- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE | It was only a month ago that consecutive losses to No. 12 Georgia Tech and North Carolina took No. 11 Virginia Tech out of the contention for the national championship and a third straight ACC championship.

Now that the Hokies have responded by playing the type of football they hoped would keep them in the title contention, they still have slim - maybe the slimmest possible - hopes of squeezing into the Bowl Championship Series.

Sure it would take No. 6 Boise State losing to lowly New Mexico State to open the BCS door for the Hokies, but why not dream big?

“That would be awesome,” linebacker and All-ACC candidate Cody Grimm said Saturday after a 42-13 victory against Virginia. “But any time you get a nine-win season like we have… we’re going to wind up somewhere nice.”

The Hokies have dominated their last four opponents.

On offense, they’ve averaged 33 points. Tyrod Taylor threw for a career-best three touchdowns in a 36-9 victory against Maryland, and Ryan Williams has scored four touchdowns in each of the past two games, the first a 38-10 victory against N.C. State.

On defense, they are allowing just 8.7 points, a difference of 24.3 a game, and have yielded just two offensive touchdowns in their last 17 quarters.

Coach Frank Beamer immediately seized on the Hokies’ ability to win 10 games after the loss to the Tar Heels, and his players gradually have come to embrace the goal, too.

On Saturday night, after his team turned away Virginia, Beamer gushed.

“I am proud of our football team,” he said. “I think we have improved after the two losses there in the middle of the year. It was a challenge to these kids and these coaches to get better, and I think we have gotten better. I’m proud of what we are all about.”

So are his players despite that month-ago disappointment.

“It’s real big, especially for the senior class,” said safety Kam Chancellor, whose third-quarter fumble return to the Virginia 10 helped turn the tide. “Every year I’ve been here we’ve gotten 10 wins. Just to keep that tradition going is good.

“It’s good for the program, and it’s good for the team.”

It helps that while the defense has finally rounded into shape after some inconsistent earlier performances, the offense has blossomed behind Taylor and Williams.

Each credits the other with making it all work.

“Our offense is 10 times better than it was last year,” Williams said after running for a career-high 183 yards against the Cavaliers. “We feed off all the playmakers on the team.

“The biggest difference this year is that Tyrod is very confident and he’s very confident in all our receivers. All our receivers have a year under their belts… so having a quarterback that is confident and who can make plays with his arms or with his feet, it just makes the plays run a lot more smooth. It takes a lot of pressure off me.”

Taylor said that while Williams’ record-setting season - 1,538 yards and 20 touchdowns - has made much of what he contributes obvious, his pass blocking skills go largely unnoticed.

“He doesn’t let too many guys get to me, or get close to me,” Taylor said.

What it all adds up to, Taylor said, is a team that is finally reaching its potential despite still being very young, and proving all those expectations had merit after all.

“I think the way we’ve been winning lately is proving to people that we can play with the top teams in the country,” he said. “I’ll take my team against any team in the nation.”

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