- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 10, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. | The words “true freshman quarterback” are usually enough to cause defensive players at No. 5 Virginia Tech to become gleefully restless. They envision one early backfield introduction sparking panic that leads to an avalanche of mistakes.

The Hokies (4-1, 2-0 ACC) have caused the phenomenon many times, and only two weeks ago they did it to Miami’s Jacory Harris.

Boston College’s David Shinskie will see how he fares when he leads the Eagles (4-1, 2-1) into Lane Stadium on Saturday. But the Hokies have seen enough - and been hurt enough the past five years - to know better than to expect an easy afternoon.

Boston College has won three straight and four of its past five regular-season games against its former Big East rival, and Shinskie has the Eagles soaring again.

“He looks good. He’s poised. He’s calm out there,” Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s a lot more mature than most freshman quarterbacks. I guess it shows.”

Shinskie isn’t your average freshman. He’s 25, only months removed from a six-year career in professional baseball and only two games into his role as the starter.

He was elevated to No. 1 after the Eagles managed four first downs and 54 total yards in a 25-7 loss at Clemson, and his two starts resulted in down-to-the-wire victories against Wake Forest (27-24 in overtime) and Florida State (28-21 with the winning touchdown in the final minute).

Every day, Shinskie said, his transition back to football gets smoother.

“I’ve come a long way. I was telling someone the other day, during the summer I could hardly get some of the passes down,” he said. “Now we’re throwing like anywhere from six to 10 new passes in every week. … Not that I’m getting more confidence; I’m just getting more comfortable in doing what I have to do to be the starter and to lead this team.”

After pitching for pay for so long, he said he doesn’t expect a hostile crowd to be a problem.

“I’m psyched,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going down there.”

The Eagles also feature the No. 2 rusher in the ACC in Montel Harris, whose 179-yard performance against Florida State included a 42-yard score with 4:07 left that broke a 21-21 tie. Receiver Rich Gunnell leads the team with 16 catches and returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the 28-23 regular-season victory against the Hokies last year.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team wasn’t at its sharpest in last weekend’s 34-26 victory at Duke, doesn’t need to remind his team of the challenges the Eagles present.

“Same kind of Boston College defense. You’ve got to earn everything you get,” he said. “They’re going to keep it in front of them. They’ve been a hard team for us to beat during the regular season. You’ve got to go beat them. They’re not going to beat themselves.”

Despite their lackluster showing a week ago, the Hokies arrive in perhaps better shape offensively than at any other point this season. When Duke focused on shutting down ACC rushing leader Ryan Williams, Tyrod Taylor threw for a career-best 327 yards.

It was a good game for several reasons, receiver Jarrett Boykin said. His acrobatic touchdown catch was one of two scoring throws for Taylor, and the game showed that when forced to pass the ball, the Hokies still can be dangerous.

The close score, too, was a reminder that the Hokies still have to come prepared.

“It’s going to make us stay focused and play hard,” Boykin said. “We want the ultimate prize at the end, but we’ve got to take it week by week and day by day. With us having a huge target on our back, it’s going to make us have to play sharp every play.”

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