|Cavaliers, Hokies have rebounded from early losses|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 10:19|
The Hokies had just absorbed a 48-7 beating at LSU, a loss so complete it caused coach Frank Beamer to switch to a freshman quarterback to help mask an offensive line that was already hampered by injuries and needed time to get up to speed.
The Cavaliers' shock had come a week earlier, a 23-3 loss at Wyoming in which 110 yards of offense caused coach Al Groh, likewise, to insert a freshman behind center.
Now, though, that all seems so long ago.
Both teams head into Saturday's 89th matchup in the series having rebounded by winning nine of their next 10 games and knowing the stakes have never been higher.
``It feels real good,'' Hokies linebacker Vince Hall said of his team's turnaround, which brings them one victory from a rematch with Boston College for the ACC title.
``You know how you look at yourself at the beginning of the season and how you look at yourself now, see how much you've progressed, and that's what you want to do.''
After the LSU game, possibly the worst loss on a big stage in program history, the Hokies' 20 seniors demanded things get better - and fast - in a players-only meeting.
``We told everybody that we weren't going to lose another one,'' safety D.J. Parker said. ``Unfortunately, we took a tough one against Boston College, but we kept our heads up, kept it moving and we've been playing pretty good down the stretch.''
Virginia began the season gathering at the end of practice and closing with a collective chant along the line of ``ACC Champions.'' Then came the Wyoming debacle.
``After that ... we just focused on playing one game at a time because that was part of the big picture, winning one game at a time, and it's helped us get here so far,'' said quarterback Jameel Sewell, now the starter again. ``And we've taken that and broken it down even more, taking one play at a time, and that's helped us a lot, too.''
For both, the resurgence has been slow but steady. The Hokies' leaky offensive line has been a season-long work in progress, and an injury that put Tyrod Taylor back on the bench for two games yielded a quarterback rotation that is expected to continue.
Virginia eventually abandoned sharing the quarterback position, putting Sewell back in command. But with the left-hander in control, the offense has often done barely enough to win. Five of the Cavaliers' nine victories have come by two points or less, an NCAA record.
The seeds for that, linebacker Jon Copper said, were planted in the spring.
``During the offseason, it was instilled that we were going to be a tough team and be able to bounce back from things like that,'' he said, ``and be able to handle things like being down in the fourth quarter or a minute and a half to go and needing to score.
``The group of guys that we have this year really bought in.''
Up the road in Blacksburg, the Hokies admit to being impressed, although they also openly embrace the magnitude of the game and the opportunity it presents the winner.
``They had some rough spots and some real close games, but they always found a way to squeeze it out and that shows the toughness and resiliency of the team,'' Hokies left tackle Duane Brown said. ``You can't look at what we've done in the past years and think that's going to happen this year, because they have a different attitude.''
The Hokies have won seven of eight from Virginia. They're also seeking their fourth consecutive 10-win season and the BCS bowl bid that has become an expectation.
Virginia, seeking only its second 10-win season ever, prefers to view the game as simply the next one on the schedule, while trying not to acknowledge its importance.
``I think every year it's pretty much the same,'' Copper said. ``It's Virginia Tech, and being a rivalry game, we're looking to win this game. That's the focus. We're not looking at all the different things that can go on whether we win or lose this game.''