ACC: Russell Athletic Bowl

Heather Dinich talks about one coach, one player and one position group in the ACC that needs to step up this postseason.

Running game a priority for Hokies

December, 6, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. -- While public perception might seem otherwise, it’s no big mystery why Virginia Tech failed to contend for the Coastal Division title this year and mucked its way through the program’s most disappointing season in 20 years.

The Hokies’ scoring offense was No. 78 in the country this year, averaging 26.08 points per game. Virginia Tech struggled to run the ball, averaging just 157.75 yards per game.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's J.C. Coleman
Peter Casey/US PRESSWIREThe Hokies would like J.C. Coleman rush for more TDs against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
As the program prepares to face Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl, it does so knowing exactly where it needs to improve. The question is whether the Hokies can make those adjustments in time to finish the season on a winning note and avoid the program’s first losing season since 1992. Coach Frank Beamer would not say if he planned to make any staff changes, but he did say the team will focus on improving the running game during its bowl practices.

“I think we know the direction we want to go,” Beamer said. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly this or that. Logan [Thomas] didn’t have as good a year as he wanted to have, but he didn’t have two receivers that are all-time leading receivers at Virginia Tech. And a running back that’s playing for the Giants now. And four offensive linemen that started a bunch of ball games. It all kind of ties in with each other. Your success kind of goes as an offensive team and as a team, and I think we understand where we need to get better.”

The Hokies’ rushing offense was No. 5 in the ACC, a significant drop from the David Wilson era in which Virginia Tech was No. 2 in the ACC in 2011 with 350.91 rushing yards per game. A tailback-by-committee approach was the only option, as J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory, Martin Scales, and Michael Holmes all had at least 40 carries this year. The team’s leading rusher, though, was its quarterback, as Thomas finished with 528 yards and nine touchdowns. The last time a Virginia Tech quarterback led the team in rushing was 1965, when Bobby Owens led the team with 526 yards.

Beamer said Coleman (486 yards) and Scales (173 yards) caught the coaches’ attention later in the season.

“Those two kind of stepped it up a bit,” Beamer said. “All of them are going to be good backs, it’s just that for so long, no one separated. One guy would be good one day, and the next guy would be good the next game, or the next quarter. We really all along wanted to get it down to about two backs, and work them in there, and let them get most of the reps in practice and be better in a game, and I think we’re closer to that now.”

They’ll face a tough test from Rutgers, which is No. 11 in the country in rushing defense at 105 yards per game.

“There’s no question we’d like to run the football better,” Beamer said. “We’re going to continue to work in that area.”

ACC announces bowl lineup

December, 2, 2012
The ACC has officially announced its bowl lineup.

ACC champion Florida State will face Northern Illinois on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 in the 79th annual Discover Orange Bowl. The game will have an 8:30 p.m. kickoff (ET) and will be nationally televised by ESPN.

In addition to the Seminoles, Clemson (Chick-fil-A), Virginia Tech (Russell Athletic), Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun), Duke (Belk), and NC State (Franklin American Mortgage Music City), all accepted bowl invitations.

From the ACC's release:
Florida State (11-2; 7-1 ACC), ranked 12th in the final BCS standings, captured its 13th ACC title since joining the league in 1992. But the ACC gridiron title is the Seminoles' first in eight seasons, and its first berth in a BCS bowl game since claiming the inaugural ACC Football Championship Game in 2005. FSU, coached by Jimbo Fisher, has now posted a 30-10 record over the past three seasons and will be making its ninth appearance in the Discover Orange Bowl, last facing Penn State in the 2006 classic, a triple overtime loss to Penn State. The Seminoles will be facing Northern Illinois, 12-1, and champions of the Mid-American Conference and ranked 15th in the final BCS Standings. Florida State is 3-5 in its previous eight Orange Bowl appearances but is 25-14-2 overall in 41 bowl games, a winning percentage of .634, the sixth-best winning percentage nationally among teams with 15 or more bowl appearances. Ironically, Northern Illinois’ head coach, Dave Doeren has been hired by FSU’s Atlantic Division rival NC State, and will not coach in the bowl game.

Clemson (10-2; 7-1 ACC), ranked 14th in the final BCS Standings, and co-champions of the ACC’s Atlantic Division, will be making its eighth appearance in an Atlanta bowl game when the Tigers face 8th-ranked LSU (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome on Monday, December 31. The game will have a 7:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff and will be nationally televised by ESPN. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has guided the Tigers to back-to-back 10-win seasons, the first for Clemson since the 1989-90 seasons. The game will mark the first meeting between these two sets of Tigers since the 1996 Peach Bowl, the predecessor of the current Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU, currently coached by Les Miles, has won both previous meetings between the two teams, including a 10-7 decision in 1996. The game will be Clemson’s 35th appearance in a bowl game and their fifth straight bowl berth under Swinney. The Tigers have a 16-18 overall bowl record.

Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4, ACC), will be making its first appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which will be played on Friday, Dec. 28, in Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl stadium. The game will have a 5:30 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised on ESPN. The Hokies of Coach Frank Beamer, who is the winningest active coach in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Championship Subdivision with 257 career triumphs, will face Rutgers (9-3) of the Big East Conference. Beamer is currently tied with former BYU coach LaVell Edwards for 6th place on the all-time NCAA FBS wins list. The game will mark the 15th meeting between the two teams in a series which began in 1920, but it is their first game since 2003 when both were members of the Big East Conference. Tech, which is 9-16 in its 25 previous bowl trips, has an 11-3 advantage in its series with the Scarlet Knights.

Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3), the ACC’s Coastal Division champions, are making their second straight trip to the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which will be played on Monday, Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas. The game, the 79th Annual Sun Bowl, will have a 2 p.m. (ET) kickoff and will be nationally televised by CBS-TV. The Yellow Jackets of coach Paul Johnson will be meeting the Trojans of Southern California (7-5) of the Pac-12 Conference, coached by Lane Kiffin. The meeting is the first between the two teams since 1973, when Tech dropped 23-6 decision to the then-No. 1-ranked Trojans. The Jackets are 1-2 against USC. Tech is making its 41st appearance in a postseason bowl game and has posted a 22-18 record, which ranks as the 15th-best winning percentage among teams with 15 or more appearances. USC, which has a 32-16 (.667) record in bowl games, has the 2nd-best winning percentage. Tech dropped a 30-27 overtime decision to Utah in last year’s Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Duke (6-6, 3-5), under the direction of ACC Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe, is making its first bowl appearance since 1994, when it faces Big East foe Cincinnati (9-3) in the Belk Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 27 in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. The game will have a 6:30 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised by ESPN. Duke will be facing the Bearcats, who are coached by Butch Jones, for the first time. Duke is making its ninth bowl trip and has posted a 3-5 record in postseason games. The Blue Devils last bowl trip was a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl Game in Tampa, Fla. The game marks the first appearance by the Blue Devils in a bowl game in North Carolina.

NC State (7-5, 3-5 ACC) is making its third straight bowl appearance when it faces Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt (8-4) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Monday, Dec. 31 at noon in Nashville, Tenn. The game will be played in Nashville’s LP Field and will be nationally televised by ESPN. The Wolfpack are making their third straight bowl appearance and fourth in the last five years. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Dana Bible will guide the team against the Commodores as the school awaits the arrival of its new head coach Dave Doeren, who guided Northern Illinois to back-to-back MAC Championships. State will making its 27th bowl appearance and has a 14-11-1 record (.558), having recently claimed back-to-back triumphs over West Virginia in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl and Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl. State’s bowl winning percentage is 14th best nationally among schools with 15 or more bowl appearances. The game is only the second between the two schools in football and the first in 66 years as the Wolfpack dropped a 7-0 decision at Vanderbilt in 1946.
Virginia Tech will face Rutgers in this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28th from Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. The game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. ET and be televised nationally by ESPN.

From the release:
Virginia Tech is bowl-eligible for an impressive 20th-straight season and makes its first appearance in an Orlando bowl game. Head coach Frank Beamer is the winningest-active and longest-tenured coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. QB Logan Thomas accounts for 72 percent of his team’s total offensive output, leading the Hokies in both passing and rushing.

Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC) boasts the ACC’s second-ranked scoring defense (23.9 ppg) and the conference’s third-best total defense (344.6 ypg). Junior DB Antone Exum leads the league’s No. 2-rated passing defense with four interceptions, tying him for third-most in the ACC.

The Hokies are 2-0 against Big East teams in bowl games since 2006, including a 20-7 victory over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl in 2009. They hold an 11-3 all-time record over the Scarlet Knights, with all 11 wins coming consecutively since 1993.

Rutgers (9-3, 5-2 Big East) heads to an Orlando bowl for the first time in school history and heads to The City Beautiful riding a five-game bowl win streak, tied for the nation’s longest. It has played in seven bowls in the last eight years and this will be its eighth bowl all time. The co-Big East Champions enter the game looking for its first double-digit win season since 2006, when it went 11-2.

The Scarlet Knights boast a pair of sophomores who have been making headlines all season. Running back Jawan Jamison is the third RU player since 1976 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and quarterback Gary Nova is second in RU single-season history with 22 touchdown passes this year.

The last time RU played an ACC team in a bowl was the 2008 Bowl against NC State. Rutgers earned a 29-23 victory over the Wolfpack.