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Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer walked into the postgame media room following the Hokies’ game with Virginia and carefully held the ACC championship game patch attached to a lanyard around his neck.
“Some years, putting this on means more than others,” he said. “But this one is about as special as it gets.”
Tech rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit, using a fourth-quarter field goal from Dustin Keys and a huge interception from rover Dorian Porch to knock off the Cavaliers 17-14 in the regular-season finale held Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The win enabled the Hokies to claim the ACC’s Coastal Division crown and clinch a spot in next Saturday’s championship game played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. It will mark the third time the Hokies have played in the championship game, and they will be looking to defend the league crown they won last season.
“To be in this position, I think our coaches deserve a lot of credit and I think our players deserve a lot of credit,” Beamer said. “We hung in there and battled. We found a way and never gave up. I’m just as proud as I can be of this football team.”
With the victory, the Hokies closed out the regular season with an 8-4 record, including a 5-3 mark in the ACC and a 6-0 record at home – their first unbeaten season at home since the 2000 season. Tech knocked off the Cavaliers for the fifth straight time and for the 12th time in the past 16 meetings between the two rivals. UVa, which needed a win to become bowl eligible, closed out its season with a 5-7 mark, 3-5 record in the league, and UVa head coach Al Groh fell to 1-7 against the Hokies as the Cavaliers’ head coach.
Tech got its first lead in the game late in the fourth quarter when the Hokies marched 40 yards in 10 plays. Tech got to the UVa 11, but the drive stalled, and the Hokies settled for a 28-yard field goal by Keys, a redshirt senior who missed a chip-shot 22-yarder early in the game. The score came with 6:37 left in the game and gave the Hokies a 17-14 lead.
UVa put together a nice drive of its own on the ensuing possession. The Cavaliers marched 49 yards – with a big chunk of that coming on Vic Hall’s 39-yard run to the Tech 24. But on third-and-11 from the Tech 25, UVa quarterback Marc Verica tried to hit Kevin Ogletree on a post pattern and saw his pass picked off in the end zone by Porch, who returned the ball to the 40.
The interception gave the Hokies the ball with 2:15 left and marked the first interception of Porch’s career.
“I would say,” Porch said when asked if the interception was the highlight of his career. “I had a chance to seal the game and to go up and get it like that felt really good.
“It’s a big rivalry game, and I’m not from Virginia, but I know how much it means to some of the guys who are. To come off the field and celebrate with them, that’s a great feeling.”
UVa did get the ball back one last time, taking over at its own 13 with 1:38 remaining. But Tech’s defense stiffened, and on fourth-and-9 from the UVa 14, Purnell Sturdivant sacked Verica for an 8-yard loss. The Hokies then ran out the final 52 seconds and started celebrating.
It marked a fitting end for Tech’s defense, which allowed just 249 yards of offense for the day – despite giving up a couple of big rushing plays to Hall, who started at quarterback and played on offense for the Cavaliers for the first time in his career. Tech now has held five straight opponents to under 250 total yards. Virginia only amassed 108 yards in the second half.
“The coaches let the linebackers play free and let us play man-to-man on the perimeter,” Tech cornerback Macho Harris said. “We were able to hold them down. Coach [Bud] Foster is THE best coordinator in the nation. I say that proudly.”
Tech’s offense enjoyed its second-best performance of the season, finishing with 392 yards of offense. Tyrod Taylor got the start despite a miserable four-turnover performance against Duke and led the way, rushing for a career-high 137 yards on 16 carries and completing 12-of-18 for 137 yards and a touchdown. He accounted for 274 yards of offense himself.
“I wish I could have played last Sunday [following the Duke performance]. That’s how badly I wanted to play,” Taylor said. “But we had a great week of practice this week and we played good today.
“Yes, this was probably my best performance because it meant a lot to the team. I had a couple of good games last year, but this one meant a lot. For the seniors to get a win in their last home game and to go to the ACC championship game, it’s a great deal.”
UVa took the early 7-0 lead on Hall’s 40-yard touchdown run with 11:57 left in the first quarter. But Tech tied it less than seven minutes later on Taylor’s 3-yard scoring toss to Jarrett Boykin. UVa retook the lead with 3:24 left in the first half on Hall’s 16-yard touchdown run and took a seven-point lead into the locker room.
The Hokies, though, tied the game quickly in the second half. On the first drive of the half, Taylor’s 73-yard run ended up setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by Greg Boone out of the Hokies’ ‘Wild Turkey’ formation. Keys’ extra point tied the game at 14 with 12:54 left in the third quarter.
Boone, a 6-3, 280-pound redshirt junior, ran three times for 12 yards on the day. Darren Evans got the most carries for the Hokies, running the ball 25 times for 72 yards.
Hall’s 109 yards rushing accounted for most of UVa’s 249 yards of offense. He only attempted one pass. Verica completed 8-of-14 for 77 yards, with the one interception.
The game marked the final regular-season game for the Hokies’ 14 seniors, all of whom were recognized before the game. That group currently has a 40-12 mark as a class, with three division titles and one ACC title.
And they have the potential to add one more. Tech will play Boston College in the ACC title game next Saturday in Tampa. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and ABC will televise the game.
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