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Instant Analysis: ACC Championship Game

Staff Columnist
Posted Dec 1, 2007


The Chancellor beat the Challenger. As a result, the school that endured such profound tragedy in April can now smile at least a little bit.


It was the kind of showdown that decides a close ballgame. Boston College receiver Kevin Challenger challenged Virginia Tech's Kam Chancellor in the open field with under 3:45 left in regulation. Chancellor was the only man who could prevent Challenger and the Eagles from tying the score with an all-too-familiar late-game touchdown. It was up to a single solitary sophomore to give the Hokies the taste of revenge they so badly hungered for against a Boston College bunch that had broken a lot of hearts in Blacksburg several weeks earlier.

Challenger--instead of turning on the jets--decided to make a juke move at the Tech 22, but Chancellor held his ground and dragged the BC receiver to the ground at the 19. Four plays later, coordinator Bud Foster's defense denied Matt Ryan's latest comeback attempt, and the ACC was back in the hands of Frank Beamer's program for the first time in three years. In a matchup of distinguished academic schools, how fitting that a Chancellor created a doozy of a difference-maker in Jacksonville. In a defining moment that shapes a sixty-minute slugfest, Virginia Tech had the better individual player. In an immediate sense, that play by Kam Chancellor decided the outcome of this conference-clinching confrontation.

Aside of that play, however, the other big reason why Virginia Tech prevailed was--unsurprisingly--the kicking game. BeamerBall always produces results on special teams, while Jeff Jagodzinski's Eagles--who have suffered on placekicks throughout 2007--were once again crippled on field goals and extra points.

A regular feature of Boston College games this season has been Jagodzinski's understandable reluctance to use kicker Steve Aponavicius on long field goals. The walk-on bailed out his team in 2006, but a marked inability gain lift and height on his long-distance kicks made the BC coaching staff unwilling to try field goals that would be very makeable for most kickers. On Saturday, two low kicks by Aponavicius translated into six total points for the Hokies. BC lost three points on the field goal that Aponavicius kicked into the Tech line, and the Eagles lost a fourth point when a PAT was also blocked in the second quarter, with the Eagles in front by a 16-7 score. But what no one could have counted on in the BC camp was the fact that the Hokies were able to return that blocked PAT for a two-point defensive conversion. In one kick, a two-possession BC lead was reduced to a one-point lead at 16-9. When the Hokies' offense scored its next touchdown, what should have been at least a 16-14 Eagle lead instead became a tie. This simple but significant reality profoundly affected the flow of the ballgame, and when Virginia Tech drove deep into Eagle territory midway through the fourth quarter, the Hokies--tied and not behind--were able to play aggressively. Signal caller Sean Glennon--who rebounded from a difficult game against Boston College on Oct. 25--threw a deep-intermediate ball to star receiver Eddie Royal, who made a superb leaping catch in the seam to give Tech a seven-point lead that held up when the Chancellor beat the Challenger in that mano-a-mano matchup.

And so, a regular season ends in laughter and exultation for the same Virginia Tech team that started its season with a heavy heart. The Hokies played with the weight of the world on their shoulders in a sad and struggle-filled September, but this resilient roster compiled a November to remember that spilled into December. For anyone who thought Beamer had lost a winning edge after the loss to Boston College over a month ago, today's triumph should fully, finally and forcefully silence all of his silly skeptics. Much more importantly, however, the Hokies now get an Orange Bowl berth and a place in the BCS spotlight.

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