Friday, January 2, 2009

ACC FOOTBALL: OTHER THAN VIRGINIA TECH - NOT VERY GOOD

The ACC was fast –tracking its way to another bowl season debacle after Clemson did what they do so well against Nebraska…that would be “find a way to lose.” That loss put the home league’s bowl record at a rousing 3-6, with a two year combined bowl record of 5-12.

Worse still, the ACC had not won a BCS game since Florida State defeated the Big East version of the Michael Vick Hokies for the National Championship in January of 2000. Since then, ACC teams had played in eight BCS games and lost every single one.

With that small burden to bear, the underdog Hokies helped save a little league face by stifling Cincinnati’s high-octane offense and winning last night’s Orange Bowl. In a better world, Bud Foster's lunch pail would have been the game's MVP.

At game’s end, Tyrod Taylor threw off his helmet and struck a Sports Center pose in celebration. Before the cameras could catch the sophomore’s attempt at the money shot, one of his offense linemen knocked him to the Orange Bowl’s turf. In retrospect, that seemed like the perfect ending to Virginia Tech’s up-and-down season that began with a loss as a result of a blocked punt and ended with a BCS win.

Cullen Harper and his Clemson mates controlled the first half against the Huskers, but failed to put up points. That shortcoming would haunt them when the second half started and it was clear Nebraska had made some key adjustments. The “Good” Harper enjoyed by Bowden at times early in the season and by new coach Dabo Sweeney in the latter half of the campaign, was usurped by the “Bad” Harper in the second half. His sack on third and goal for a 15 yard loss on the next-to-last play of the game was as bad a mistake as a senior quarterback can make. Ever. You know what’s coming next: Game over.

Harper ended up 17 for 37 for 206 yards two touchdowns and the classic bowl killing two interceptions. The tough Nebraska defense held the Clemson’s Thunder and Lightning to a whopping total of four yards rushing while the Tigers were converting three of sixteen third down attempts in the process squandering a 21-10 lead.

No. 21 VIRGINIA TECH 20, No. 12 Cincinnati (Bearcats, 26,824 students, Cincinnati, OH) 7

Darren Evans had 28 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Tyrod Taylor rushed for another score as Virginia Tech defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Orange Bowl. The Hokies now join USC and Texas as the only D1 schools to win 10 games in each of the past five seasons.

The Hokies (10-4) forced Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike into a season-high four interceptions. Pike - who wasn't even on Cincinnati's depth chart at the start of the season before blossoming into an all-Big East quarterback - threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, but had his night marred by the picks. In addition, Pike was also stifled on a fourth quarter fourth down goal line run.

Mardy Gilyard had 255 all-purpose yards (158 receiving , 97 returning) and a touchdown catch for Cincinnati (11-3).

Nebraska (Cornhuskers, 22,963 students, Lincoln, NB) 26, CLEMSON 21

Joe Ganz threw for two touchdowns, Alex Henery kicked four field goals as the Huskers beat Clemson in the Gator Bowl.

Nebraska (9-4) ended the season with a four-game winning streak, and won a January bowl game for the first time in nine years.

Coming in Clemson (7-6) had won four of their last five games after a 3-3 start.

Tigers’ coach Dabo Swinney looked like he would get a win in his first bowl game when Clemson took a 21-10 lead in the second half. But…no.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images, Doug Benc/Getty Images and Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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