Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was convinced his team had yet to play its best football game of the season, and he was right. The Hokies saved their best for last.
Cincinnati played not to lose, and Virginia Tech played like it had everything to lose.
Instead, the Hokies gained respect and redemption in this year's FedEx Orange Bowl with their 20-7 win over Big East champ Cincinnati. Virginia Tech represented the ACC well by playing a complete game and snapping the league's eight-game losing streak in BCS games. The win gave the conference a needed boost, as the ACC finished with a 4-6 bowl record, and it helped ease the sting of last year's Orange Bowl loss to Kansas.
Virginia Tech's youth, which was a frustrating hindrance for much of the season, has finally turned into an exciting foundation for next season. Even without three starters in the lineup because of injuries and academics, the Hokies got the job done. But that's how they roll. All season, game after game, they've proved their critics wrong and won despite setback after setback.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor looked like a dual-threat quarterback, and added another dimension to his game, in addition to the Hokies'. He outplayed Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike, whose four interceptions were momentum killers, and the third was the difference in the game. Taylor made some impressive throws, save for his poorly thrown interception, and the defense, as usual, did its part.
The extra preparation time and focus and new mentality paid off. Virginia Tech got good blocking from everyone, including Darren Evans. The players weren't the only ones to made good use of their time off. This year, the coaches began planning earlier and showed some wrinkles in the offense. There was definitely more balance, and that kept Cincinnati's defense off-guard.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring got the receivers involved in the running game, tailback Darren Evans involved in the passing game and used the wild turkey formation, lining tight end Greg Boone up for the direct snap. Boone rumbled, and the revamped offensive line paved the way for him and Evans, who rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams had missed field goals and interceptions in the first half, but it was Pike's interception in the end zone that was like a punch to the gut for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati came out hot and scored quickly, but Virginia Tech's defense settle down and adjusted. Cincinnati had just 11 rushing yards in the first half, and the Bearcats' defense became visibly tired in the third quarter while Virginia Tech seemed to be re-energized with every big stop.
Cincinnati missed plenty of opportunities, and Virginia Tech took advantage of it.
Virginia Tech changed its philosophy about this bowl game, treating it more as a business trip than a reward, and in the end, they got the biggest reward of all.