The end of the season blog

Well folks, the game certainly didn’t end up like everyone in the maroon and orange had hoped for, but it shouldn’t take away from what a great season this was. To go from 0-2 to ACC Champions is something special and I hope people remember all the good and not the bad ending.

There isn’t much to say as the Hokies failed to score in the second half while Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck showed in the second half why he’s going to be the first quarterback drafted when he declares.

To Coach Beamer and his players’ credit, they stuck around in the locker room and didn’t hide from the media. They held their heads high and the returning players will begin immediately preparing for the 2011 season.

You hate to see the seniors go out with a tough loss like this, but this class won 42 games and three ACC titles, so they’ll hold a special place in the Hokie Nation’s hearts for a long time.

That’ll be it for me. Check back later for Jimmy’s game story and a photo gallery.

The team will leave tomorrow morning for Roanoke and will be back in Blacksburg by early afternoon.

Thanks for following us all week and as always, go Hokies.

Halftime Notes

Virginia Tech Halftime Notes

Discover Orange Bowl • Jan. 3, 2011

Stanford 13, Virginia Tech 12

• The captains for tonight’s game are the permanent captains for the 2010 season, and were voted on by the members of the team. They are: John Graves, Davon Morgan, Andre Smith and Tyrod Taylor.

• Virginia Tech is wearing special orange helmets tonight for the Orange Bowl. It is believed to be the first time the Hokies have ever worn orange helmets. Tech is the home team, but decided to wear its all-white uniforms that it wore in the 2010 and 2008 ACC Championship Games and in the 2009 Orange Bowl, all wins for the Hokies.

• Starters

Offense: QB, 5 Taylor; TB 32 Evans; TE, 88 Smith; WR, 19 Cole; WR, 81 Boykin; WR, 7 Davis; OT, 72 Lanier; OG, 75 Nosal; C, 60 Warren; OG, 68 Brooks; OT, 62 DeChristopher

Defense: DE, 82 Friday; DT, 91 Graves; DT, 56 A Hopkins; DE, 33 Drager; ILB, 51 Taylor; ILB, 58 Tyler; OLB, 43 Gouveia-Winslow; CB, 20 Hosley; ROV, 2 Morgan; CB, 21 Carmichael; FS, 15 Whitley

• Tyrod Taylor in Sun Life Stadium heading into tonight’s game:

4 games played; 2 starts (2-0 - beat Cincinnati in 2009 Orange Bowl, Miami this year)

Passing: 27-51, 320 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: 44 att., 96 yards, 4 TD

First half: Passing: 8-16, 101 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; Rushing: 5 att., 43 yards, 0 TD

• Barquell Rivers made his season debut on the opening kickoff. The 2009 starter at linebacker has missed the whole year with a torn quadriceps.

• The Hokies recorded a safety for the first time since 2008 when Tech blocked a Nebraska punt out of the back of the end zone on the road. It’s the first safety ever recorded by the Hokies in a bowl game.

• David Wilson caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter. The sophomore was suspended for the first quarter for a violation of curfew.

• Andre Smith blocked his second career kick in the second quarter when he blocked a PAT. He also blocked a PAT against Boise State in the opener. It was the fourth blocked kick in a bowl under head coach Frank Beamer and the first PAT. Tech blocked a field goal against Indiana in the 1993 Independence Bowl and two punts against Alabama in the 1998 Music City Bowl. It’s the 127th block under Beamer (295 games), and the 27th blocked PAT.

• All-American Jayron Hosley recorded his ninth interception of the season, tying the school record for picks in a season (Ron Davidson, 1967). It is his second interception in this stadium this year, which is just minutes from his hometown (Delray Beach). He leads the nation with nine interceptions.

• Chris Hazley made his 21st consecutive field goal at the end of the first half. The 21 straight in one season extends his school record. The school record for consecutive field goals made belongs to Brandon Pace, who made 22 during the 2005-06 season.

Updated game notes from the press box

Below is the updated game note release put out in the press box as we approach kickoff.

Permanent Captains

• The captains for tonight’s game will be the permanent captains for the 2010 season, and were voted on by the members of the team. They are: John Graves, Davon Morgan, Andre Smith and Tyrod Taylor.

Orange Helmets

• Virginia Tech will be wearing special orange helmets tonight for the Orange Bowl. It is believed to be the first time the Hokies have ever worn orange helmets.

• Tech is the home team, but decided to wear its all-white uniforms that it wore in the 2010 and 2008 ACC Championship Games and in the 2009 Orange Bowl, all wins for the Hokies.

Evans To Start, Williams To Play

• Junior Darren Evans will get the nod as the starting tailback tonight. He started eight games this year and was the MVP of the 2009 Orange Bowl. Sophomore Ryan Williams, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, is expected to play after being limited most of the week in practice.

Graduates Playing

• There are 12 Hokie graduates playing tonight: seniors Rashad Carmichael, Steven Friday, John Graves, Chris Hazley, Zach Luckett, Davon Morgan, Brian Saunders, Andre Smith, Beau Warren and juniors Danny Coale, Chris Drager and Jacob Sykes.

Wilson, Exum Suspended For A Quarter

• Sophomore tailback/return man David Wilson and sophomore safety Antone Exum are suspended for the first quarter of tonight’s game for a violation of curfew. Wilson will be replaced by Rashad Carmichael on the kickoff return squad in the first quarter, and he will be joined by Jayron Hosley.

