The Virginia Tech football players have been screaming for weeks that they are a team of destiny. Though it's a cry often heard in sports--particularly by the underdogs--the Hokies have reason to believe.
Off to its best season in school history, Virginia Tech (9-0, 5-0 Big East) seems to have everything going its way. Almost. The Hokies moved into the No. 2 spot after Penn State lost to Minnesota last week, but were passed over when the Bowl Championship Series rankings were released. The rankings, which will match the top two teams in the Sugar Bowl for the national title, had Florida State first and Tennessee second.
On Saturday, Virginia Tech needed a loss by Tennessee to have any hope of moving up in the BCS rankings. They got it when Arkansas upset Tennessee, 28-24.
Now it seems likely--though certainly not guaranteed--that the Hokies will have a shot at their first national championship in 107 years if they win their remaining two games. They play Temple on the road Saturday and host Boston College Nov. 26.
"Some seasons it's like this," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said after last week's last-second field goal over West Virginia gave the Hokies a 22-20 win and kept their title hopes alive. "Things happen right and players make it happen right."
Beamer could add a tape of Saturday's 43-10 victory over then-No. 19 Miami to his collection in case anyone wants to see proof of the magic.
When the Hurricanes lost hold of the ball Saturday--something they did seven times--the Hokies benefited. Virginia Tech recovered all but one of Miami's miscues, three fumbles and three interceptions, and converted the league-record six turnovers into 19 points.
But when the Hokies mishandled the ball--something they did four times--the result was only one turnover and no points. With 7 minutes 45 seconds to play and Virginia Tech holding a 35-10 lead, reserve tailback Andre Kendrick took the handoff on second and nine from the Hokies 41-yard line and burst through a seam in the middle of the defense.
Seemingly home free, Kendrick was caught from behind by linebacker Nate Webster, who stripped the ball free near the 10-yard line. With cornerback Michael Rumph coming from the side, it looked as though Miami would recover the loose ball. Instead, Virginia Tech wide receiver Andre Davis raced into the picture and, after inadvertently kicking the ball into the end zone, pounced on it for a touchdown.
"From last year, when we had a couple of tough losses, to this year, when things all seem to be going our way, it's been a big turnaround," Virginia Tech senior linebacker Michael Hawkes said. "We've worked hard and stayed focused, but having a few things bounce our way hasn't hurt either."
Virginia Tech got another lucky bounce midway through the third quarter. Quarterback Michael Vick stepped under center on third and nine from his own 46, took the snap and, dropping back to pass, promptly felt the rush of linebackers Webster and Dan Morgan.
He scrambled right to avoid a sack but lost his grip on the football, which hit the turf just in front of Webster and bounced straight up and back into Vick's hands. The left-hander then reversed field and sped to his left before spotting tight end Browning Wynn for a 15-yard gain and a Virginia Tech first down.
"You guys just saw it," Hokies all-American defensive end Corey Moore said after the game. "We've just got a refuse to lose attitude. I've been telling you--this is our year."
Hokies Notes: Though several Hokies were hobbled Saturday, including Vick (ankle), tailback Shyrone Stith (ankle), defensive tackle Nathaniel Williams (shoulder) and cornerback Anthony Midget (groin), all but senior defensive end John Engelberger were cleared to return to practice Tuesday. Engelberger suffered a severe bruise to his left ankle midway through the second quarter but continued to play intermittently. He is expected to return by the end of the week.