Hokies went from 0-2 start to ACC title game
Most of the disappointment from an 0-2 start to the season has been wiped away now that No. 12 Virginia Tech is heading to the ACC championship game.
The Hokies (10-2, 8-0) won 10 straight after losing to No. 9 Boise State and then FCS member James Madison in a span of five days, and saw their national title hopes dashed.
But a 37-7 victory against state rival Virginia at Lane Stadium on Saturday made the Hokies the only team in the country to have won 10 games in each of the past seven seasons.
Virginia Tech will face Florida State for the ACC championship Saturday in Charlotte. The winner earns a spot in the Orange Bowl as the conference representative under the BCS format.
''Where we started and where we finished, it's remarkable,'' coach Frank Beamer said. ''We were at a point where we were just trying to win the next game, but it just makes a statement about this team and this coaching staff.
''We have a tight-knit group here and it's been quite a year,'' Beamer said. ''The two losses make you appreciate the 10 wins even more.''
And not just for the coaches.
''It makes these 10 wins feel even better since we had to go through so much in the first part of the season,'' said linebacker Bruce Taylor, one of seven new starters on defense. ''But it's what we expected coming into this season.''
Getting there, though, hasn't been exactly what anyone expected.
After starting slow against Boise State, rallying to grab the lead and then not being able to hold on, and then following that loss up by losing to the Dukes five days later, caused a reassessment of goals for what was expected to be an offense-led team.
Slowly, though, the offensive line began to gel, and the new starters on defense adapted to coordinator Bud Foster's assignment-oriented system, finally slowing other teams down.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also stepped up, reverting to the scrambling dervish that was so evident early in his career. He had 70-plus yard runs in consecutive games, topped 100 yards both times, and has been among the most efficient quarterbacks nationally with 20 touchdown passes against only four interceptions and better than a 60-percent completion rate.
The Hokies' loaded backfield also came around, even when starter Ryan Williams - he ran for an ACC record 22 TDs last year - missed four games with a torn left hamstring.
Darren Evans, who missed last season after knee surgery, returned to his 2008 form in leading the Hokies' comeback against North Carolina State, and David Wilson broke a 21-all tie with 2:23 to play against Georgia Tech, returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Williams, too, got back and has shown signs of putting the injury behind him. He broke off an 84-yard scoring run last week against Miami, and bulled his way to two touchdowns against the Cavaliers, carrying linebacker LaRoy Reynolds at least 5 yards on one of them.
And so here they are, preparing for a fourth trip to the ACC title game.
''All of us wish it could have happened a different way,'' Evans said Saturday. ''It's kind of hard to look back to then because we've got so much going for us now.''