- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. — As the British marched to Yorktown, stacked their arms and surrendered to the Continental forces to virtually end the American Revolution, their own drum and fife corps broke into a popular tune of the day: “The World Turned Upside Down.”

Though Virginia Tech fans are unlikely to whistle that tune this week, the temptation may hit them before the season ends.

That’s because Florida State and Miami, preseason picks to finish first and second in the ACC, are looking up at Virginia Tech, which occupies the top spot.

“We feel fortunate to be where we are, but we understand that it’s only a position right now,” coach Frank Beamer said. “Everybody’s getting better in this league.”

Beamer hopes to convince his players of that very thought as he prepares them for tonight’s ESPN game against a Maryland team that upset Florida State two weeks ago.

Although recent losses by Florida teams are not subject to a recount, Miami, like Virginia Tech, can still win the conference title by winning out.

“I wouldn’t call it an off year for those guys yet,” added Beamer, referring to the Hurricanes, who took a step in the right direction Saturday when they beat Virginia in Charlottesville.

Virginia Tech, however, stands to gain the most of any ACC team. Picked to finish sixth in the conference, unranked until three weeks ago, and barely alive after a 17-16 loss to N.C. State four games into the season, the Hokies experienced their own version of a world turned upside down.

Yet senior quarterback Bryan Randall said he understands the Hokies still must earn respect after last year’s descent. Virginia Tech was ranked third in the nation by the Associated Press midway through the season but fell out of the polls altogether after its bowl loss to California.

“In past years, we’ve kind of taken it for granted,” Randall said about being ranked. “This year I think it was a good thing. It is motivation.”

Perhaps Tech’s greater challenge was to reclaim the season after missing a last-second field goal that would have beaten N.C. State. Considering his team’s youth, Beamer decided to play up the positives.

“We did some great things in the fourth quarter,” he said. “It really reminded me of our comeback win at West Virginia a few years back.

“We made some great plays to get it down the field and kick a field goal to win it,” he added. “Had we kicked that field goal, it would be the same setting as we had at West Virginia — the very same setting.”

The same setting, except this time the kick sailed wide right and the Hokies fell to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the ACC — not the stuff of conference title contenders.

“Those were two very crushing defeats, N.C. State and USC,” said junior defensive end Darryl Tapp, who leads the team with 71/2 sacks.

But Beamer and Co. kept the Hokies on course.

“Stay focused on football and classroom and just life — period. Do the right things and everything will eventually work out,” Tapp recalled the coaches telling the team after the loss to the Wolfpack.

Things began working out when Randall ignited an offensive explosion at Georgia Tech as the Hokies scored three times in the final five minutes and totaled 25 points in the fourth quarter. The defense scored nine of those points.

Last month a last-minute goal-line stand sent Virginia Tech to its first ACC road win at Wake Forest, 17-10.

“Just about every game we’ve had, it’s gone to the last play, last couple plays, last series, and our guys have been good,” Beamer said. “You know, we haven’t just lucked into it, we’ve made some plays.”

With three games remaining — Maryland, Virginia and at Miami — the Hokies are 7-2, 4-1 in the ACC, tied for 15th in the AP poll and riding a five-game win streak. By beating North Carolina, the Hokies guaranteed a spot in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive season. They were one of just seven schools to play in 11 straight coming into the season.

Even so, Beamer has no illusions about leading the conference.

“It probably surprised a lot of people, but it’s not really right now that counts,” Beamer said. “It’s three games from now.”

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