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January 8, 2010

Rocky Top No Match for Tech

By: Jimmy Robertson

Cody Grimm had seven tackles – three for a loss – and a sack to earn the game’s defensive MVP honors.

New Year’s Eve in Atlanta features the annual ritual of dropping of an oversized replica of a peach to commemorate the New Year.

This year, the ritual also featured the Virginia Tech football team dropping the hammer on Tennessee.

Behind a punishing defense and the typical running of Ryan Williams, the Hokies closed 2009 by caging ol’ Smokey and knocking the Volunteers off Rocky Top in a 37-14 rout in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome.

The win capped an amazing run to end the season for the Hokies, who closed out the campaign by winning their final five games to finish with a 10-3 record. Tech now has won 10 games in each of the past six seasons – something only Texas can claim.

This year’s team also became the first Tech team ever to win back-to-back bowl games. The Hokies moved to 8-9 in bowl games under head coach Frank Beamer.

“The way we came back and won this thing says a lot about our players,” said a soggy Beamer, who took a Gatorade shower before meeting with the media. “We won four games after things didn’t look so good. We had two tough losses [Georgia Tech and North Carolina] and then we come down here and beat a really good Tennessee team.

“It’s us and Texas that have won 10 games the past six years and that’s special. The fact that we finally won back-to-back bowl games is special. And hopefully, we’ll be ranked in the top 10 when all the playing is done.”

Tech won this one with a near-flawless second half on both sides of the ball, a half that saw the Hokies outscore Tennessee 20-0. For the fifth straight game, Tech’s defense did not allow a second-half point. For the game, Tennessee finished with just 240 yards – only 112 of that came in the second half (43 came on the final drive with the outcome decided). The Vols only finished with five yards rushing, thanks largely to six Tech sacks.

“It was just a great team effort,” said whip linebacker Cody Grimm, who was named the bowl’s defensive player of the game after having seven tackles – three for a loss – and one sack. “We didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to this year, but to go out with a win over an SEC school that was hot at the time … and not only winning, but how we did it. We dominated the game, I thought. You can’t say enough about the team.”

Ryan Williams was named the offensive MVP of the game after rushing for 117 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

Grimm and the defense got things going for the Hokies in the second half, stopping Tennessee on four plays on the opening possession. Then, with Tech leading 17-14, Williams took over.

The redshirt freshman from Manassas, Va., carried the ball on seven straight plays for 78 yards on Tech’s opening possession of the half. On the eighth play, Tyrod Taylor scored from a yard out to give Tech a 24-14 lead with 8:42 left in the third quarter.

Williams’ game ended on the first play of Tech’s next possession, as he sprained his left ankle for the second time in the game. But he still finished with 117 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also broke Tech’s single-season rushing record of 1,647 yards set by former tailback Kevin Jones in 2003, finishing the season with 1,655 yards.

“Everyone was just doing their job,” Williams said of his game. “When everyone does their job on the field, then things like that can happen. It was just execution, from the offensive line to the receivers. When we execute like that, I think we can stay with the best defenses out there.”

Tech’s defense stopped Tennessee again, and once more, the Hokies took advantage. A nine-play drive ended with a career-long 46-yard field goal by Matt Waldron that gave Tech a 27-14 lead with 13:33 remaining.

The Hokies scored on four of their five second-half offensive possessions. Their only offensive possession in the second half that didn’t result in a score was the final one in which Taylor took a knee to run out the clock.

Josh Oglesby and David Wilson accounted for 67 of Tech’s 229-yard rushing total. Tech’s offense showed excellent balance, as Taylor completed 10-of-17 for 209 yards, with an interception. Jarrett Boykin caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 63-yarder at the end of the first half that set up a Waldron field goal at the buzzer.

Crompton paced the Tennessee attack by throwing for 235 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Montario Hardesty rushed for just 39 yards, and the Vols, as a team, finished with just five yards rushing, thanks to those six sacks.

“I think we proved a lot to a lot of people outside the program,” Williams said. “The whole ACC-SEC, I think we proved a lot about that. Our offense and defense coming out from the start and playing from start to finish. I think we showed a lot and left everything we had out on that field. That was the main goal. We said we wanted to leave everything out on that field and that’s what we did.”

Chick-fil-A Bowl Notes

• Ryan Williams set numerous marks with his performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He not only broke Kevin Jones’ single-season rushing mark, but he also broke two ACC records. He finished with 22 total touchdowns and 21 rushing touchdowns, and both are new league marks.

• Rashad Carmichael’s first-quarter interception set up Tech’s first touchdown. The interception marked the sixth of the season for Carmichael, an honorable mention All-ACC selection. He led the team this season in that category.

• Matt Waldron broke a Tech bowl record with three field goals (several had kicked two) and he tied a Tech bowl record with his 46-yard field goal. Chris Kinzer booted a 46-yard in the Hokies’ win over N.C. State in the 1986 Peach Bowl.

• Tech’s defense also set a Tech bowl record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a bowl game (five). Tech finished the season without allowing a point in the second half of the final five games and the defense didn’t allow any of its last five opponents to surpass 300 yards of total offense.