Virginia Tech was five minutes from football history. All the offense had to do was close.
The Hokies were less than two minutes away from history. All the defense had to do was close.
Boise State drove 56 yards in 38 seconds for the winning touchdown to beat Tech 33-30 at FedEx Field in the season opener for both.
This the Broncos did without a timeout, an indictment of the Hokies' young defense and a credit to the nation's third-ranked team.
Trailing 17-0 after one quarter, the Hokies were on the brink of their greatest comeback in Frank Beamer's 24 seasons as coach. They were moments from defeating a top-five opponent away from home for the first time.
And no matter how ragged and inept they were in spots, especially on special teams, the Hokies were positioned to contend for their first national title.
The clock read 5:14. Tech led 30-26 and took possession at its own 7.
Could the Hokies close?
Champions do. So do legitimate contenders. This was Tech's chance. Grind it out. Hand the ball to Ryan Williams.
Keep Boise State's potent offense glued to the bench.
Three plays. Three Williams runs for 13 yards. Clock ticking inside 3:30.
Tyrod Taylor to Jarrett Boykin. Another first down. Clock inside 2:30.
That same pitch-and-catch combination produced the go-ahead touchdown from 28 yards on a fourth-and-5.
But this final drive stalled at Tech's 33. As usual for the Hokies, the defense would have to close.
It couldn't as Kellen Moore threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis.
Talk about a buzzkill. The Hokies not only trailed 17-0 after a quarter but also looked like bigger frauds than Bernie Madoff.
Sure, Boise State is good. Probably much better than we East Coast snobs realize. But Tech was beating Tech, and no sequence embodied that malaise more than the Broncos' first punt.
It came on a fourth-and-1 from Boise's 48. First, D.J. Coles needlessly ran into punter Kyle Botzman. That's a 5-yard foul and first down.
But Coles brain-locked and compounded the gaffe by cheap-shotting a Bronco. Another flag and 15 more yards, and if I'm Beamer, he sits for the night.
First down Boise at Tech's 32. Six plays later, Moore threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Gallarda, giving the Broncos a 17-0 lead.
Toss in the blocked Tech punt that gave Boise possession at the Hokies 12 and led to the game's first touchdown, and you can understand why Beamer was fuming.
The irony is that for all of Tech's special teams excellence under Beamer, they've often failed on the biggest stages. Sugar Bowls against Florida State and Auburn come to mind in a deadline pinch.
The question Monday wasn't if the Hokies would win but rather if they'd even compete.
They answered quickly and forcefully with two second-quarter touchdowns that brought them within 20-14 at half.
No wonder the Redskins and owner Dan Snyder agreed to stage this game. First, the franchise undoubtedly netted millions. Second, Monday night was probably the best entertainment his stadium will see this season.
What, you think Donovan McNabb is going to quarterback the Redskins to the Super Bowl? You think Fat Albert ( Bill Cosby reference) Haynesworth is going vegan and dropping 30?
Boise State stands a much better chances of winning the national championship.
Meanwhile, the No. 10 Hokies fall to 1-18 under Beamer against the top-five. Comeback aside, it's another disspiriting performance on the big stage.
Shedding this memory won't be easy.
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/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.