• Six other players not on the dress squad were sent home via Greyhound bus for different curfew violations.

Here We Go Again

• The Hokies started their season on a Monday night, on ESPN, at a neutral site NFL stadium against a top-five opponent and will end their season the same way.

• Tech opened 2010 with a 33-30 loss to No. 3 Boise State on Monday, Sept. 6 at FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins, on ESPN.

• The Hokies will end their season against No. 5 Stanford on Monday, Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, on ESPN.

Tyler To Get First Start

• Former walk-on Jack Tyler will get the start at the mike linebacker spot with Bruce Taylor sliding over to the backer linebacker position.

• Taylor started all 13 games this year at the mike spot and will replace Lyndell Gibson, who started all 13 games at the backer spot. Gibson broke his shoulder blade in the ACC Championship Game. It will be the first start for Tyler. Tariq Edwards will see action at the backer spot as well, allowing Taylor to move back to the mike spot during the game.

What A Win Would Mean For The Hokies

• They’ll be the first ACC team to drop its first two contests and win all the rest.

• They’ll be the fourth team in ACC history to win 12 games in a season. They’ll match three national championship squads, the 1981 Clemson Tigers (12-0) and the Florida State Seminoles of 1993 (12-1) and 1999 (12-0).

• A 12-game winning streak would be the longest single-season winning streak in school history and the second-longest winning streak in school history.

• The 12 wins would be the most in school history for a single season.

• The senior class will finish as the winningest four-year class in school history, finishing with a 43-12 mark. The 2007 and 2008 classes both finished with 42 wins while the 2009 class finished with 41 wins.

• The Hokies would have won bowl games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

• The Tech seniors would have won three ACC titles and played in three BCS games, winning two.

Tech/Stanford Ties

• Tech interim head lacrosse coach Megan Burker is Stanford’s all-time points leader in Cardinal lacrosse while Stanford strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley graduated from Tech and got his start under Dr. Mike Gentry, Tech’s current director of strength and conditioning.

Beamer meets the press one last time before Orange Bowl

Sunday was a rather quiet day for the Hokies, as the game quickly approaches. Tech head coach Frank Beamer received an early wake-up call to attend the final official press conference held at 8 a.m. at the Marriott, the media’s headquarters. The press conference was well attended, and Beamer got in a friendly jab to the group.

“I’ve got to say I’m surprised to see you all here,” he said. “I didn’t think y’all started working until about 12.”

Beamer addressed a wide array of questions, most of which have been covered in this blog space. He did get asked about the difference between East Coast football and West Coast football, which is considered to be more “finesse.” But Beamer said there wasn’t a difference.

“We played California in a bowl game and got it handed to us,” Beamer said. “But when I look at this Stanford team, whether on the West Coast or on the East Coast, they’re tough, they’re efficient and they’re hard-nosed. I think they’re good, regardless of what coast they’re from.”

He also talked about the two ACC coaches who were fired this season – Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen and Miami’s Randy Shannon. Beamer was asked if he’d consider hiring Friedgen for any future position that may come open and Beamer basically said yes.

“If the situation was right to do it,” he said. “Any time with your staff, it’s got to be the right situation at the right time. And my wife keeps talking about my son, Shane [a defensive backs coach at South Carolina]. But it’s got to be the right situation at the right time. That’s the way that should work.

“But as far as Ralph being qualified as a coach, and I think a really, really good coach, there’s no question. And as far as Shane being a qualified coach, and a really, really good coach, I don’t think there’s any question.”

Other nuggets:

• Beamer allotted time in the Hokies’ schedule for team chaplain Johnny Shelton to hold a Sunday morning chapel service in one of the ballrooms at the Westin Diplomat, and as a testament to his influence on the team, more than 60 people attended the service. Beamer and his wife, Cheryl, went along with several assistant coaches and their families and more than 40 players, including Tyrod Taylor.

• Tech receiver Marcus Davis has been mentioned as a possible candidate to play for Tech’s injury-depleted basketball team. At practice yesterday, Davis said he hasn’t made any decisions.

“I’m thinking about it, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said. “I talk with Coach Beamer probably Tuesday or Wednesday and then make a decision.”

• Tech went through its final walk-through at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday afternoon, and then the team and several coaches immediately checked into a different hotel instead of coming back to the Westin. The purpose is to get the players away from all the distractions at the Westin, as Hokie fans have been flooding the hotel the past couple of days. The move gives the players a chance to become locked in on the game and is more in tune with a regular-season road trip

Hokies hold final preparations for Orange Bowl

Not much to report today as it’s “Friday” and the Hokies are making their final preparations for tomorrow night’s Discover Orange Bowl against Stanford. Coach Beamer made his way up Highway 1 to the Marriott Harbor Beach for the coaches’ press conference this morning with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

After a team lunch, the dress squad headed to Sun Life Stadium for the walk-thru. It was business as usual as the team went through each special teams grouping and then split up into offense/defense before heading back to the locker room.

The coaches had their staff meeting this morning and Coach Hite told me that he will start Darren Evans at tailback and Ryan Williams will play unless he suffers a setback in the next 28 hours. Williams was bouncing around and running without a limp at the walk-thru, so that's a good sign.

The team then headed to its new hotel, far away from the distractions and noise of the Westin Diplomat Hotel. They will be housed here tonight and all day tomorrow before heading to the stadium tomorrow at 6 o’clock.

Tonight, several players, the coordinators and Beamer will meet with the announcing crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski and Michele Tafoya before having share time and meetings.

That’s about it from here. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous again tomorrow for the game, so there’s still time to get down here and cheer on your Hokies. Until tomorrow, your friendly blogger is headed for a little down time before things get ramped up tomorrow night.

Jaws visits Tech practice

The Virginia Tech football team held its final practice at Nova Southeastern University on Saturday in preparation for the Orange Bowl game against Stanford on Monday, and a couple of things were the topic of conversation.

First, Tech head coach Frank Beamer suspended tailback David Wilson and free safety Antone Exum for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl after both of them were not in their rooms when the coaches checked for curfew violators. Wilson and Exum were both in the hotel, but not in their rooms, and thus, Beamer suspended them for the first quarter instead of sending them home.

“The good thing is they were in the hotel, but the bad thing is they were out of their rooms, which they knew they needed to be in,” Beamer said. “This is a distraction. It’s our Thursday practice and this is the first thing we’re dealing with in the morning.”

As a result of Wilson’s suspension, Rashad Carmichael will help handle any kickoff return duties in the first quarter, along with Jayron Hosley.

The other “big” news was the arrival of “Jaws” at practice – ESPN color commentator Ron Jaworski, who might just be the nicest guy in the business. Jaworski, who is the color guy for the game and will be working with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, took time to answer a bunch of questions from the media specifically about Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

“I like his movement,” Jaworski said of Taylor. “And he’s instinctive, and the quarterback has to be most instinctive guy on the field. Everyone talks about mobility, but there are different kinds of mobility. You’ve got Michael Vick, who can run outside the pocket and you’ve got Tom Brady who can move within the pocket.

“Tyrod is a guy who can move in the pocket and he can throw on the run. I think that’s he’s got a skill set that will evolve in the NFL.”

Jaworski said he had been talking with Michael Vick about Taylor and that he planned on talking more with Vick about Taylor in the next couple of days.

“I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like the taller, bigger quarterback with an accurate, strong arm,” Jaworski said. “But I see what guys like Michael Vick are doing, and what Tim Tebow is doing out there in Denver, and there is absolutely a place for that type of quarterback in the NFL.”

Jaworski said he was looking forward to calling the Tech-Stanford game. He attended Stanford’s practice on Thursday to check out the Cardinal.

“I’ve had so much fun preparing for this game and watching these two teams [on tape],” Jaworski said. “In the NFL, everyone pretty much does the same thing, but these two teams do a lot of different things. Now, Stanford runs more prototypical stuff and Virginia Tech runs more spread and is a little more wide open. But these are two great programs, and I’m really looking forward to the game.”

Other nuggets:

• Following practice, the team sat in the stands at Nova Southeastern (Tech practiced on the school’s soccer fields) and each of the seniors gave a speech. This is a tradition that Beamer started a few years ago, giving each of the seniors a chance to speak to the team after the team’s final full practice of the year.

Arguably, the best speech came from the littlest known of the seniors – walk-on Ron Cooper. He talked about taking advantage of opportunities and brought up the point that people only remember 10 percent of what you say. They do remember, however, 90 percent of what you do. So he implored them to finish this 2010 season the right way – with a win over Stanford.

• Tech tailback Ryan Williams went full speed in the practice (without the blue jersey), and though Beamer said a decision on Williams wouldn’t come until game time, it would be hard to imagine Williams sitting out the game.

“I’d like to have seen him work a little more this week,” Beamer said. “It’s one of those things that we’ll have to see how he feels.”

• After practice, which ended shortly before 3 p.m., the players returned to the Westin Diplomat for lunch and then got a brief break before heading out to the Miami Heat basketball game.

As part of their punishment, Wilson and Exum will not be allowed to go to the game and a portion of their travel per diem will be withheld.

• Tech’s defensive players had some high praise for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

“He reminds me of Tim Tebow,” defensive end Chris Drager said. “Except he doesn’t run as much as Tebow.”

“He reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger,” rover Davon Morgan said. “He’s a tough kid and he can get outside and make plays.”

• In a note that somehow failed to get into yesterday’s blog, former Tech center Jake Grove made an appearance at Friday’s practice. Grove, who was released by Miami earlier this season, still maintains a home in south Florida, just minutes from Nova Southeastern, where Tech practiced. He hopes to land with an NFL team next season.

• Sunday’s schedule will be a light one for the Hokies. Beamer goes to a press conference in the morning, and then the team will go through its final walkthrough at Sun Life Stadium before the game.

Defense meets the media on Day 4

Friday was the defense’s day to meet the media, as six defensive players and coordinator Bud Foster met with the media at an official bowl press conference at the media hotel, the Marriott at Harbor Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale.

The players included Rashad Carmichael, Jayron Hosley, Davon Morgan, John Graves, Steven Friday and Chris Drager. As was the case with the offensive press conference, the session last roughly 45 minutes.

Foster admitted that he probably would start Jack Tyler at mike linebacker and move Bruce Taylor to the backer spot. He also stated that Tariq Edwards would see some time, and when he got on the field, Taylor would move back to mike linebacker.

“It’s just a gut feeling I have,” he said, also stating that Tyler’s skills were probably a better fit to defend what Stanford’s offense likes to run.

And speaking of that, Foster is just as concerned about Stanford’s running game – maybe more so – than talented quarterback Andrew Luck. For all the attention Luck receives, and deservedly so, the Cardinal like to pound the ball with that huge offensive line.

