Hokies hope changes lead to better bowl showing
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech must be doing something right. The Hokies are one of just three programs (Florida and Florida State are the others) who will be participating in a bowl game this year for the 16th straight season.
But when it comes to bowl results, Frank Beamer figured that Virginia Tech must be doing something wrong. The Hokies have lost their last two postseason games despite being favored over Kansas in the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl and Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two years ago. They've dropped four of their last five bowl contests and their last four BCS appearances.
"We've been to, I guess, 16 straight, and we've really kind of had the same procedure for a long, long time, and we've won some bowl games," Beamer said at Wednesday's coaches' news conference. "But in the last couple years we didn't win. So, after the game last year, we went back as a football staff and said, 'If we can get back to a bowl game, what do we need to do differently?'"
The Hokies (9-4) have changed things up in Miami this week. The players have had a midnight curfew every night, whereas in the past they've been allowed to stay out later in the days leading up to the game. For the first time during a bowl week, Beamer is moving his team out of the designated team hotel the night before the game. Virginia Tech left its cushy digs at the Westin Diplomat and headed away to a quieter, undisclosed location Wednesday night for more of a regular game feel.
Beamer said the team did more full-speed drill work and scrimmages in Blacksburg before coming to Miami, unlike in the past when he gave the upperclassmen some time off.
In the end, Beamer said, winning bowl games often comes down to the team being in the right mindset. Last year's squad may have relaxed a bit after beating Boston College in the ACC title game to get here, he said. This year, he senses more of a focus on beating Cincinnati.
"Hopefully our minds are right, and I do believe this is an important ballgame to this football team," he said.
Virginia Tech will have some challenges to overcome in this game. Two defensive starters -- end Jason Worilds, the team's sacks leader, and linebacker Brett Warren, the Hokies' second-leading tackler -- are out with injuries. Freshman Barquell Rivers will replace Worilds, while junior Nekos Browns will step in for Warren.
Of even bigger concern is the loss of starting offensive guard Nick Marshman to academics. Freshman Jaymes Brooks, who has played only four snaps all season, will take his place against an athletic and aggressive Cincinnati defensive front.
"He's done OK," Beamer said when asked how Brooks has practiced. "He's going to be a good, good player. He's very athletic, with good size, good pop. He just hasn't played very much."
This may or may not be the year the Hokies get back on the bowl winning track. But Beamer said that shouldn't take away from the accomplishment of reaching this stage yet again. He said he was thinking about that while watching past Orange Bowl highlights at Tuesday's luncheon for the teams. This is a young Virginia Tech squad that was 6-4 at one point this season and didn't expect to get here.
"When it's all said and done, it's important to this football program, to our players, to our coaches, to our fans that you're successful in that last ballgame, and it's not every day you get a chance to be successful in an Orange Bowl," Beamer said. "Sometimes I think we take these bowl games a little bit for granted, but I'll tell you, going through this year and not being sure that you could win enough to get to a bowl game, I don't think we ever need to take these things for granted. "