December 4, 2007
BLACKSBURG If coach Frank Beamer is to be believed, there's never a time when Virginia Tech's 14-10 loss to Boston College on Oct. 25 crosses his mind. Maybe it's a fleeting thought, but it's gone in a flash.
His single-minded approach to "getting ready for the next game on the schedule" is a hard sell under any circumstances, but especially in this case. It's really pretty simple. BC, and BC alone, ruined Tech's shot at a national championship. If Tech had beaten BC in October, the Hokies would be playing for the national title in January. End of story.
There would've been no Bowl Championship Series muckity-muck at the end of the conference championship games. There would've been no debate. Forget about the September loss to Louisiana State. A one-loss Tech team would've played for the championship.
When asked prior to Tech's meeting with BC in the ACC championship game a rematch won by the Hokies whether he thought much about the possibilities that could've existed for a one-loss Tech squad, Beamer said any such thoughts are counterproductive. He used the old line about anybody who is thinking about past games isn't focusing on the next one.
That's fair, but consider this scenario for just a minute. Going into the October game against BC, Tech was eighth in the BCS standings. Sitting in front of Tech in the standings were No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 BC, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 West Virginia.
Guess what? All of the aforementioned teams that were ahead of Tech at that point lost at least one game after Tech's game against BC. Of course, Tech went on a five-game winning streak, including the ACC championship game, after the October loss to BC and was considered one of the hottest teams in America in early December. There's no way Beamer hasn't spent some time pondering all of these things.
Even considering Tech's two losses, its rise to the ACC championship and the accompanying BCS berth was nothing short of astounding. Tech looked like a different team in the second half of the season, and not just because of the two-quarterback system it used in the last four games.
After averaging just 275 yards in the first six games of the season, Tech bounced back to average 382 yards per game in its last seven. A killer instinct developed in Tech's offense, as evidenced by its 61-0 combined scoring advantage in the fourth quarter of games against its last five opponents.
Tech's defense, which has been strong in every game except the 48-7 loss at LSU, got even better down the stretch. That's why the 277-yard total amassed by BC in the first half of the ACC championship game was so shocking. None of Tech's previous four opponents Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia was able to gain 277 yards in an entire game against Tech.
In the second half of the championship game, Tech's defense bounced back to hold BC to 112 yards and four first downs, while forcing the Eagles to go three-and-out on three possessions. It was an impressive feat against the ACC's top total offense (437 yards per game).
Before the ACC championship game, Beamer was asked to consider whether Tech's four-game winning streak to end the season was possibly the best such stretch in his 21 years at Tech. National championship game or no national championship game, the run to the ACC finale was definitely high on his list.
"I think this is one of the best ever because it's been a team deal," Beamer said. "The offense has answered. The defense has answered. The special teams have answered. I think that's what makes this so special.
"There's probably been some other times. I mean, you think back and there had to be some times when we answered when we went to play for the national championship. We had to beat Boston College up here in the last ballgame (in the 1999 season). There's been other times, but this has certainly been a very, very good time.
"I think when you look at a very emotional loss and how this football team and how this coaching staff came back and won four tough ballgames and played well and played as a team, that's very satisfying as a head coach."
ALLEN: STILL MUCH TO LEARN
Considering all of the excitement from Tech fans surrounding freshman forward Jeff Allen's early returns for the basketball team, you'd think maybe he already had ascended to the status of Ace Custis and Bryant Matthews, the last two Tech forwards capable of generating this kind of buzz.
In truth, Allen could wind up being better than either Custis or Matthews.
Allen has a different game than either player, and he already has more muscle than Custis or Matthews ever possessed. If Allen hopes to join the ranks of Tech's all-time great forwards, there's a lot of fine-tuning he needs to do, including one glaring flaw that needs to be addressed.
He's a turnover machine, and that won't fly on coach Seth Greenberg's team.
In Tech's first six games, Allen, a 6-7, 258-pound native of Washington, D.C., had just six assists to go along with a team-high 17 turnovers. He's not expected to be a distributor, but taking better care of the ball will be paramount if he continues to average 28 minutes per game.
Last season, Tech led the ACC in turnover margin (plus 4.62). After six games this season, Tech was ninth in the conference in the category (minus 1.4).
There's no Zabian Dowdell or Jamon Gordon on Tech's roster anymore, but freshman guard Hank Thorns did a great job handling the ball in the first six games (3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio). Unfortunately, he was one of only two Tech players with more assists than turnovers.
As far as his offensive production is concerned, Allen has been everything Tech had hoped he would be when he arrived in Blacksburg. He averaged 13 points on 52 percent shooting from the floor and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game in the first six games.
Patience might be necessary while Allen works on taking better care of the ball. Senior forward Deron Washington had 17 more turnovers than assists in his freshman season, and 16 more turnovers than assists as a sophomore. Last season, he cut down his personal assist-to-turnover margin to minus-3. So far this season, he's at an even 1-1 ratio.
Of course, Allen likely will handle the ball a lot more than Washington did as a freshman. So now's the time to nip the problem in the bud.