That could present problems for a Tech defense that has been prone to giving up a lot of yards on the ground.

“They have a big, physical, athletic group up front,” Foster said. “It all starts with that group for them.

“We’ve gotten better down the stretch, but that still concerns me because we’re playing an experienced group up front and their backs are physical. We did a good job down the stretch and continuing that is going to be key for us.”

Speaking of that offensive line, they’ve only allowed five sacks the entire season. So when Stanford passes, the Hokies need to find a way to get pressure.

“We’ve studied their tendencies,” Drager said. “We looked at the film, and in a few games, teams got pressure on him and it helped. But he [Luck] gets rid of the ball so quickly. When you get rid of it within three seconds, it’s hard to get pressure. And sometimes, he’ll just sit back there and pick his target.”

In the redundancy department, Foster received the question about Tech’s woes against top-five teams. This question has been asked for three straight days now – in addition to being asked at the bowl press conference in Blacksburg – and hopefully, media members can find a way to continue the streak on Saturday.

“We need to win this one to get to the next step, so we can progress to the type of program we want to be,” Foster said. “One good thing is we’ve been in a lot of those games … we’ve been a play or two away. But we’re taking this one very seriously. It would be a great win for our program.”

Other nuggets from the day:

• Ryan Williams dressed in the blue jersey again for Tech’s “Wednesday” practice, but he did more work than in the previous two days. He still plans on playing Monday night against Stanford.

Williams was the only player in a blue jersey at Tech’s practice. Everyone else practiced full speed.

• As we did yesterday, we polled some of the defensive players on their thoughts of the bowl game vs. playoff argument. To clarify, this question wasn’t asked to make it sound as though the players didn’t like the Orange Bowl and haven’t been treated well. On the contrary, the question is to get their impressions on an issue being talked about nationally.

Count Graves as a proponent of a playoff.

“I’m a big playoff guy,” he said. “So much stuff happens at the beginning of the season and most teams don’t start peaking until later in the season. That’s when you know what type of team you have. I think you have to limit the number of games [in the regular season], but I think a playoff would be a more fair test.”

Friday agreed on the issue of the number of games.

“With a playoff, you could have a lot of extra games if they kept things the way they’re doing them now,” he said. “I think a playoff could work, but you less to lessen the number of games.”

Drager likes the playoff idea, but he only wants to see a four-team playoff, with two games. His point was that there are usually three unbeaten teams and one gets left out in the chase for the national title. TCU finds itself in this situation this year.

Morgan was the strongest proponent of the bowl system.

“The bowl experience is great,” he said. “There are already enough games, and I think it’s good to get away. I’ve been down here [to the Orange Bowl] three times and I’ve enjoyed it every time. The weather is nice. I’ve got a room with a view of the ocean.

“The only thing bad about it is the curfew – but that’s on Coach.”

• Nice gesture today from Luck, who was leaving Stanford’s press conference at the same time the Tech contingent arrived. Luck shook hands with the Tech defensive players and congratulated them on their season, and the Hokies reciprocated. Foster also went up to Luck and congratulated him and asked if he was enjoying himself.

Given some of the bantering going back and forth between opponents in other bowl games (e.g. Utah-Boise State, WVU-N.C. State), this was nice to see.

• Not much went on in terms of bowl functions for the players on Friday. There was a coaches’ luncheon, but only the seniors were allowed to attend.

Beamer did extend the curfew to 1 a.m. to allow the players time to celebrate the New Year’s festivities. But most players planned on an easy evening at the hotel.

Actually, most of Tech’s players haven’t ventured out this week.

“I’ve gone to Rivals [a sports bar across the street from the hotel] a couple of times, but that’s about it,” Drager said. “I’ve been battling a cold, so I haven’t done a lot.”

• Speaking of New Year’s festivities, a reporter asked Tech head coach Frank Beamer his New Year’s Eve plans, and Beamer chuckled.

“I’ll probably eat dinner and go to bed,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a New Year. It’s a late dinner, though, so I might make it. That gives me a chance.”

Coach Beamer Quotes From "Wednesday's" Practice

Not a lot to report today as just two media members made it to practice today for Coach Beamer's session. The defensive guys were up early for a press conference, so a lot of writers got what they needed from them.

Jimmy will have a little more from the press conference and practice, but here are Coach Beamer's quotes in the meantime.

The players have a 1 a.m. curfew tonight on New Year's Eve, so hopefully they'll have a fun, but safe, time. There's a huge party here at the Diplomat hosted by Dennis Rodman, so who knows what we'll see tonight.

Before I go, happy 21st birthday to Bruce Taylor. Hope it's a good one, buddy.

Coach Beamer:

(On Virginia Tech wearing orange helmets in practice this week in preparation for their debut in the Orange Bowl) – “John Ballein came to me and said ‘How do you think this looks?’ I looked and said I kind of like it and the kids like it; [the players] like anything new. We are going to have all white uniforms so it is just something a little new.”

(On what he thinks of Stanford after watching hours of tape on them) – “They are good; they are for real. Of course their quarterback is for real and that is where it all starts for them just like it does for us. But [they have] good backs, offensive lineman – I think four seniors when you count the tight end. They are just veteran guys who know what they are doing. You think about this quarterback throwing the ball, but they have had over 200 yards rushing [in a game]. I just saw something where they went last to first in the Pac-10 in scoring defense; they have really improved there. Kicking game is really solid - just a really good football team. Most football teams you look at you say ‘well they are not really as good here or there’ but I think this football team is as solid throughout and their record indicates it. They are a second half against Oregon from playing in the National Championship. They are for real.”

