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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Hokies remarkable win streak ends with a thud

By Mark Giannotto

Given the somewhat schizophrenic nature of this year's Virginia Tech football team, it was hard to nail down just how this season would come to be defined. The Hokies started out so poorly, with two losses in six days. They often fell behind in games. But in a remarkable feat, this group found a way to string together 11 straight wins and seemed on the cusp of becoming one of the school's all-time great teams.

But reality hit the Hokies square in the jaw during Monday night's 40-12 beatdown courtesy of No. 5 Stanford. While some in Virginia Tech's locker room lamented the various mental errors and mistakes that ultimately turned a one-point game at halftime into a blowout, the difference in this year's Orange Bowl was clear.

Stanford outplayed the Hokies. The Cardinal's staff out coached the Hokies. Simply put, Stanford was the better team. And no matter what the apologists say, it wasn't even that close.

"It’s a tough one to swallow," running back Darren Evans said. "It’s kind of like in an arm wrestling match. You’re faced up with somebody and either you’re gonna put their arm down or they’re gonna bring yours down. And they definitely brought it to us.”

This is not to down play Virginia Tech's fantastic win streak, either. It takes real talent and a ton of guts to right the ship in the manner these Hokies did. But ultimately, they wanted to finish this season considered as one of the nation's elite. The second half Monday proved that just isn't in the cards at this point.

Check out my game story, and then come back for some more notes and quotes after the jump.

*The Cardinal just picked apart Virginia Tech's defense in the second half. The Hokies gave up far too many big plays, a habit until the later stages of this regular season. When Virginia Tech was able to get pressure on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, he actually seemed human.

But the Hokies youth caught up with them. Linebackers Jack Tyler and Bruce Taylor got caught out of position on a couple of Stanford's long runs. The Cardinal's tight ends had a field day in the passing game as well. Led by senior Coby Fleener (career high six catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns), Stanford's corps of tight ends accounted for 236 of Luck's 287 yards passing on this night.

"We changed a few things at halftime to try to help us out and Stanford does a lot of motions and shifts and things, so you really have to be on your toes and know what you’re doing from the get go," Tyler said. "And sometimes, with all those shifts, one or two people, if they’re not running the right defense, they can really hurt you. A few times it happened tonight, and they broke off a few big plays and in football, that’s all you need. A few big plays here, a few big plays there and a whole game can switch. We played well for a half, and the second half, it was just we couldn’t make any plays and we couldn’t stop them."

*I'm sure cornerback Jayron Hosley will also think about his near-interception of Luck to begin the second half, a play in which the sophomore had nothing but green grass ahead of him.

"We get that interception that hit Hosley, it’s a different ballgame," defensive tackle John Graves said. "You take away that score and give us points."

Don't know if I agree that one play would have eventually kept the Hokies in it, but it certainly would have stemmed Stanford's momentum early in the second half.

"Coach preaches all the time, it’s the plays that you give up and make and don’t make in the secondary that win and lose games," Hosley said. "He always says that and it’s true."

*As for the offense, the offensive line ended the year as it began -- unable to open any running lanes. Stanford's multiple looks wreaked havoc on the Hokies offensive front. Virginia Tech's three running backs combined for 44 yards. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked eight time.

Maybe it was just me, but it certainly seemed as if Stanford's coaching staff dialed up more and more blitzes as the game went on. Against Miami last month, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was able to adjust on the fly with a determined running attack and strategic screen passes.. On Monday night, it appeared as if Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was always one step ahead.

And regardless of how well Virginia Tech's defense played, there was no way the Hokies were going to win this game putting up 12 points.

"Their switching fronts was kind of confusing to me and the linemen as far as protection-wise," Taylor said."

*Speaking of Taylor, his lone touchdown pass to David Wilson was probably the best individual play of his career. I thought it was better than the game-winning touchdown against Nebraska last year. I'll just let him describe it for you.

"I got flushed out the pocket to the left, wanted to keep the play alive and I seen Jarrett [Boykin] working to the back of the end zone, and that's who I was throwing to but David [Wilson] just try to make a play and he did it. As I was running to the sideline while I threw the football, their whole sideline was screaming I was out. I was asking Coach Harbaugh, 'Was I out?' He was saying I was in."

