CHARLOTTE, N.C., -- Earlier in the week, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring talked to quarterback Tyrod Taylor and praised him for being named the ACC’s Player of the Year. Taylor immediately shifted the conversation to the ACC championship game, and that’s when Stinespring knew the quarterback wasn’t done yet.
“I think in the back of his mind, I know he wanted to go out there and make sure everybody knew it wasn’t a mistake when they made him Player of the Year,” Stinespring said. “I’d say he pretty much did that tonight.”
Florida State would probably agree.
Not only was Taylor the best player in the ACC this year, he was the MVP of the championship game -- again. Taylor, who also earned the title game’s MVP award in 2008, ran circles around Florida State defenders. He’s so elusive only his feet know where he’s going. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. With his record-setting performance in a 44-33 win over Florida State in the ACC Championship Game -- one of the best displays of quarterback talent at Virginia Tech since Michael Vick -- Taylor punctuated one of the most impressive turnarounds in the FBS this year.
Virginia Tech became the first team in FBS history to follow an 0-2 start with 11 straight wins, and it became the first team in ACC history to win nine games against conference opponents in the same season. The Hokies have now won four league titles in a seven-year span. Bobby Bowden is the only other coach in ACC history who has managed that feat.
Don’t look now, but Virginia Tech is dominating the ACC the way Florida State used to, and the Hokies couldn’t have done it without Taylor.
“You talk about being the only team that has won 10 games the last seven years, and the last four, Tyrod has been right there,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “He’s meant a lot to Virginia Tech, there’s no question about that, meant a lot.”
Especially against Florida State, a program that had won 13 of the past 14 games against Virginia Tech.
“You’re (2-1) against them, right?” Beamer asked his quarterback following the win.
“That’s better than anybody else at Virginia Tech.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering he is the winningest quarterback in school history, but Virginia Tech’s offense seemed to reach a whole new level on Saturday. The Hokies converted 13 of 18 third downs -- what Taylor called “money downs,” including a stretch of 10 straight.
Taylor’s ability to buy time helped his receivers get open. Danny Coale had a career-high 143 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
"It makes everything 100 times easier," Coale said of having a quarterback like Taylor. "He's playing phenomenal."
Given all he has accomplished, why on earth would Taylor still feel like has something to prove?
“Because a lot of people are counting Virginia Tech out,” Taylor said. “They don’t want us to play for this game right here. We just felt like there was a lot of disrespect towards our program so I felt I could come out here and have an extra good game just to put it in people’s heads that I think I deserved that, and I think it showed.”
Taylor’s ability to scramble has long been what has separated him and made him nearly impossible to defend, but given how much time he had against Florida State, those plays often appeared in slow motion.
Beamer has compared Taylor to Vick this season, and Florida State’s defense made the impersonation even easier. The Seminoles couldn’t stop Taylor no matter how hard they tried. In the second half, Taylor was about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and wound up escaping for a 12-yard gain.
“My feet just took over, to tell you the truth,” he said. “Sometimes I’m running and I don’t even know where I’m going. I trust my feet.”
The entire team does.
Regardless of what anyone outside the program thinks, he’s always been their MVP.
“If I could vote,” said Coale, “I’d vote for him.”
He doesn’t have to. There’s nothing left to prove.