<
>

Season wrap-up: Virginia Tech

The season began with a No. 7 preseason ranking and high hopes for a national title, but those aspirations took an immediate dive with the news that leading rusher Darren Evans would be lost for the season before it even started because of a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Ryan Williams was the next man up, and he exceeded almost everyone’s expectations, rushing for at least 100 yards in nine different games.

Virginia Tech represented the ACC well against its nonconference opponents with wins over Nebraska and ECU, two teams that eventually played for their conference titles, and looked good in a 34-24 loss to Alabama in the season opener. The Hokies were the only team in the ACC that didn’t schedule an FCS opponent, but it wasn’t the nonconference teams that ruined their shot at the national title.

The Hokies climbed as high as No. 4 in the polls before back-to-back losses to Coastal Division opponents Georgia Tech and North Carolina knocked them out of championship contention. It was the loss to North Carolina, though, that might go on to be remembered as the most shocking of the season, as the Hokies were at home, in the hunt for the national title and UNC was winless in the conference. Virginia Tech was held to just 95 yards rushing, and the Hokies struggled on third down and made two costly turnovers, including a fourth-quarter fumble by Williams.

Virginia Tech rebounded, though, and finished the season on a four-game winning streak to earn an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Williams -- His current total of 1,538 yards is the fourth highest in ACC history. His average of 128.16 per game stands fifth. His current total is the eighth highest by a freshman in NCAA history and he set the record for total touchdowns by an ACC freshman (20).

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Cody Grimm -- The former walk-on had 99 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks while anchoring the Hokies' defense.

Turning point: The 16-3 win over East Carolina proved that Virginia Tech hadn’t given up on its season despite back-to-back losses. It was a road game that could have been a trap just like it was in 2008, but the Hokies prevailed, and Williams ran for 179 yard to redeem himself for the fumble against UNC. That confidence infected the entire team.

What’s next: The Hokies need to beat Tennessee in their bowl game to finish with a 10-win season and build confidence and momentum heading into their offseason workouts and conditioning. They also need to figure out just how they’re going to divvy the carries when Evans returns.