Virginia Tech needs BCS win to make Beamer's 25th season a true success
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, shown after a 38-0 win against Virginia to end the regular season, could cap his 25th season with a BCS win should the Hokies win Tuesday in the Sugar Bowl. (Geoff Burke, Getty Images / November 26, 2011)
NEW ORLEANS —
This they did as tailback David Wilson earned conference player-of-the-year honors, Logan Thomas established his quarterback presence and the defense overcame myriad injuries.
Sugar Bowl to Michigan, the season will be, in large measure, disappointing.
This because the Hokies not only failed to defend their ACC championship but also performed so poorly in losing the title contest to Clemson by four touchdowns.
This because until Tech starts winning consistently on national stages such as the BCS and against marquee opponents such as Michigan, the program won't be considered among the true elite.
Beamer rarely misses an opportunity to remind folks that since the start of the 1995 season, no Bowl Subdivision team has won more games than Tech. But he adds a caveat.
"I think people when they talk about the top programs in the country, the winningest programs in the country, I think Virginia Tech's in the discussion," Beamer said. "But I think to take that next step, you have to win your share of the BCS games. That's reality. We've been here, and we haven't won enough of the BCS games."
The Hokies are 2-5 in BCS/Bowl Alliance games, and their most recent appearance was a 40-12 drubbing from Stanford and Andrew Luck in last season's Orange Bowl. It was a bitter farewell for an accomplished senior class that included 2010 ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor.
"I still regret last year's game against Stanford just because of what Tyrod Taylor did in this program," safety Eddie Whitley said as he prepared for his final college game. "It was sad to let them guys go out like that."
Citing that defeat, the 38-10 loss to Clemson and a weak non-conference schedule, many say Tech (11-2) doesn't deserve to be here.
The criticism fails to acknowledge that bowl invitations hinge on other considerations, television appeal, fan support and program history among them. But the criticism will continue if the Hokies play poorly, and they know it.
"This is definitely a redemption game for us," said defensive end James Gayle from Bethel High.
"We've had opportunities in big games before, and I'm well aware that we haven't played well in a lot of them," receiver Danny Coale said. "So for me, and for the guys who have been in the program, we understand the importance."
The last time the Hokies got their backs up like this was prior to the Virginia game, when much of the media focused on the Cavaliers' resurgent season. Tech responded with its most complete effort of the season in a 38-0 rout.
"There are certain things in your life that you just can't shrug off," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said of slights real and imagined. "We're proud of who we are, what we've accomplished and what bowl game we're going to."
There's an ACC element to the equation, also. The conference is 2-11 in BCS games, 2-4 this bowl season and struggled again this regular season against top-shelf non-conference opponents.
If Michigan flattens Tech, the BCS may think long and hard about future at-large bids for the ACC.
"We haven't won enough games against outside competition. It's just a fact," Beamer said.
"We could have gone undefeated and people probably would have (questioned us because) we play in the ACC," Gayle said. "We definitely want to show that the ACC is not as weak as people try to say it is."
Beamer and the Hokies sounded similar themes a year ago before facing No. 5 Stanford. Then the focus was on Beamer's 1-19 record against top-five teams.
Michigan (10-2) isn't as good as Stanford was last year. Is this Tech squad better than last season's?
The answer has been as elusive as Wilson and Denard Robinson. Tuesday should bring clarification.
"We need to go out and win this game," defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said. "We feel we have a chip on our shoulder. … We'll show everybody why the Sugar Bowl committee thought enough of us to select us."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP