James Madison shocks Va. Tech... and Boise
Virginia Tech did begin to move the ball with appreciable consistency, and the heavy favorite — which scheduled an opponent such as James Madison for a reason after the big brawl with Boise State – figured to win the game in the fourth quarter, as is usually the case when an FBS power encounters this scenario against an FCS foe.
There was just one problem: Virginia Tech continued to commit huge turnovers in the red zone. Darren Evans is not an erratic or undependable back, but on this day, he fumbled. Turnovers — not necessarily in aggregate, but certainly at the wrong times and places — sabotaged the Tech comeback attempt, and that’s your story from Blacksburg.
In a weird way, this game might help Virginia Tech — don’t laugh. The Hokies were emotionally wounded after losing to Boise State, in a game that destroyed their national-title aspirations. However, this loss — also not in the ACC — could actually make the Hokies angry and renew their level of commitment.
A lot of ink and broadcast airtime are always devoted to the national championship game of FBS college football. Well, this game doesn’t change Tech’s outlook; it was already a goner before this game started. If the Hokies go on to win the ACC, they will have had themselves a very good and generally successful season. Today could actually aid Frank Beamer’s team in the process of picking up the pieces … pieces that lie strewn across the Lane Stadium turf right now.
In the same game that James Madison came up with one of its best wins in school history, and put a major feather in the cap of the FCSers, it also dealt a soul-crushing blow to the hopes of the cause of the non-BCS teams.
Boise State, thanks for playing.
Of course the Virginia Tech loss was part of a hangover effect from the crushing Boise State defeat, and of course the team didn't play with full intensity and total focus for the entire game, but it sure was trying its hardest over the final 5:21 when James Madison was able to grind out the clock. It sure was trying late when it was attempting to drive for a score before the Darren Evans fumbles. It sure was trying after losing the lead and with a possible embarrassment on the horizon.
While it's not Boise State's fault that the Hokies gagged (and yes, when you don't play up to your talent level and lose to an inferior opponent, it's a gag), it's a killer that the one big win now takes a huge hit. The Broncos only beat Tech by three, while James Madison won by five.
While that might not be fair and it might be ridiculous, all of this has to be thrown into the national championship equation. If Virginia Tech could be soft enough to lose a game like this, then maybe it was also that same weakness that allowed Kellen Moore to come up with that big final drive.
In the end, this loss doesn't matter for Virginia Tech. The national title dream was shot in the final moments against Boise State, and this loss doesn't matter in ACC play, so as long as this was an aberration, the Orange Bowl is still a possibility for this very talented team.
Maybe it'll get a rematch against Boise State.
No one wants to hear that the Hokies were playing on a short week or coming off an emotional loss to Boise State on Labor Day. This was the home opener against James Madison, and not such a formidable Dukes team at that. Hey, I fully expected Virginia Tech to come out a little flat, but where was the offense that looked so explosive at times on Monday night? One touchdown in the final 57 minutes of the game? Are you kidding?
Sure, the kids had to execute, but this one falls squarely on Frank Beamer and the rest of the coaching staff for not having them ready to go. It’s been an awful start to the day for the Hokies, but how about the ACC as a whole? Georgia Tech has already fallen to the same Kansas team that was beaten by North Dakota, 6-3, a week earlier. Florida State was blown out by Oklahoma and Ohio State took down Miami.