WEST VIRGINIA

Armed with a share of the Big East title -- West Virginia's first since 1993 -- and a seven-game winning streak, the Mountaineers are steaming into the Gator Bowl.

West Virginia will play Maryland on Jan. 1, a rematch against a team that thumped the Mountaineers 34-7 in September. "> WEST VIRGINIA

Armed with a share of the Big East title -- West Virginia's first since 1993 -- and a seven-game winning streak, the Mountaineers are steaming into the Gator Bowl.

West Virginia will play Maryland on Jan. 1, a rematch against a team that thumped the Mountaineers 34-7 in September. ">

Big East Report

<STRONG><FONT face="arial, helvetica, sans-serif">WEST VIRGINIA<BR><BR>Armed with a share of the Big East title -- West Virginia's first since 1993 -- and a seven-game winning streak, the Mountaineers are steaming into the Gator Bowl.<BR><BR>West Virginia will play Maryland on Jan. 1, a rematch against a team that thumped the Mountaineers 34-7 in September.</FONT> </STRONG>

Both teams go into this bowl game on fire and nationally ranked. The Mountaineers started 1-4, including that loss at Maryland, but finished the regular season on a big-time roll, beating Virginia Tech and Pitt along the way, and are ranked No. 20 in the final regular-season poll.

The No. 23 Terrapins finished 9-3 after losing their first two games.

West Virginia (6-1 Big East) finished tied with Miami for the Big East title, but the Hurricanes got the conference's automatic Bowl Championship Series bid by virtue of beating the Mountaineers and having a higher BCS ranking.

West Virginia (8-4) won't lack for motivation against Maryland (9-3) in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. First of all, the Mountaineers will be out to avenge that 34-7 loss to Maryland in September. Secondly, head coach Rich Rodriguez is 0-3 all-time against Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. Then, of course, West Virginia will be out to change its bowl luck. West Virginia has gone home a loser in nine of its past 10 bowl appearances.

If that weren't enough motivation, the Mountaineers are fired up to face Terrapins' starting quarterback is Scott McBrien, who began his career at West Virginia. McBrien left Morgantown during preseason camp in 2001, Rodriguez's first as Mountaineers head coach. McBrien, who was the backup in 2000 to Brad Lewis, had fallen behind Lewis and Rasheed Marshall on the depth chart when he left. He's 2-0 as a starter in games pitting his new team (Maryland) vs. his old team (West Virginia).

Like father, like son
Quincy Wilson, the son of former Chicago Bears linebacker Otis Wilson, is one of the hottest running backs in the country and he's the single biggest reason why the Mountaineers tied with Miami for the Big East title. With a month to rest his sore ankle (an injury that kept him out of the season-ending win over Temple), Wilson will be at full strength for the rematch with Maryland in the Gator Bowl. He has 1,331 rushing yards and 12 TDs this season.

Be wary of Perry
Two years ago, Maryland senior RB
Bruce Perry was the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year when he rushed for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns. But in the two seasons that followed, Perry has struggled to stay healthy, missing eight games in 2002 and three this season. He has battled injuries to his shoulder, his groin, his abdominal muscles and his ankles. But Perry looked like his old self in the regular-season-ending 41-28 win over Wake Forest when he rushed for 237 yards and three scores.

Wiley will look to settle the score
West Virginia senior LB
Grant Wiley was the Big East's leading tackler this season with 158 tackles, Wiley will play his final college game in the Gator Bowl vs. Maryland. Wiley teams with fellow linebacker Adam Lehnortt (135 tackles) to give the Mountaineers two sure tacklers in the middle. Expect a vintage effort from a fired-up Wiley, who is 1-3 all-time against the Terps and wants nothing more than to win this game.

Injury Update
Tailback Quincy Wilson (high ankle sprain) and bandit safety
Mike Lorello (sprained foot) did not play in the regular-season finale against Temple. Both will start in the Gator Bowl against Maryland. Backup tailback Kay-Jay Harris (broken left pinkie) will also be able to play in the bowl game.

"We're going to do everything we can to beat Maryland. It's a revenge game. Maryland has gotten the best of us for the last couple years." -- West Virginia cornerback Lance Frazier, on getting another crack at Maryland, a team that he is 1-3 against in his career, including a 34-7 loss to the Terps on Sept. 20.

BOSTON COLLEGE

San Francisco, here they come!