*In non-game related news, both running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams said they've received their evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board. Williams said he was rated as a first or second round pick. Evans said he fell in the 4th-6th round range. Neither has decided whether to declare for the draft as of yet, but the deadline to declare is Jan. 15.

Obviously, we'll have more on the decisions of WIlliams and Evans in the days and weeks to come.

*It's really late, so I'm going to wrap this post up quickly. But I wanted to leave you with this statement from Coach Frank Beamer that I thought was a shocking admission from a man who has won so many games over the years. He's always deferential to the opposing team, but when asked about how Stanford was able to stop Virginia Tech's vaunted rushing attack, even he admitted the Hokies were simply outclassed on this night.

"I think it was an execution difference," Beamer said. They did a good job. They moved those guys around and moved those big guys around and tried to get into different sets, and than all of a sudden motion. That's good stuff. When you've got experience you can do that ... You've got to give them credit. I mean, what they start out in is not what they end up in. It's good coaching and good playing with good players."

By Mark Giannotto  | January 4, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
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Next: Virginia Tech's struggles vs. top five teams continue in Orange Bowl


Virginia Tech has still never won anything in football. Why this team gets any attention at all is beyond me.

ACC now 2-11 in BCS games, with both wins over the Big East. What a conference.

Posted by: whlinder1 | January 4, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

A hokie is a castrated turkey.

Posted by: LaserGuidedBomb | January 4, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

How many teams won 11 games in a row this year? Not many. That in itself is an accomplishment.

However, Virginia Tech got outplayed last night. They lost their composure in the second half. Stanford was able to take away a couple of key components to their success. The offensive line was unable to contain Stanford, so Virginia Tech didn't have a running game.

Virginia Tech's defense couldn't stop Stanford in the second half.

I always thought that the only way for Virginia Tech to win this one would be to score a lot of points. Turns out I was right.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 4, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

The Hokies get attention because they have accomplished some things recently that former powerhouses like Miami and Florida State have not. They are at or near the top of the BCS division in consecutive 10-win seasons and bowl appearances. Though not this year, their defense has perennially been in the top 10 in yards allowed and points allowed. They have two running backs who set back to back records for freshman in the ACC.

But even as an alum, I can't say you're wrong. Every year after facing an elite team I have to wonder if Beamer really has the need to win required to hold his assistants' feet to the fire to prepare better for big games. It's like watching Henry Winkler in The Water Boy wringing his hands and wondering how he'll ever beat the Big Bad Coach on the other side of the field. And that clearly affects the team. I see them play timidly in these games and it drives me freaking nuts. I don't think that it's because the players suddenly become unathletic, I think they are simply undercoached.

The programs in the Big East and the ACC are predictable. In each game, you know what you're going to get. You aren't going to see a lot of complexity, they are simply going to play to their strengths and see who wins. Tech has been better at what they are good at than the other teams in these leagues for a long time but they have no means of innovation. It's not like this isn't possible - Stanford has a 300 page playbook and a constantly shifting defense. It just seems to me that the coaching staff, with the major exception of Bud Foster, doesn't have the fire or the imagination required to compete with programs outside the ACC.

On the other hand, it's a generally clean program with an improving graduation rate and from a character standpoint it's a program and coaching staff I am proud of. But it's never going to be a national championship program with this staff in place. I still don't know if I would rather have a head coach who is more addicted to his job and willing to sacrifice family and health for championships (i.e. Urban Meyer) or if I'd rather have a coach who is a good example as a person and never wins the Big Game. For now, I'll settle for replacing Stinespring with Ralph Friedgen to see if we can't get some innovation on our offense.

Posted by: nkeitt | January 4, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: nkeitt | January 4, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

As a virginia tech grad of the 70's I greatly appreciate how far the Hokies have come since those dismal days. Coach Beamer has established Tech as one of the better football schools in the country. Having said that it's time for Coach Beamer and his staff to move on or at least be shaken up. The Orange Bowl was another national embarassment. Either decide you want to be among the nations elite and take the steps necessary to ge there or relax, keep things as they are accept mediocore results. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results doesn't make much sense and doesn't work

Posted by: IndySailor | January 4, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

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