ACC championship foe Virginia Tech serves as role model for Florida State

Seminoles look to emulate Hokies, get back atop conference with title-game win

December 03, 2010|By Norm Wood, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

BLACKSBURG, Va. — As No. 12 Virginia Tech prepares to play No. 20 Florida State tonight in Charlotte, N.C., for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, Hokies coach Frank Beamer has been in the unusual position this week of hearing Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher and his players discuss the game as an opportunity to get back on top.

Florida State seemingly has always had Beamer's number, winning eight of nine games against him, including the 2005 ACC championship game.

Virginia Tech, which entered the 2005 game 10-1 and ranked No. 5, was the heavy favorite against a 7-4 Florida State team coached by Bobby Bowden. The Seminoles won, 27-22, in what would serve as the final vestiges of their ACC glory days under Bowden, who led them to 12 ACC titles and two national championships from 1992 to 2005.

Virginia Tech would go on to win two of the next four ACC titles and an Orange Bowl, while Florida State endured three 7-6 seasons in the next four years and Bowden's forced departure after last season.

"Obviously, we're trying to get ourselves back on the map and become relevant again," Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder said. "To beat Florida [last weekend] and win the state of Florida [by also beating Miami] and make it to the ACC championship game, it would be big if we won it. Obviously, we want to make it to a BCS bowl, and very few teams get to make that. If we do, hopefully people will start taking us a little more seriously."

Of course, Virginia Tech underwent its own transitional period after the 2005 ACC championship game. Quarterback Marcus Vick was booted off the team after his junior season for repeated legal and behavioral problems. The Hokies also underwent an assistant-coaching shakeup that was unprecedented under Beamer, adding four new assistants.

As dramatic as the changes were in Blacksburg after that 2005 season, Beamer was able to maintain a sense of tranquility around the program by continuing to lead Virginia Tech to 10-plus-win seasons. The unrest in Tallahassee, Fla., was just starting in 2005.

Even winning the ACC title in 2005 was tinged with disappointment, as Florida State's 8-5 record represented its worst winning percentage since it went 6-5 in 1981. Virginia Tech (10-2 this season) finally broke through the Florida State wall in 2007 with its first and only win against the Seminoles under Beamer, 40-21 in Blacksburg.

"It was crazy after that game," said Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who played as a freshman against Florida State in 2007, completing 10 of 15 passes for 204 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and running for 92 yards and a touchdown. "Everyone rushed the field. I couldn't really find anyone on the team. All I saw was fans. It was just a great moment to be a part of, a good time in Tech history."

Fisher, who was brought on in 2007 to be Florida State's offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting, was in charge of reviving the program after Bowden's departure. It hasn't taken Fisher long.

Florida State (9-3) won the Coastal Division in Fisher's first season as coach with a 6-2 record. It defeated Miami and Florida -- programs having down years -- in the same season for the first time since 1999. Florida State's motivation for tonight's title game is obvious: regain ACC supremacy and hang around for a while.

"I don't think we've exceeded [expectations]," said Fisher, who, like Beamer, would earn a $100,000 bonus for an ACC championship win. "I think this goal [to win the ACC championship] is very attainable. We felt that going into the season, but the goal that I'm most happy about is the way our kids have dealt with all the things that come with being a new program. The new schedule, the attitude has been wonderful, our practice habits have been super and our kids' ability to deal with adversity and now deal with success has been better. … I was hoping we could get it done this year, but sometimes it takes a couple years."

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