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December 7, 2009

Strong regular season has put the Hokies where they want to be heading into the bowl

By: Jimmy Robertson

Ever the model of consistency, the Virginia Tech football team stayed true to its postgame rituals following a victory. A season-ending stomping of rival Virginia wasn’t going to change that.

Head coach Frank Beamer lauded his team’s effort following the 42-13 victory. Game balls got passed out. Beamer then stood on a chair and danced – and a 63-year-old man dancing in a testosterone-filled locker room can be quite a sight, but also the ultimate relaxation technique to conclude another exhausting campaign.

The only deviance from Tech’s postgame ritual was Governor Tim Kaine’s appearance in the locker room. Then again, maybe that wasn’t so different. After all, he’s been a visitor in Tech’s locker room after this rivalry game the past four years.

Tech’s win enabled it to wrap up the regular season with a 9-3 record and now it prepares for the bowl game, the dessert following the college football season’s main course. It will be interesting to listen to fans’ analysis of this season because A.) the Hokies are much better than a year ago, but B.) they won’t have won an ACC championship to show for it.

Still, the Hokies have put themselves in position to win 10 games and finished ranked in the top 10. This comes despite being handled at Georgia Tech and after a toe stubbing at home to North Carolina. They polished off the season with four dominating victories, all by double digits.

“I’m proud of our football team,” Beamer said. “After those two losses in the middle of the year [Georgia Tech and North Carolina], it was a challenge to these kids and these coaches to get better and I think we have gotten better. I’m proud of what we’re all about.”

“I’ll take my team against any team in the nation,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said.

That’s a rather bold statement from a player not known for making them.

Yet it shows the confidence of the team as the Hokies begin preparations for the bowl game. Beamer’s changes in bowl prep worked masterfully a year ago and he figures to keep it the same as Tech hopes to win its second straight bowl game – something the school surprisingly hasn’t done. The Hokies will get after it pretty intensely before breaking for a couple of days for Christmas and then heading to the bowl site.

Having said all that, with the regular season over and Christmas on the horizon, here are a few Christmas gifts for those who have been quite nice this season:

Offensive player of the year – Ryan Williams. Does anyone dare to argue this? He set the ACC freshman rushing record (1,538 yards) and freshman scoring record (20 touchdowns). Both of those marks are Tech records for a freshman as well. He’s been durable and tough and just outstanding.

Defensive player of the year – Cody Grimm. Why is everyone shocked he had such a great season? Wasn’t he fantastic a year ago? He leads the team in tackles (99) and is tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss (9.5). His seven forced fumbles leads the country and he set an NCAA record with three of those in one game.

Special teams player of the year – Alonzo Tweedy. Brent Bowden and Matt Waldron kicked great, but Tweedy shined. He finished the regular season as the Hokies’ top tackler on special teams, with 21 (14 of those coming on kickoff coverage and the rest coming on punt coverage). He was fantastic.

Surprise of the year – Rashad Carmichael. This guy stepped into Tech’s famed boundary corner position after Stephan Virgil got hurt in the opener and never gave it up. He finished fourth on the team in tackles (55) and easily led the Hokies in interceptions with five.

Unheralded offensive player – Beau Warren. Yes, he missed a couple of games with a knee injury, but Tech’s center graded out better than 80 percent in every game. Unless we’re mistaken, he didn’t commit a penalty this season, his first as a starter.

Unheralded defensive player – Barquell Rivers. He quietly finished second on the team in tackles (94) and had few glaring errors in his first season as a starter.

Play of the year Danny Coale’s 81-yard catch vs. Nebraska. The Hokies appeared to be on the ropes, but his big play set up the winning touchdown in one of the most thrilling endings ever at Lane Stadium. Honorable mention: Williams’ 19-yard touchdown run against N.C. State in which he dragged Earl Wolff the final 12 yards.