Boston College will be playing in a postseason game for a school-record fifth consecutive year -- the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. The 7-5 Eagles will meet Colorado State (7-5) of the Mountain West Conference on Dec. 31 at Pacific Bell Park.

"I want to congratulate Tom O'Brien and our team for making it to their fifth consecutive bowl," said Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo.

"Our team will be playing for their fourth consecutive bowl win and their 40th victory in the past five years. I think this speaks volumes about the job Coach O'Brien, his staff, and our players have done."

Bowl organizers sound thrilled to have the Eagles too.

"BC brings a lot of very positive things to our bowl game," said Gary Cavalli, the San Francisco Bowl's executive director. "They have a great football tradition, they have a strong national following, they have a strong alumni base in the (San Francisco) Bay area, and they bring a huge TV market."

Boston College proved bowl-worthy in its most recent outing, a 34-27 win over then-No. 12 Virginia Tech on Nov. 22 in Blacksburg. The victory improved BC to 7-5 on the season, marking the first time in school history that the Eagles have won seven or more games in five consecutive seasons.

Prime time opportunity for Knight
Underrated senior tailback
Derrick Knight has posted eye-popping numbers for more than two seasons behind a strong offensive line. In the regular-season finale against Virginia Tech, Knight became BC's all-time leading rusher, surpassing Mike Cloud (3,597 yards, 1995-98) with 3,603 yards. Knight, who has 1,599 rushing yards this season, needs 128 more in the bowl game to beat Cloud's single-season mark set in 1998. Knight is short in stature and seems lighter than his listed weight, but he's a determined runner who can hurt opposing defenses running between the tackles or running outside. In addition to his speed, Knight is a solid receiver and must be accounted for in BC's passing game.

Kiwanuka must bring the heat
6-foot-8, 250-pound sophomore DE
Mathias Kiwanuka, a first generation Ugandan-American, has the look of a high future first-round NFL draft pick, once he adds some more meat to his bones. Blessed with 4.7 in the 40 speed and the wingspan of an NBA 7-footer, Kiwanuka leads the Big East in sacks (10.5) and is among the league leaders in tackles for loss (15). BC coaches -- and opposing Big East coaches -- are comparing this gifted speed rusher to current Tennessee Titans star Jevon Kearse. Boston College's pass defense has been a little too generous this season. Boston College is ranked 75th nationally out of 117 Division I-A teams in pass defense, surrendering 228.5 yards per game through the air. Kiwanuka's pass-rush skills will be vital against Colorado State, a team that features a quarterback in Bradlee Van Pelt who can hurt opposing defenses with his arm and his feet.

Scouts will be watching…
As usual, Boston College's offensive line is chock-full of probable NFL draft picks, most notably seniors Augie Hoffman (6-2, 305) and
Keith Leavitt (6-6, 345) as well as junior guard Chris Snee (6-2, 305). Snee is BC's best o-linemen, but is battling a knee injury. Senior tight end Sean Ryan (6-5, 259) arrived in Chestnut Hill as a walk-on on the defensive side of the ball, but his ability to block as well as catch touchdown passes have made Ryan an NFL prospect. On defense, senior defensive tackles Doug Goodwin (6-1, 285) and Tom Martin (6-4, 282) are both possible second-day NFL draftees, as are highly productive senior linebackers Josh Ott and Brian Flores.

Injury Update
Starting junior right guard Chris Snee (knee), backup senior tailback
Horace Dodd (knee), linebackers Jon Misiewicz (neck) and Ricky Brown (concussion) and defensive end Jake Ottolini (hip) are all banged up. But, Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said that most, if not all of them, would be healthy enough to play in the Dec. 31 San Francisco Bowl.

"San Francisco is a wonderful city, and Colorado State is a tremendous opponent. It was very important for our senior class to get this opportunity. They worked extremely hard for it. I think it's significant that our fifth-year seniors will have gone to bowl games five straight years. We'll have the opportunity to win our fourth, but we'll have to play awfully well against Colorado State to win the game." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, after his team accepted a berth in the Dec. 31 San Francisco Bowl vs. Colorado State.

MIAMI

Miami got the bowl game it wanted, if not necessarily the opponent.

The Hurricanes will play Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State in the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 in a rematch of a regular-season meeting won by Miami 22-14 on a soggy Saturday in October. The announcement disappointed those Miami fans -- and players -- who were hoping for a rematch against Ohio State, but Hurricanes coach Larry Coker tried to put the best spin on the announcement.

Coker professed simply to be happy to be playing in a fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, noting that after the Hurricanes lost two in a row in early November, they were faced with the prospect of having to win their remaining three games to be assured of the Big East title and league's BCS berth.

"And that wasn't a given," he said.

Pressed, however, even he conceded the rematch isn't exactly something he is looking forward to.

"Maybe a little disappointed," he said, "since we have played Florida State and we open the season against them next year. I'm not going to say I'm not a little disappointed."

Miami probably lost the opportunity to play Ohio State when Kansas State upset Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game Saturday night. That meant that the Big 12 was going to send its champion (K-State) to the Fiesta Bowl after all, giving the bowl only one at-large spot to fill. The Fiesta, picking ahead of the Orange in the BCS order, selected Ohio State, not wanting the Seminoles, whose fans won't travel as well.

"I'd have liked to have had the opportunity," Coker said when asked if he would have liked to have gotten the Buckeyes in South Florida. "But all teams are good. I'm from Oklahoma. I coached in Oklahoma. I'd have loved to have played Oklahoma."

Scouts will be watching…
Miami junior FS
Sean Taylor is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and has nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He has 73 tackles, third-most on the team. He also has 13 pass breakups and a blocked punt. No wonder he's expected to turn pro after Miami's bowl game, because there's nothing left for this All-American to prove on the collegiate level.

Miami junior TE Kellen Winslow II is one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award (given to the best tight end in college). Winslow leads the Hurricanes in receptions with 55 for 557 yards and a touchdown. He has made several crucial catches, including a fourth-down grab to move the chains during the winning drive against West Virginia. He also has a blocked punt. Against Pittsburgh, Winslow tied UM's record for career catches by a tight end (114). He'll no doubt set the record in the bowl game before leaving school early for high first-round draft pick money.

Miami junior DT Vince Wilfork is blessed with quick feet, NFL size (6-2, 350) and the ability to occupy multiple blockers. No wonder the mere mention of his name makes NFL scouts drool. Despite facing constant double-teams (and sometimes triple-teams), Wilfork has 57 tackles, six sacks and a team-leading 20 quarterback hurries.

In addition to that threesome, senior linebackers Jonathan Vilma (team-best 118 tackles) and D.J. Williams (77 tackles, five sacks) won't have to wait long to hear their names called in this spring's NFL draft.

A couple of other players -- such as stellar junior corner Antrel Rolle and senior offensive lineman Carlos Joseph (6-6, 342) -- are also heavy-duty NFL prospects, although it's unclear whether Rolle will turn pro. The fact that Rolle's position coach, Mark Stoops, is leaving to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona, might be enough to push him into pro ball.

Injury Update
Junior starting center
Joel Rodriguez (cracked left fibula on Nov. 22 vs. Rutgers) might be able to return for Miami's bowl game. But if Rodriguez isn't fully healed in time, then o-line coach Art Kehoe will do some juggling, with right guard Chris Myers moving to center and senior Joe McGrath likely starting in Myers' spot. That's how they lined up for the season finale at Pittsburgh. The month off between Miami's regular-season finale vs. Pitt and the Orange Bowl should be enough time for defensive tackles Santonio Thomas (ankle) and Orien Harris (sprained knee) to get 100 percent healthy.

"That's the positive part of it." -- Coach Larry Coker, noting that the Hurricanes will complete a BCS "Grand Slam" when they play in the Orange Bowl, having played in the Sugar, Rose and Fiesta Bowls in each of the last three seasons.

RUTGERS

Give third-year coach Greg Schiano some kudos for reviving the left-for-dead Rutgers program.

A season-ending 24-7 victory over Syracuse allowed the Scarlet Knights to finish its best season in five years with a 5-7 mark, including two wins in Big East play. And with almost 90 players expected back next fall and with league powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech gone, there's actually bowl talk in New Brunswick, N.J.

The win was important for the program for a number of reasons. It pushed Rutgers' final record to 5-7, a far cry from the 1-11 season in 2002. The win also came over a Syracuse program that has had a great deal of success recruiting in New Jersey. And it capped a feel-good season that should have the players working harder than ever in the offseason and buying into whatever coach Greg Schiano has to say.

"I'm excited about the fact that we are now a legitimate Division I football program, and now we have to take the next step," Schiano said. "That's the most important thing, because reaching legitimacy certainly isn't our goal. But it's a step along the way."

There are many reasons to believe that there will be more steps forward in 2004.

For one thing, Miami and Virginia Tech -- two teams that absolutely owned the Scarlet Knights -- are out of the league and off the schedule. And secondly, Rutgers' two-deep was littered with underclassmen -- including a record-setting quarterback in sophomore Ryan Hart, two capable runners in redshirt freshman Brian Leonard and true freshman Justise Hairston, some capable receivers and a promising young group of linebackers.

Rapid Review
The season started with a great deal of promise as the Scarlet Knights got off to a 3-1 start. However, the bowl talk quickly cooled as Rutgers lost six of its next seven games, with its lone win coming over hapless Temple. Rutgers was in most of the games during that stretch, notably blowing fourth-quarter leads to UConn and Boston College. The 24-7 win in season finale against Syracuse allowed Rutgers to finish at 5-7, a clear signal that the Scarlet Knights are indeed much better than the squad that posted a 1-11 mark in 2002.

Fast Forward
There's legitimate 2004 bowl buzz in the Garden State for the first time in eons. The Scarlet Knights' offense, a unit that that took giant steps forward in 2003 under new coordinator Craig Ver Steeg, should continue to get better next fall with the return of junior quarterback Ryan Hart, two good, young runners in Brian Leonard and Justise Hairston, both of the team's best wideouts, and three-fifths of the offensive line (if injured left guard
Brian Duffy is granted a sixth year of eligibility).

The defense still struggled to stop opposing ground games, but there are reasons to smile about the future of this unit too. Strong safety Jarvis Johnson, the team's top tackler, will be back for his senior season, while Rutgers' linebacking corps has tons of upside as sophomore Will Gilkison and true freshman Devraun Thompson learned on the job in 2003.

Plus, Rutgers has an easier schedule in 2004, thanks to the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. Rutgers' schedule tentatively will feature league games against Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple and West Virginia. The nonconference list includes Kent State, Michigan State, Navy, New Hampshire and Vanderbilt.

Looking ahead
Redshirt freshman running back Brian Leonard gave Rutgers something it hasn't had in ages -- a ground game. Leonard finished the season as Rutgers' leader in rushing yards (880) and in receptions (53 for 488 yards), amassing 1,368 all-purpose yards. He also scored 14 touchdowns. The scary part is that he'll be teamed next season with speedy tailback Justise Hairston (550 yards rushing, 8 TDs), who missed four games with a knee injury. Leonard and Hairston could be quite a duo the next few seasons in New Brunswick.

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hart set single-season school records for passing yards (2,714), completions (234) and attempts (398). He tied the school's interception record (19), but seems to be well suited to run the Scarlet Knights' West-Coast offense. Hart (15 TD passes) should really blossom next season with most of his key weapons back.

Injury Update
At his season-ending press conference, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said LB Will Gilkison and DB Derrick Roberson will undergo shoulder surgery, and that OT
Sameeh McDonald is facing the possibility of knee surgery. All three are expected to be fully recovered in time for fall practice. In fact, Gilkison and Roberson should be back for spring ball.

Senior offensive guard Brian Duffy (back injury) will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2004. If he's granted it, then Rutgers will have three linemen with lots of starting experience back next fall.

Sophomore linebacker William Beckford will return for his junior season in 2004, after missing the stretch drive of the 2003 with a knee injury. Beckford, whose forte is his speed, should be 100 percent healthy by summer and should be ready to regain his starting outside linebacker spot.

"Certainly, I'm excited about the fact that there are greater expectations. If there weren't, that would mean we really are struggling right now." --Third-year Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, after this season's 5-7 record.

SYRACUSE

After dropping to the season's low point a week earlier, Syracuse ended 2003 with a dominating performance against Notre Dame on Dec. 6. The Orangemen's 38-12 victory, which gave them a 6-6 record and allowed them to avoid a second consecutive losing record, was probably their most complete game of recent years.

RB Walter Reyes shredded the Irish defense for 189 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns. WR Johnnie Morant also had a big day with six catches for 103 yards -- nearly half QB R.J. Anderson's total passing yardage of 209.

Of equal import was the play of the defense, led by DTs Christian Ferrera and Louis Gachelin. After a slow start, the defense got to QB Brady Quinn for three sacks and two interceptions over the final three quarters. Gachelin had nine tackles, including a sack, and a fumble recovery. Ferrera had five tackles for lost yardage and forced a fumble. Syracuse held Notre Dame RB Julius Jones to a net 54 yards rushing, and the Irish to only 62 rushing as a team.

"This was a great way to end a season, beating one of the most respected programs in the country, on national television," Ferrera said.

