It's something you hear all the time. A team that lost a game or two early in the season gets on a roll, and then toward the end of the season claims it might be one of the best teams in the nation.
It's happening right now at Virginia Tech, and it might be true. The 14th-ranked Hokies re-stated their case with Saturday's convincing 31-17 road victory against No. 24 Miami.
The victory was the ninth consecutive for Virginia Tech (9-2, 7-0), which is starting to convert believers nationwide. The win, earned on the strength of the Hokies forcing six turnovers and scoring 14 fourth-quarter points, delivered the ACC Coastal Division title, a berth in the Dec. 4 ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C., and keeps alive the possibility of a BCS bowl berth.
And to think, all this comes from a group that was left for dead after season-opening losses to No. 3 Boise State and James Madison, a member of the second-class FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, the former I-AA).
"It's a fun team to be around," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said of his Comeback Kids.
Indeed. Few others could start out 0-2, fall behind early in many subsequent games, including Saturday's 7-0 deficit, and still reel off nine consecutive victories. It's a truly unique group, and yes, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the likely ACC Offensive Player of the Year, thinks they could contend for a national title the way they're playing right now.
"I believe the team I play for, the Virginia Tech Hokies, could play with anyone in the nation," Taylor said.
So, if there was a playoff the Hokies would make some noise?
"No doubt," Taylor said.
How can you doubt him? These guys make plays.
The Hokies turned the game when they went ahead, 24-17, after running back Ryan Williams (14 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs) scored on an 84-yard run that might be the Hokies' biggest play of the year. This much is sure: It's the longest run by a Tech player in an ACC game and the fifth-longest run in school history.
Virginia Tech sealed the game on cornerback Jayron Hosley's eighth interception, one shy of the school single-season record. From there Taylor scored on an 18-yard touchdown run, juking free safety Vaughn Telemaque and strong safety Ray-Ray Armstrong in what has become typical Taylor fashion. The touchdown, which gave the Hokies a 31-17 lead, was the 22nd for Taylor, establishing a career record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
The fight was on as soon as this one kicked off. It was perhaps the hardest-hitting game in the ACC this season with guys going down left and right in the first quarter.
Hokies cornerback Rashad Carmichael was among the first to go, suffering an ankle injury that kept him out the rest of the game. As the clocked ticked on others would go down. Taylor went out for a play. Wide receiver Marcus Davis was sandwiched after a reception and left the game. UM running back Damien Berry went out. UM defensive lineman Marcus Robinson left the game on crutches. On and on it went.
Even when guys weren't knocking the daylights out of somebody they were executing plays with textbook technique. Watch the video of Hokies fullback Kenny Younger driving UM linebacker Ramon Buchanan out of the hole on Williams' 14-yard touchdown run. This was a man's game.
"We play Virginia Tech all the time and these kinds of things happen," UM coach Randy Shannon said of the hard hits and injuries.
UM (7-4, 5-3) needed a victory Saturday combined with a Virginia Tech loss next week to Virginia to gain a berth in the ACC championship game. Things started promising as the Hurricanes took a 7-0 lead.
After the Hokies took possession and drove 88 yards to tie the game at 7, Miami got a 34-yard field goal from Matt Bosher to take a 10-7 lead. Then the Hokies scored on a 49-yard field goal from kicker Chris Hazley to tie the game at 10, which is where it stood at halftime. Each team scored in the third quarter and they entered the fourth tied at 17, setting up the fourth-quarter dramatics from Hosley and Williams.
As far as the season, Hosley doesn't wish to re-play the Boise State or James Madison games. He said whatever happened back then happened. But if the Hokies were to replay those games…
"If we get on the field and we do the things we should do," Hosley said, "we'll come out with the win."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun