|Virginia Tech's 20 seniors drove program resurgence|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008 13:17|
Virginia Tech will say goodbye to 20 seniors after the Orange Bowl, and when linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, four wide receivers and the rest move on, they will do it as the class that accomplished more than any other in school history.
``It's been special,'' safety D.J. Parker said Tuesday. ``When we came, we decided we wanted to be the best class that could come through here. I think we stood up to that a little bit. We have one more game to go. To win 12 games is big for us.''
Early in the season, things didn't look too promising for the Hokies. They were embarrassed 48-7 at LSU the second week of the season, bringing about a switch to freshman Tyrod Taylor at quarterback and questions about the acclaimed defense.
Then the seniors took over. In a players-only meeting, they told the team that hanging their heads was not acceptable, and that there was tradition to uphold.
Virginia Tech came into the year having led the nation in defense the past two years, and having risen into national prominence largely on its defensive prowess.
What followed was clearly pretty good. The Hokies won their next three games by a combined 89-20 and won 10 of 11 after the loss. The only setback came when Matt Ryan led Boston College to two touchdowns in the last 2:11 for a 14-10 victory, and Virginia Tech exacted its revenge by beating the Eagles 30-16 in the ACC Championship game.
That victory capped a difficult stretch run for the Hokies, who beat Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia in succession to reach the championship game.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said his seniors have spoiled him.
``Good football IQs,'' Foster said. ``That's kind of what I like about this senior class. These guys have been special all the way around, and I'm going to miss them.''
He's certainly not the only one.
Coach Frank Beamer even paid the seniors a tribute of sorts in preparation for the game, giving them a few deserved days of practice off just before Christmas break.
``These guys have meant a lot to Virginia Tech. They've meant a lot to this football program,'' Beamer said in explaining the move. ``The thing I think about most with this senior class is they just like to play. They compete. They like challenges. ... If something's not supposed to happen, they're pretty good about making it happen.''
The numbers: a 27-5 record in the ACC, 15-1 on the road and 42-10 overall.
The class' arrival also came on the heels of a disappointing 2003 season in which the Hokies started 6-0 and were ranked No. 3, then lost five of their last seven.
It was a swoon that made it seem like the Hokies' days as a fixture in the top 10 were ending, but with players like Adibi, Hall and defensive end Chris Ellis sitting out a redshirt year and learning, the Hokies got their swagger back the next year.
The 2004 Hokies won the ACC in their first year in the league and went to the Sugar Bowl, losing to Auburn. They played for the ACC title the next season but came up short and beat Louisville in the Gator Bowl. Last year, they blew 21-3 halftime lead and lost 31-24 to Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, bringing them to Thursday's big finale.
There's only one way to finish it right, wide receiver Justin Harper said.
``It's our last one,'' he said. ``We've got to go out with a bang.''