"People have to respect us now; they have no choice. They have to respect that Syracuse football isn't done. Going out with a dominating win they way we did today is a great way to end the season."

The only flaw in the performance was a blocked punt -- the sixth time Brendan Carney has had one blocked this season. Even then, the defense responded by holding the Irish to a field goal, preserving a 10-6 Syracuse lead early in the third quarter.

The victory ended a three-game losing streak that was capped with an embarrassing 24-7 loss at Rutgers a week earlier, a defeat that knocked the Orangemen out of the bowl picture and raised speculation about coach Paul Pasqualoni's future.

Pasqualoni is 101-53-1 in 13 seasons at Syracuse but fell to 4-8 in 2002 after finishing second in the Big East in 2001. This year's team started out 5-3 and raised hopes for a bowl bid before the late skid. Athletic director Jack Crouthamel said after the game he would meet with Pasqualoni on Sunday and issue a statement later in the week about the coach's future.

Sets school record
Junior RB Walter Reyes scored five touchdowns, giving him a school record 37 rushing touchdowns for his career, and ran for 189 yards against the Irish. His 71-yard touchdown run on the first play after Notre Dame scored to close its deficit to 24-12 in the closing seconds of the third quarter virtually squelched any Irish comeback hopes. His 20 rushing touchdowns also are a school season record. Afterward, he said he would be returning for his senior year.

Also notable was redshirt freshman RB Tim Washington, who saw spot duty and contributed 53 yards to the Orangemen's ground attack. The combo of Reyes and Washington gives Syracuse a potentially powerful 1-2 punch to look forward to in 2004.

"It took us 12 whacks to really put the whole thing together, but what you have to be really proud of is the persistence and the character of these kids. Too many times in life people give in. These kids were not going to give in -- they didn't give in." -- Coach Paul Pasqualoni, after the victory over Notre Dame.

TEMPLE

Temple's miserable season came to a predictable end as the Owls lost to West Virginia, 45-28.

The loss dropped Temple to 1-11 overall and 0-7 in Big East play, the 13th straight losing season for the Owls, who won four games in each of the three previous years. The last time they only won once was 1996. They're 17-51 in six seasons under Bobby Wallace.

The season-ending loss followed a familiar script as the Owls fell behind big early, 21-0 in the first quarter, and then tried to play comeback ball. It didn't work despite all the practice the Owls had at in 2003.

They trailed 21-0 at Louisville, 27-0 to Boston College, 27-0 to Rutgers, 17-0 to Virginia Tech, 14-0 to Pitt, 24-0 at Syracuse and 14-0 at Middle Tennessee ... which was the only game they wound up winning, 46-38.

An even more painful loss will happen after the 2004 season, as Temple will lose its conference affiliation with the Big East after next season.

So what's next? According to Wallace, Temple is building an independent schedule for 2005 and hopes to latch on to another league after that.

But the Owls will need wins to get a league invite. That won't be easy, because in 2005, the Owls are scheduled to play host to Miami, Maryland, Toledo and Middle Tennessee. They're talking with Louisville and Navy, and they'll travel to Arizona State and Bowling Green the year after next.

Nice season for Wallace
It was probably hard for a lot of people to notice sophomore LB Rian Wallace on a team that surrendered 32.8 points per game, but Wallace was one of the best linebackers in the Big East. He finished the season with 148 tackles, including an incredible 19.5 tackles for loss.

Rapid Review
Temple played very well in the first four weeks of the season, but had nothing to show for it but close losses to
Penn State (23-10), Villanova (23-20 in two OTs), Cincinnati (30-24 in three OTs) and Louisville (21-12). The Villanova and Cincinnati losses were particularly painful as Temple kicker Jared Davis missed multiple field goals that would have won those games. After that, Temple picked up its only win of the season in a 46-38 shootout over Middle Tennessee to improve to 1-4. From there, Temple dropped seven straight Big East games to finish with a 1-11 mark. The only game the Owls had a chance in was a 24-23 overtime loss to nationally ranked Virginia Tech, a game that ended in the first overtime after Davis (are you sensing a pattern here?) missed an extra point.

Fast Forward
Unless something changes, next season will be the Owls' last in the Big East. Right now, they are planning on playing as an independent in 2005, a situation that makes Bobby Wallace's job even harder -- if that's possible.