(On how he and the team will celebrate New Year’s Eve) – “I am going to have dinner and go to bed. We are giving the team [a 1:00 AM curfew]. They have really held themselves well down here. They need to make good decisions and I know they will. I think we have had a good week.”

(On the last time he personally saw midnight on New Year’s Eve) – “It has been a while. Tomorrow is going to be [January] 1st whether I stay up or not. We might make it, we will see. It is a late dinner so that gives me a chance.”

Press conference, hospital visit highlights Day 3

Wednesday was day 3 in Florida for the Hokies, and the day also served as the date for the first official bowl press conference.

In the morning, several of Tech’s offensive players, including Tyrod Taylor, Darren Evans, Ryan Williams, Greg Nosal, Danny Coale and Andre Smith, and coordinator Bryan Stinespring received a police escort to the media hotel, which is a Marriott in Fort Lauderdale. The session lasted 45 minutes.

A lot of the questions were redundant. For example, Williams and Evans continue to be questioned about the NFL – both said they haven’t heard back from the NFL’s advisory committee – and Taylor again was asked about how he wanted to be remembered.

“I want to be remembered as a great person,” he said. “And as one of the better quarterbacks to come through the program at Virginia Tech.”

There were some interesting snippets. Williams addressed his hamstring, which he said he tweaked while conditioning in a Saturday practice before Christmas. He dressed in a blue jersey for Wednesday’s practice.

“I’m definitely going to dress out for the game and try to play,” he said.

Stinespring received the same question that head coach Frank Beamer did concerning Tech’s futility against top-five teams.

“There are a lot of positives you can bring up, like we’ve been to 18 straight bowl games and we’ve won 10 games for the past seven seasons,” Stinespring said. “But that’s the one negative [not beating top-five teams]. It’s not like we haven’t been in a position to win some of those games. But the fact that we didn’t is the albatross. Now we’ve got to go out and try to win an important game – and it’s going to be difficult.”

Stinespring had several good quips during the interview session. When asked about a John Wooden quote hanging on the wall in his office, Stinespring joked.

“Believe it or not, I do like to read,” he laughed. “I did use to teach school.”

He also drew laughter for taking credit for Tech’s current bowl streak. The streak started when he became a full-time assistant in 1993.

“Absolutely,” he laughed. “I’ve been here 18 years and we’ve been to 18 straight bowls. Draw from that what you want.”

In other news:

• The blog staff polled the offensive players at the press conference to get a sampling of how the players felt on the subject of bowl games versus a playoff.

Of the five polled, Smith and Williams were strong supporters of a playoff. Evans preferred bowl games, and Coale and Taylor saw both sides, though Taylor – a bowl supporter in the past – was starting to tilt the other way.

“I know the perks and everything with a bowl game is fun,” Williams said. “You get a lot of gifts and you get to stay in a nice hotel. That’s cool, but I really want to know who is the best team in the nation and I don’t think these bowl games solidify that.

“Just like us. We got beat by JMU and then won 11 straight. Later on in the season, that’s when teams gel and that’s when you find out who’s the best team. That’s why I really wish there was a playoff system.”

Evans, though, represented the other side of the story, preferring a bowl game to a playoff.

“You get to enjoy a week down here and you get gifts and all that stuff,” he said. “I think, with a playoff, there would be too many games in a season. It’d be different. I like it the way it is.”

• Tech held its “Tuesday” practice at Nova Southeastern, but your friendly blogger didn’t go to practice. Instead, he went with a group of injured players – Dyrell Roberts, Lyndell Gibson, Kwamaine Battle, Lorenzo Williams, Tony Gregory and Jacob Barren – to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, where the players visited with a lot of ailing kids and handed out shirts, hats, footballs and Virginia Tech bags.

The players split up into two groups of three, with Gibson, Roberts and Barren talking to kids in one part of the hospital while the other three went to a different part. They spent about an hour at the hospital and did an incredible job of brightening the kids’ days, particularly Gibson and Gregory – two outgoing types who love kids.

“I do like kids,” Gibson said. “I’m a big kid myself. I’ve got everything in common with kids and that’s why I have a good time with them.

“This is a blessing to me. It’s a way of giving back. I know when I was a kid, I wanted to see big-time people. It was fun. Being able to be that person who is special to them and to see them, it’s a great thing.”

Gregory knows what it’s like to be in a hospital. The redshirt freshman has had serious knee injuries to both of his knees, including a recent surgery to repair a torn ACL.

“Their situation is much more serious than mine, but I know what it’s like to be laid up,” Gregory said. “You can’t do the things you want to do or see the things you want to see. For someone or an organization to come and shed light or bring joy, it’s a sight to see.”

• Tech’s team returned from practice around 4 p.m. and prepared to head out to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant. The Christmas break and buffet meals in Florida have really benefitted several of Tech’s linemen, including Andrew Lanier.

The grind of the season resulted in Lanier’s weight dropping to 270 by the end of the season. Fortunately, the Hokies’ starting left tackle has his weight back up to over 280, which is the minimum weight that the coaches want him to be.

Once the dinner ends, the team was slated to be free for the remainder of the evening.

Beamer Quotes from Practice

The Hokies have returned back to the hotel from the "Tuesday" practice. The skill players stayed behind to lift and the injured players went to the hospital. Jimmy Robertson will have a full blog post in a while, but here are some quotes from Coach Frank Beamer from practice.

