Virginia Tech once had aspirations of playing in the Sugar Bowl after getting off to a 6-0 start. But a 28-7 loss at West Virginia pretty much dashed those hopes, and a 31-28 setback at Pittsburgh and two closing defeats to Boston College and Virginia left the Hokies with a sour finish to the season.
Tech is hoping to redeem itself with a solid performance against Cal.
"We've got one more game to show people we are a good team," Tech quarterback Bryan Randall told the Roanoke Times. "We kind of fell off a little late, but I think everybody is going to lay it on the line for this one."
Scouting the Hokies
The Hokies will be looking to redeem themselves after their late-season troubles. The question will be if they can slow Cal's high-powered offense, which averaged 38 points a game over the last five games. Offensively, the Hokies figure to do what they pretty much have done all season - pound the opposition with RB Kevin Jones. QB Bryan Randall will get the start, but backup Marcus Vick also will get time. Coach Frank Beamer hinted Vick could be used in spots other than behind the center, however.
Many questions about the defense were raised after a late-season collapse. After holding Miami to one touchdown in a 31-7 victory Nov. 1, the Hokies gave up an average of just under 31 points a game the rest of the way. Only Temple, which lost 24-23 on a missed extra point in overtime, failed to top the 30 mark over the last four games.
CB Garnell Wilds is the only player likely to miss the game.
Losing is not an option
"Right now, we really don't have a choice other than to win this game because if we finish 8-5 that's going to be like the worst season around here in a while." - DE Cols Colas, in the Roanoke Times, on how the Hokies are approaching the Insight Bowl.
Boston College will carry two streaks into the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl on Dec. 31. The Eagles won their last two games of the regular season and also have won their last three bowl appearances.
The Eagles had to come from behind in both of their final two victories, 35-25 over Rutgers and 34-27 over Virginia Tech, to post a 7-5 record and earn their fifth consecutive bowl appearance. They will play Colorado State Dec. 31.
The overall postseason streak is the longest in school history, and their three-game bowl winning streak is matched only by Oklahoma and Marshall this season. Like BC, Oklahoma will have a chance to extend its streak, but Marshall did not get a bowl bid this year. OU will play LSU in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.
BC appeared on the verge of missing the postseason because of its inconsistent play. At one point, the Eagles had lost three of four games and fallen to 5-5 with two road games coming up.
The play of QB Paul Peterson helped right the Eagles' ship. He took over for the injured Quinton Porter, who was hurt on the first play against West Virginia. The Eagles lost that game, 35-28, but Peterson threw three touchdown passes. Then in the last two games, the junior college transfer was 32-for-54 for 476 yards with two interceptions and four touchdowns. His 64-yard strike to WR Grant Adams gave the Eagles the go-ahead score against Virginia Tech.
Light up the scoreboard
Boston College's defense is allowing 25.8 points a game while Colorado State's offense is averaging 30 points a game so expect a high-scoring affair. A key matchup will be LB Josh Ott vs. QB Bradlee Van Pelt. Ott is BC's leading tackler (118) and will face a challenge from Van Pelt, who was Colorado State's leading rusher (70.3 yards per game) as well as throwing for 223 a game. Van Pelt is recovering from a broken hand suffered in the season finale.
DE Jim Unis (head), C Francois Brochu (wrist) and OT Anthony Crosson are out for the game. LB Ricky Brown (head), OG Chris Snee (knee), RB Horace Dodd (knee) and DE Jake Ottolini (hip) are day-to-day.
Plenty of bowl experience
"I think it's significant that our fifth-year seniors will have gone to bowl games five straight years." - Coach Tom O'Brien, whose Eagles have won three consecutive postseason games after starting their appearance string with a loss to Colorado in the Insight.com Bowl.
Miami opened practices for its Jan. 1 FedEx Orange Bowl date with Florida State without secondary coach Mark Stoops, but that isn't considered too much of a concern.
Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is handling the defensive backs until a replacement is named for Stoops, who took the defensive coordinator's post at Arizona when his brother Mike was named the Wildcats' head coach.
"I'd be more concerned if I was going without Sean Taylor or Antrel Rolle," said coach Larry Coker, when asked if he was concerned about the loss of Stoops. Not much, if anything, will have to be changed for the Jan. 1 bowl.
"The scheme is in place," coach Larry Coker said.
The game is a rematch of a regular-season meeting won 22-14 by Miami in Tallahassee. The Seminoles passed for only 61 yards in that game with QB Chris Rix going 20-for-42 with two interceptions, both by FS Sean Taylor. A lot of that has been attributed to the soggy weather conditions in which the game was played, but Miami QB Brock Berlin played in the same rain and was 15-for-28.
Overall, Miami's secondary has been one of the stingiest in the country, ranking second only to Oklahoma. It's a veteran unit led by Taylor and CB Antrel Rolle. Both are juniors. Taylor has nine interceptions, Rolle two. CB Al Marshall and SS Maurice Sikes, two seniors, also have two interceptions each.
C Joel Rodriguez (cracked tibia) and LB Jarrell Weaver (broken foot) have their casts off. Rodriguez is expected to be available but likely won't start in the Orange Bowl. Weaver is a special teams performer. ... DTs Orien Harris (knee) and Santonio Thomas (ankle) figure to be 100 percent by the bowl game. Both returned in late November.
West Virginia's Mountaineers acknowledge now they probably spent too much time feeling sorry for themselves over last season's perceived postseason snub. After finishing second in the Big East, the Mountaineers were passed over by the Toyota Gator Bowl, which went for Notre Dame. West Virginia played in the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., and lost to Virginia 48-22.
"Last year was like punishment," RB Quincy Wilson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But this year, we're practicing like we want to go down there."
Said DB Lance Frazier: "The biggest difference from this year and last year's bowl game is I think a lot of guys felt we were cheated out of what we really deserved - especially with the way we played last year."
The Mountaineers also will get a chance to make up for an early-season loss when they play Maryland in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. Maryland won the regular-season meeting 34-7.
That loss was the Mountaineers' third in four games, but then the turnaround began. After an open date, the Mountaineers lost a heart-breaker at Miami 22-20 to fall to 1-4. But they haven't lost since, winning their last seven to gain a share of the Big East title. They have stepped up their offense nearly 100 yards per game, and WR Chris Henry has become more involved. He caught 31 passes for 805 yards and seven touchdowns over West Virginia's last seven games.
Looking toward the rematch, Coach Rich Rodriguez said, "Hopefully we're a different team, because if we're not, we'll get blown out again."
RB Kay-Jay Harris (finger) is practicing with a large cast covering his broken finger, and RB Quincy Wilson (sprained ankle) seems completely healed.