Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer knows second chances don't come along very often. He just hopes his players realize how rare they are as they prepare to play North Carolina at sold-out Lane Stadium on Saturday night. If the No. 5 Hokies beat the Tar Heels for the second consecutive season, Virginia Tech will play No. 23 Florida State in the inaugural ACC championship game at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium on Dec. 3.
But if Virginia Tech loses, and No. 10 Miami beats Virginia at the Orange Bowl on Saturday, the Hurricanes will win the ACC's Coastal Division and will play in the championship game. The winner of the ACC title game receives the conference's automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series, probably an invitation to the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl.
"It was critical before because if we had any chance of going to the BCS, we knew we had to beat Virginia and North Carolina, too," Beamer said. "Now, thanks to Georgia Tech, we've got a chance to go to the ACC championship game and get an automatic bid. So this game got a lot bigger."
The No. 20 Yellow Jackets upset Miami, 14-10, last week to put the Hokies one game ahead of the Hurricanes in the Coastal Division standings. Last season, the Hokies struggled against the Tar Heels before winning, 27-24, in Chapel Hill. Tech led 27-14 in the third quarter, but then North Carolina kicked a field goal and blocked a punt for a touchdown to make it close.
According to BeamerBall.com, the Virginia Tech coach's official Web site, he stressed the importance of focusing on the Tar Heels when he met with his players Monday.
"Now, I promise you, you don't get many second chances in life, but we have an opportunity," Beamer told his team, according to the Web site. "You know how it is around here. The only thing we're talking about is North Carolina. If we don't take care of this game on Saturday, then none of the other stuff matters. Why would anyone in this room talk about anything other than UNC? It just doesn't make sense. Concentrate on getting yourselves ready to go out, in your stadium on Saturday night, and playing another game like you did last Saturday.
"There's a big difference between what should happen, and what does happen. Many people will tell you that Georgia Tech shouldn't have beaten Miami, but, they did."
Imoh Set to Return
Senior tailback Mike Imoh (Robinson), who missed last week's 52-14 victory at Virginia because of a badly sprained left ankle, is practicing and will play against the Tar Heels, Beamer said. Against the Cavaliers, senior tailback Cedric Humes and redshirt freshman Branden Ore combined to run for 228 of the Hokies' 333 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns.
"We believe Imoh will be back," Beamer said. "It will be a three-man rotation."
Williams a Thorpe Finalist
Senior cornerback Jimmy Williams, from Hampton, Va., yesterday was named one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award, which goes to college football's best defensive back. The other finalists are Clemson's Tye Hill and Texas's Michael Huff. Williams, who is fifth on the team with 34 tackles, including two for loss and one sack, also was named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given to the country's best defensive player. The winner of the Thorpe Award will be announced in Orlando on Dec. 8.
Beamer said he wrote a letter to Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball last week to commend Ball for his quick recovery from viral meningitis. Ball started against the Hokies only four days after he was released from an Atlanta hospital and took nearly every snap in the Hokies' 51-7 victory on Sept. 24. After Ball helped the Yellow Jackets upset Miami last week, Beamer said, "I think I'm going to write him again this week. Wow!"