The team will go to Fogo de Chao tonight and will spend the rest of the evening on South Beach before coming back for the midnight curfew.

Be sure to check back later for another blog, a video and photo gallery. And if you aren't following us on Twitter, you can do so @VT_Football.

Head Coach Frank Beamer

(On his comfort level with the rotation at linebacker) – “We will see what happens with Barquell [Rivers] this week, but [Jack] Tyler and [Tariq] Edwards have done well when they have gotten in there and Bruce [Taylor] has gone both sides. We will see what happens with the rest of the week. Today is our Tuesday practice so this is a big one and then tomorrow is a big one. So we will see what happens with these two practices.”

(On his message of finishing the season strong to the team) – “[A ‘FINISH’ sign] is in our dressing room back home. In big games, we put them up there; the Independence Bowl, the Sugar Bowl back in 1995 and I think this is a big game right here. It is a Top 5 [ranked] team, we are 1-27 against Top 5[ranked] teams so I think in our history, where we are as a football team, playing a team like Stanford, who as good as they are - deserve to be Top 5 [ranked] - there is no question about that, and can we finish this one. Again, you need to have a great Tuesday practice and great preparation and play a great football game.”

(On kicker Chris Hazley’s season) – “Not only does he have the pressure kicking, but he has the pressure of his mom coming through a serious situation there. [His parents] are going to be down here later in the week, so I look forward to saying ‘hello’ to them. He is a strong kid. I think when you miss your first one and come back to kick the way he has kicked, he is a strong kid. The deal with his mom, he is a strong kid; I think a lot of him. He is a smart guy who really is mature, understands things and has meant a lot to this football team.”

(On what the ‘212’ sticker means which is on the back of the players’ helmets) – “[At] 211 [degrees] the water is hot, but you get to 212 [degrees] it boils and you get steam and with stream you can power a locomotive. To me it is just one more degree there that you are talking about. It is just a little bit more effort, a little more effort on each play. That is what it is going to take to beat Stanford, I think. The more you look at them, the more you get impressed with Stanford. So we need to be able to get that extra degree.”

(On if he is a little more intense today then yesterday) – “I think you get down here and today is a Tuesday practice and Tuesday is an important day for us, it is an important day in your preparation; yea we need to get some good things accomplished today. We will do a little hitting here in a few minutes; it is an important day.”

(On if Tyrod Taylor’s passing ability is overshadowed by his running ability) – “It shouldn’t. Tyrod has made a lot of great plays dropping back or in the shotgun. I think he gives you an added benefit of being able to keep the play alive. [Andrew Luck] fools you with his speed a little bit. He has speed and toughness too. Rather than compare them, I think they are both really great quarterbacks that have a great future ahead of them. I think they do stuff a little bit different, but both of them win and to me that is the big key.”

(On the added benefit December practices gives the program) – “It is good, trust me. It is much better that you have it then you don’t have it. A lot teams take it as a time to get younger guys better. We do to an extent, but I am going to wait till spring practice to evaluate that. I take it as let’s get this football team ready to play a great ball game against Stanford. Our practices back in Blacksburg were not real long – an hour, an hour and 10, an hour and 20 minutes - because we wanted them fast and furious and they were that for the most part. Down here we get on our regular week so all the practices we have had haven’t been two hours. Some people treat it differently than I do. To me, it is an opportunity – we have practiced more and we have practiced tougher in the last few years – but to me, it is an opportunity to get ready for Stanford.”

(On what playing in all the bowl games has meant to him and the program) – “I think the most important bowl game we have ever played in is the National Championship game and then after that I think the Sugar Bowl in 1995 against Texas because that gave us another step in becoming a top-tier program. Then I think you have to put this one right there. Again, it is a Top 5 [ranked] team; we are 1-27 vs. Top 5 [ranked] teams. It is against a team that deserves to be in the Top 5. They are the [highest ranked] one-loss team in the country, a second half away – a few plays away – vs. Oregon from playing in the National Championship. So for all those reasons, I think this game right here is very significant for the history of the [consecutive bowl] streak.”

Some Quick Quotes as the Day Winds Down

The first full day is about over as the beach party is winding down outside my window high atop to Westin Diplomat. The guys have had a blast playing in the sand and chilly water while the DJ pumped tunes and the food was consumed. It was downright warm at practice today as it peaked near 70 degrees, but the clouds rolled in this afternoon and a breeze picked up to cool things down, but not to the temperature that Tech practiced in prior to Christmas in Blacksburg when the highs were in the teens.

I’ll let our esteemed blogger, Mr. Jimmy Robertson, take you through practice and some other stuff, but here are a few quick quotes from practice today, courtesy of the Orange Bowl media staff. Jimmy's blog was posted a little while earlier.

Be sure to check out for a video from practice, a photo gallery and more a little later. And if you’re not already, be sure to follow us on Twitter, @VT_Football.

Head Coach Frank Beamer

(Opening Statement) – “We got here yesterday, everything is going well. Everything has been right on-time so far. We understand that we have to have a great week of practice, a great preparation [in order] to beat a team as good as Stanford. So I think that is the mindset here, that it is going to take a great effort. That is what we hope to get accomplished here this week.”

(On if all the players are healthy and eligible) – “Everybody is eligible; no academic problems. [In terms of health], of course the ones you know about are out for the game but basically everyone is healthy. We have to see how practice goes this week.”

