly, Virginia Tech was well represented after winning the conference's Coastal Division. Quarterback Taylor, cornerback Jayron Hosley and place kicker Chris Hazley were all first-team selections.
Taylor beat out North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson by two votes. Hosley, who leads the country with eight interceptions, received more votes than any other defensive back. Hazley has made 19 consecutive field goals since missing the first kick of his career against Boise State.
Earning second-team honors were right tackle Blake DeChristopher, right guard Jaymes Brooks, defensive end Steven Friday, defensive tackle John Graves, linebacker Bruce Taylor, safety Davon Morgan, punter Brian Saunders and running back David Wilson as a return specialist. Center Beau Warren (Centreville High) and tight end Andre Smith (Seneca Valley) were named honorable mentions.