- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2013

BLACKSBURG – When Virginia Tech scratched and clawed its way back and forced overtime Saturday against Maryland at Lane Stadium, the Hokies were of one mind on the sidelines.

“Honestly, I had no question we were going to stop them there,” Hokies linebacker and co-captain Jack Tyler said. “We had full confidence. We got together as a group right before overtime started and basically said there’s no way we’re going to lose this game.”

They lost. More accurately: Maryland won.

The Terrapins’ 27-24 victory was a season-salvaging event. Maryland had seen its 21-7 lead erased and overcame a pass interference call in overtime that led to a Hokies field goal when it appeared Virginia Tech would be held scoreless.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall said his players were feeling much the same way entering overtime as Tyler had described for the Hokies.

“Being on the sidelines, the energy was there the whole day. Even when it was 21-21, our guys didn’t flinch. They knew they were going to find a way,” Edsall said. “In (overtime) we overcome a questionable call and held them to a field goal. Then our offense went out there and, to me, it was heart and guts. We had so many guys step up today. If they put their mind to it and stick together as a team, anything can happen.”

What happened on Saturday was C.J. Brown rediscovered his legs. The Maryland quarterback seemingly entered the game with a run-first mentality, even on passing plays.

“Things were happening early in the game and I said to C.J., don’t be afraid to run,” Edsall said. “We thought we could run the option against them because of their man coverage. It opened things up for him to run the ball and that’s when C.J. is the most effective – when he can use his legs as well as his arm.”

Brown had a game-high 122 rushing yards on 23 attempts and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winning 3-yard scramble in overtime.

“We knew he was a good runner, but on pass plays, he didn’t even really look to pass the ball,” Tyler said. “He just kind of found a lane and went half the time. He made plays.”

Maryland needed a win in one of its final three games to become bowl eligible, but winning in Blacksburg changes the context of its bowl fate. Virginia Tech was 30-5 against the ACC in November and virtually unbeatable at Lane Stadium. Now 6-4 overall, the Terrapins’ victory is much more impressive to bowl scouts than wins against Boston College (next week’s opponent) or in the season finale at N.C. State.

Now, by finishing strong and potentially finding themselves 8-4, Maryland could position itself for any one of four possible bowls. Ideally, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte would come calling, a drivable distance.

Virginia Tech’s likely destination before the loss was the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which would have allowed the Hokies to finish the season where it began. What better way to go out than with a bowl victory at the same site they had lost to two-time defending national champion Alabama?

Now, the Hokies (7-4 overall, 4-3 in the ACC) will put their effort into beating in-state rival Virginia with the hope of avoiding a destination such as the Sun Bowl. The aforementioned Belk Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl in Florida are the Hokies’ most-likely destinations.

“There’s no more important game on our schedule than Virginia,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer said. “We have that to play and we’re bowl eligible, so we can get to a good bowl. I’ve never been to a bad bowl. It is what it is right now.”

The Hokies remain pleased with their season and believe they have reset the program after last year’s 7-6 dropoff. Hokies defensive lineman James Gayle gave voice to that pride.

“It’s not shocking (we lost) because we’ve lost to Duke. We’ve lost to Boston College,” he said. “It’s just things we have to work on as a team, but I’m not going to sit here and cry about it. I’m going to move on. I’d rather lose with Coach Beamer than win with their team at the end of the day.”

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