(On the linebacker rotation) – “[Barquell Rivers] has done an amazing job. He did a good job back in Blacksburg and we were practicing inside on the turf and it held up well. We are going to see how he holds up down here this week. Certainly out of shape because he hasn’t played; not in the shape he would like to be in or need him to be in. We will see how he practices this week and see if we can get a few plays in there.”

(On the preparation for Stanford before coming to South Florida and what is left to do) – “We starting this as a normal Monday practice for us; if we were playing on a Saturday, this is a normal Monday for us. We stay in that sequence. I had to ask someone on the way over what day it was actually because to me this is Monday. So we want to stay right in a sequence and I think it helps the players know what time it is and what they should be feeling in terms of getting ready for a ball game. We have a week of practice down here and we have to make the most of it.”

(On this being one of the premiere bowl matchups this year) – “You have two teams that are close. Certainly Stanford is close; they had a second half against Oregon that if they get that one there, they are playing in the National Championship if everything else went the way it did and that is assuming a lot for both of us. Then for us, if we get the Boise St. game which we had the lead in the 4th quarter and needed about five more yards for a first down then you feel like you get the next game against James Madison and we are close. So I think you have two teams that are close to playing in the National Championship game playing in this game.”

(On if there will be a midnight curfew for the players) – “[Yes], except New Years Eve which we are going to go to 1:00 A.M. I think to have a good practice the next day, you have to be in getting your rest. The players certainly agree with that and if you are serious about your Bowl preparation, I think you need your rest. You want them to have fun and the Orange Bowl is so good down here providing things [and] making it a great week and you want them to enjoy the week but it is a serious Bowl game we are getting ready to play in.”

(On what he thinks Tyrod Taylor’s legacy will be at Virginia Tech) – “I think you are talking about a guy who is going to be the winningest quarterback, leaving with a Senior class that has the most wins, hopefully. [They'll] have 43 and I think that is the most of any Senior Class. I think people will remember him for not only being a great player, but being a great person. To me he is right in every way. Virginia Tech has been fortunate to have him as our quarterback the last four years”

(On how much easier it has been to recruit after having success at the turn of the millennium) – “Not only for football, but our school enrollment applications have gone up a great deal after the 1999 season and I think it continues to go up. I think people turn in to watch a Thursday night game in Blacksburg, lot of kids would say ‘that’s the type of school I would like to go to’. They see the excitement and everything that is involved there. So I think in every way, when you are successful and having fun with a lot of emotion and excitement, that helps your university.”

Linebacker Braquell Rivers

(On if he feels he is getting up to speed) – “Yea, I feel like I am getting back to speed. I am a little bit overweight which is slowing me down a little bit. I am not quite 100% yet.”

(On what it would mean to play in the Orange Bowl) – “It would be a big confidence booster for next year if I can get out here and play in this game and see where I stand; give me a starting point for next season to improve on everything.”

(On memories of coming back to play in the Orange Bowl) – “Yes, it is some good memories because this is where I made my first start at and it is good to come back this year. I know I am not going to start this game, but just to come back and play in the game means a lot.”

(On playing Stanford) – “Like they always say, when you have a big game you have to show up. We had a young team this year, we have to come out and play and do what you have to do. We have big expectations for next year; you have to come and finish this season off strong and build on to it next season.”

Linebacker Bruce Taylor

(On practicing at multiple positions) – “It has been fine. It is something different, I haven’t done it before. I am really looking forward to the challenge of playing different positions. Plus, [the coaches are telling me] don’t forget [middle linebacker] cause we are all going to be rotating. It has just been fine [at] practice doing something different; different stances, different drops and I am looking forward to it.”

(On Stanford Offense) – “They do a lot of things. They trick you if you don’t read your keys right; [need to] stay sound defensively. They can hurt you and we have seen that on film. They have the one loss. It is fine going into a game like this; it is a big game where the winner is going to be in the Top 5 [preseason poll] next year. For Virginia Tech, it is the biggest bowl we have played in for a while, that is what Coach Beamer says. We just looking forward to it; get out here and get this win hopefully.”

Finally, on the docket for tomorrow: the offensive players and coordinator Bryan Stinespring will meet the media at the first press conference in the morning and the team will practice at 1 p.m. The injured players who will not play in the game will visit a local hospital in the afternoon and the team will go to Fogo de Chao in Miami at night for what is affectionately known as "Meat on a Sword" night. Be sure to check back later. Until then, have a great night.

Day 2 in south Florida

The Virginia Tech football team took to the practice field for the first practice since arriving in south Florida on a beautiful Tuesday morning – temps were in the lows 70s. The Hokies traveled 30 minutes or so to Nova Southeastern University for their regular “Monday” practice, as head coach Frank Beamer has always kept bowl week as close to a regular week as possible.

The media arrived as well, with most of their focus on the linebackers. In fact, four linebackers were interviewed – Bruce Taylor, Jack Tyler, Tariq Edwards and Barquell Rivers.

Right now, it appears as though Bud Foster is leaning toward starting Taylor at the backer spot in place of Lyndell Gibson (injured shoulder) and Tyler at the mike linebacker spot. Tyler, a former walk-on, would be making his first career start.

“He [Foster] hasn’t told us really,” Tyler said. “Bruce and I are starting in practice. We’re trying to get Bruce comfortable at the backer position. But Coach Foster hasn’t said who is starting and who is backing up. So we’re all game planning as if we’re starting, and whatever happens, happens.