On the bright side, Temple has found itself a quarterback in Walter Washington, a JUCO import with two years of eligibility remaining. Washington finished the season with a team-best 579 yards rushing, while throwing for 1,265 yards and eight scores. He'll team with returning wideout Phil Goodman (47 receptions, 678 yards, 5 TDs) to give Temple some weapons on offense. However, the Owls' running game and defense were subpar this fall -- something that wasn't the case the previous two seasons when players like tailback Tanardo Sharps (the school's second all-time leading rusher) and superb defensive tackle Dan Klecko (now a rookie with the New England Patriots) were stalwarts.

Temple's 2004 nonconference schedule includes trips to Oregon State, Maryland and Toledo, with Bowling Green and Buffalo coming to Philly.

Looking ahead
Late in the season, Temple coach Bobby Wallace replaced struggling and banged-up Mike McGann with the powerfully built Walter Washington (6-2, 245). He led the Owls in rushing (579 yards, six TDs) and also passed for 1,265 yards with eight TDs and six interceptions. His throwing needs to improve, but Washington is a talent. He chose Temple over
Nebraska because he wanted to play in a pass-oriented offense.

"We've played against Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick while I've been here at Temple and Walter Washington has the same type of athleticism as those two guys. He's not as fast as Michael Vick, but he can hurt defenses with his arm and his feet," Wallace said.

Temple's porous "D" (32.8 ppg allowed) needs a leader to help them turn things around in 2004 and the hitting machine Rian Wallace seems like a good candidate. Still a work in progress, Wallace finished the season with 148 tackles, including an incredible 19.5 tackles for loss. Those totals put him among the nation's leaders in those categories.

"Do you how hard it is to recruit when you have a black mark next to you that you've been kicked out of your league? Everybody knows that the Big East is kicking us out of the league. That's tough to overcome and as a result, we end up signing kids with no other Division I offers." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace when asked how hard it is to recruit at Temple, given the fact that they'll be booted out of the Big East after the 2004 season.

VIRGINIA TECH

For a third straight season, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is scratching his head over a disturbing trend of incredible starts and then slow finishes by his Hokies.

-- In 2001, Virginia Tech lost three of its last five games (and then lost a bowl game) to mar a season that started with a 6-0 record.

-- Last season, Tech lost four of its last five games after starting the season 8-0.

-- This season, it's been more of the same as Beamer's squad was 6-0 and ranked in the top five, but then dropped four of their last six contests (including November losses to Pittsburgh, Boston College and Virginia) to finish the regular season with an 8-4 mark.

"When things go like this, I'm not looking for blame. I'm looking for reasons. And let's get them corrected and get back to being a good football team," said Beamer.

With the late-season skid, the Hokies, who were hoping for a BCS game not too long ago, slipped to the Insight Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 26. They will play California (7-6) at Bank One Ballpark.

It will be Tech's 11th consecutive bowl appearance.

Bowl Scenario
The Hokies (8-4) will play Cal (7-6) in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 26 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. The bowl invite is old hat for the Hokies, who will play in a postseason game for an 11th straight season. Cal, on the other hand, will play in its first bowl in seven years.

The game will match two top-notch running backs in Cal's fifth-year senior Adimchinobe Echemandu (1,161 rushing yards) and Tech's Kevin Jones (1,494 yards, 20 TDs).

However, the key might end up being Cal's ability to protect its kicker and punter. Since Frank Beamer became Virginia Tech's head coach in 1987, the Hokies have blocked 102 kicks -- 52 punts and 50 kicks. And Cal has had five field goals blocked this season.

There's nothing left for junior RB Kevin Jones to prove in the college ranks, so he's decided to enter the NFL draft after this season. He's rushed for a school single-season record 1,494 yards and 20 TDs this fall, and has eight 100-yard rushing games, giving him 14 for his career.

California senior RB Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for 1,161 yards and earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors this year. He'll be fired up to be matched against Kevin Jones, a running back who has received much more media attention.

Virginia Tech junior QB Bryan Randall and redshirt freshman Marcus Vick had been platooning at the position since the Miami game on Nov. 1, but Tech coach Frank Beamer says that Randall was his man in the regular-season finale against Virginia and he'll start vs. Cal in the Insight Bowl.

Injury Update
Senior cornerback Garnell Wilds suffered torn meniscus in his left knee in practice just prior to the Oct. 22 West Virginia game and is out for the season. Wilds has been replaced in the starting lineup by junior
Eric Green, who has performed pretty well in his absence.

"We're going to be in a bowl. Right now, I want to go back and put this team on the field again, too. I want to get out of this funk that we're in." -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

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