- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

MIAMI | The opening moments were filled with just about every problem Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer feared his team would have against Cincinnati.

It was merely a blip.

Nearly everything else went according to Beamer’s plan - and the Hokies ended a yearlong Orange Bowl hangover.

Darren Evans had 28 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Tyrod Taylor rushed for another score and No. 21 Virginia Tech beat No. 12 Cincinnati 20-7 in the Orange Bowl on Thursday night, joining Southern California and Texas as the only 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 mightily by the picks and getting stopped on a fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter.

Mardy Gilyard had 255 all-purpose yards (158 receiving, 97 returning) and a touchdown catch for Cincinnati, which saw its six-game winning streak snapped. The Bearcats (11-3) came in as slight favorites over the Hokies, who lost this game to Kansas a year ago.

So this one was especially sweet for Virginia Tech.

Really, for the entire ACC, too.

The Hokies became the first ACC team to win a BCS game since Florida State - ironically, perhaps - beat Virginia Tech, then a Big East member, for the national championship to close the 1999 season.

It was eight BCS chances, eight BCS losses for the ACC since.

And the oft-maligned league was just 5-12 over the past two seasons in all postseason games before the Hokies broke through, befuddling the Bearcats’ spread offense with an array of different blitzes and, at times anyway, simply winning the battle up front.

Evans got the clinching score early in the fourth after Pike threw his third interception - albeit on a highlight-quality play by Virginia Tech defensive end Orion Martin.

Deep in his own territory, Pike rolled right and threw back to the left, hoping the misdirection would pay off. Martin never bit and made a diving interception at the Cincinnati 10, and Evans rumbled in from 6 yards out for a 20-7 lead with 11:29 left.

Pike got the Bearcats to the Virginia Tech 1 on the next drive, rolled out to his right and tried to run in on fourth-and-goal but was stuffed by Barquell Rivers with 7:25 left to end Cincinnati’s last realistic comeback chance.

Virginia Tech entered the stadium to the familiar sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” - the song that usually blares when the Hokies enter Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.

Nonetheless, it was Cincinnati that looked very much at home in the beginning of its BCS debut.

The Bearcats took the opening kickoff, sent their spread offense onto the field and made the Hokies look confused. Pike found Gilyard for a 38-yard pickup on the third play from scrimmage, and they hooked up for a spectacular 15-yard touchdown three plays later to open the scoring.

Facing a third-and-9 from the right hash, Pike waited… waited… waited… before lofting a fade to the far left of the end zone. Gilyard took off on a sprint, made a diving catch as he sailed out of bounds and just barely managed to drag his right toe on the turf painted in Virginia Tech’s colors for a 7-0 Cincinnati lead.

It looked easy.

Ah, but the nation’s seventh-ranked defense eventually got its bearings.

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