“I’m confident in my abilities. I don’t have any nerves or any pregame jitters, but that’s because Coach Foster is such a good coach and he’s going to put us in a good spot no matter what. You could plug in anybody and they’d play well.”

Tyler played well after Taylor went down in the ACC championship game. He recorded three tackles for a loss, and more importantly, won over the trust of both Foster and his teammates.

“I personally felt I could go out and compete at a high level, but more than that, some of the players got more confidence in me,” Tyler said. “Coach Foster has more confidence in me in meetings and some of the players aren’t coming up to me now asking me if I know what I’m doing. They’ve got more confidence in me now.”

Here’s more from the day:

• Rivers, the starter last year at mike linebacker, hopes he gets some playing time after missing the entire season while recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon. He’s gradually worked his way back onto the two-deep, though he’s not quite in game shape.

“It would be a big confidence booster for next year if I can get out here and play in this game and see where I stand,” Rivers said. “It would give me a starting point for next season to improve on everything.”

“Barquell’s done an amazing job,” Beamer said. “We’ll see how it goes. He’s out of shape, or not in the shape we want him to be in. We’ll see how things go this week.”

Rivers has good memories of the Orange Bowl. Two years ago, he made his first career start in the Hokies’ win over Cincinnati.

“It is some good memories because this is where I made my first start at and it is good to come back this year,” he said. “I know I am not going to start this game, but just to come back and play in the game means a lot.”

• Ryan Williams was dressed in a blue jersey and basically did not practice on Monday. Apparently Williams re-injured his hamstring during a practice back in Blacksburg. The redshirt sophomore is telling people that he will play in the bowl game.

• Beamer said all players made it in by the midnight curfew on Tuesday night. He also clarified that he is letting the players stay out till 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

• Beamer was asked about his program’s poor record against top-five teams. As a coach, he has just one win against an opponent ranked in the top five of The Associated Press poll.

“Most of those losses came when we first got here and we were playing teams who were just better than we were,” he said. “But there’s no question, we need to be more successful in these games.”

• The players spent most of the afternoon at a beach party held at the team hotel. Photos of that party can be found in the photo gallery for this blog entry.

The party slated to last until 6, and after that, the players were free for the remainder of the evening – until midnight.

The Welcome to Miami Blog

Hello and greetings from Fort Lauderdale! We welcome you to the first installment of the Orange Bowl blog, which will be compiled by several people throughout the week as we attempt to bring you the latest on the Hokies’ experiences leading up to the Orange Bowl game against Stanford next Monday night.

The massive Virginia Tech travel party of over 250 made it to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. The first plane carrying families and support personnel left Blacksburg at 10:50 a.m. and arrived at the Westin Diplomat, the Hokies’ headquarters for the week, around 3 p.m. Coach Beamer and the team came down on a second plane, leaving at noon and arriving around 3:30 p.m.

The team, consisting of 114 players, was scheduled for a short practice at Nova Southeastern University, but the workout was cancelled. The plane carrying the players was supposed to leave at 9 this morning, but winter weather woes on the East Coast wreaked havoc on the players’ attempts to get back to Blacksburg following their Christmas break. So they left later in the day, and the workout – which was going to be mostly conditioning to get the players acclimated to the warmer weather – was cancelled.

The travel party ate lunch at the Westin, and a little later in the evening, head coach Frank Beamer scheduled a team meeting. Two Miami police officers spoke to the team about possible dangers, but Beamer took up most of the time going over the rules for the week and the importance of remaining focused on the mission at hand.

“I really believe this is the second-most important bowl game we’ve ever played,” Beamer told the team. “I think playing in the national championship was the most important and then maybe the 1995 Sugar Bowl when we were trying to get things going. But this game is at least tied for second.

“Your attitude and how you approach this game will determine the outcome.”

After the meeting, the players were free to do as they wished. The bowl arranged a shuttle service to carry the players down to South Beach, leaving at three different times. But all players were expected to abide by the midnight curfew, or else, they would get to experience the “Greyhound experience” – a bus trip back to Roanoke. The bus trip back to Roanoke takes 29 hours, with three transfers.

“If this [the bowl game] is important to you, then you’ll like that,” Beamer said of the midnight curfew. “You want that.”

Other tidbits from the day:

* Both Ryan Williams and Darren Evans have submitted paperwork to the NFL’s advisory committee concerning their draft status. Neither, however, has received word back from that committee.

* Beamer also warned the players about agents. Sometimes, agents or runners hang out at the hotel during bowl weeks in an attempt to make contact with prospective NFL prospects.

“When you finish your career, then you’ll need an agent,” Beamer said. “Otherwise, you don’t need to be talking to agents.”

* The players got to pick out their bowl gifts at the “gift suite” held at the Westin. They got allotted seven “points,” with each gift costing a specific number of points. The list of gifts was impressive – Xbox 360s, Wii’s, Netbooks, etc.

The players won’t get those gifts immediately. Instead, the Orange Bowl folks will be shipping the gifts to Blacksburg after the bowl game.

* The team will leave tomorrow morning for its “Monday” practice at Nova Southeastern University. When the players return, they’ll have a beach party and four of the guys will meet with ESPN for the intoduction to Monday night’s broadcast.

* Be sure to follow us in the world of Twitter as we'll have quick tidbits, morsels, nuggets and more from practice, the hotel, photo galleries, links and other interesting items. The username is @VT_Football.

That’s all for this evening. We’ll report more on Wednesday.