Virginia Tech Ends BCS Bowl Drought
by Dave Congrove
January 1, 2009
Virginia Tech surrendered a touchdown to Cincinnati in the first 1:46 of the Orange Bowl, then scored 20 unanswered points in a 20-7 win.
The victory was the first for the Hokies in a BCS game after losing a pair of Sugar Bowls and last season's Orange Bowl. It was also the first BCS victory for an ACC team since Florida State beat Virginia Tech to win the 1999 national title.
The Hokies intercepted Bearcat QB Tony Pike 4 times.
Virginia Tech freshman running back Darren Evans had 153 yards and a touchdown as the Hokies hit the 10-win mark for the fifth straight season, and the sixth time in their last seven seasons.
Virginia Tech reeled off four straight wins after dropping to 6-4 with a loss at Miami. The Hokies completed the regular season with lackluster wins over Duke and Virginia, but a strong defense and improved offense helped them dominate Boston College in the ACC title game and the Bearcats in the bowl game.
Virginia Tech had 23 first downs to Cincinnati's 14 and controlled the clock for nearly 40 of the game's 60 minutes. The Hokies gained 14 first downs rushing, compared to just 3 for the Bearcats. Cincinnati had just 71 yards rushing and Pike was harassed into completing only 48.5 percent of his throws (16-of-33).
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati's leading receiver in the regular season with 1,276 yards, shone bright on offense with 7 catches for 158 yards. The team's second-leading receiver, Dominick Goodman, had 6 receptions for 51 yards.
Pike's 15-yard pass to Gilyard gave Cincinnati a 7-0 lead with 13:14 still left to play in the first quarter as the Bearcats needed just six plays to drive 72 yards after receiving the opening kickoff.
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor, who started the season with a redshirt, was 13-of-22 for 140 yards passing. He added 47 yards on the ground, including a ridiculous scramble of 17 yards for the Hokies' first touchdown that tied the game at 7-7 in the 2nd quarter.
Cincinnati had a golden opportunity to go ahead 14-7 just before halftime, but Stephan Virgil intercepted Pike in the back of the end zone on a 2nd-and-goal play from the Virginia Tech 8-yard line.
Taylor then drove the Hokies from their own 20 to the Cincinnati 26 in the final 2:23 of the half to set up Dustin Keys' 43-yard field goal for a 10-7 Virginia Tech lead at intermission. Tight end Greg Boone had three catches for 41 yards on the drive.
Virginia Tech added another Keys field goal on its first possession of the second half to go up 13-7. It wasn't until Evans scored on a 6-yard run with 11:29 remaining that the Hokies had any kind of a comfortable margin. Evans' burst was set up by defensive end Orion Martin's diving interception of Pike at the Cincinnati 10-yard line.
Cincinnati wasn't prepared to surrender. The Bearcats drove to the Virginia Tech 1 before turning the ball over on downs on a tremendous goal line stand. Cincinnati forced the Hokies to punt from their end zone but roughed the kicker to enable Virginia Tech to keep the ball and run over 3 more minutes off the clock.
When the Bearcats finally got the ball back with 2:41 remaining, Cody Grimm intercepted Pike on first down and the Hokies finished the game in the victory formation with four straight kneel-downs by Taylor.