BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Following Virginia Tech’s 0-2 start to the season, there was some “finger pointing,” according to linebacker Bruce Taylor. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said there were "a lot of people on the team going different ways.” Tight end Andre Smith said there was “a little bit of disconnect.”
So they decided to do something about it.
The seniors on the roster called a players-only meeting in the team auditorium on the eve of the season's third game against East Carolina game. Each senior stood up and talked about how much work they had put into their collegiate careers and how much the season meant to them.
“We just preached to the guys and talked about what was in our hearts that day,” said defensive tackle John Graves. “I think it took effect immediately. We had a lot of adversity in the ECU game and we overcame it. .. The guys that we have on this team, they just keep fighting and fighting, and you just have to respect that.”
The ability to rally has become this team’s identity. Not only did it climb out of an 0-2 start and back into the BCS Standings after an embarrassing FCS loss to James Madison, Virginia Tech has trailed by double digits in four games this season and won three of them, including Thursday night’s 28-21 win over Georgia Tech.
The Hokies were down 14-0 after one quarter, but with Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt sidelined with a broken arm, they pulled together for a comeback and sealed the win with David Wilson’s blazing 90-yard kickoff return. It turned into a wild, back-and-forth game that was a microcosm of the entire ACC -- impossible to predict. The one constant in the league this year, though -- at least since Sept. 11 -- has been Virginia Tech.
With the win, the Hokies remained the only undefeated team in conference play. In order for anyone else in the Coastal Division to have a shot, Virginia Tech would have to lose two of its next three games. The Hokies have back-to-back road games looming at North Carolina and Miami before closing the season at home with rival Virginia.
And this Virginia Tech team doesn’t look like it’s going to fold anytime soon.
“It’s a completely different team from the standpoint of guys being together,” said Bruce Taylor, who had a career-high 14 tackles and had two sacks. “In the beginning of the season, there was a lot of finger pointing, guys wondering why we’re losing. Nobody had the answer, so we kind of got separated, but when we had that meeting after the 0-2 start, guys really came together and started playing as a team.”
It’s been the difference in their season.
While Tyrod Taylor has gotten a lot of the attention, Virginia Tech has benefited from three talented tailbacks and a group of wide receivers able to catch the ball in traffic and hang onto it. The defense, which had to replace seven starters heading into this season, has still made game-changing plays under longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Senior Rashad Carmichael’s fourth-quarter interception of backup quarterback Tevin Washington in the end zone ended Georgia Tech’s final attempt at an upset. It also likely ended the Yellow Jackets' chances of defending the ACC title.
Virginia Tech got what it needed in all three phases of the game -- a collective effort that was missing in September.
“It’s huge, especially in comeback wins like this,” Smith said. “We don’t want to have individuals, or groups. When we’re all on the same page, that’s when you see cohesion. As a team we talked about it. It’s easy when things are going bad to fall apart. As seniors and older guys on the team, we knew we weren’t going to let that happen.”
And in one of the most important games of the season, they didn’t.