TAMPA — Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wasn't trying to make a fashion statement by joining his players and pulling on the special cotton T-shirt after winning Saturday's ACC Championship Game.
Good thing. He was not exactly GQ in it. And he didn't care.
To him, the shirt symbolized how his young team had been especially tight-knit and pulled together to get to this game, then beat Boston College 30-12 before a sparse crowd at Raymond James Stadium.
"I'm proud of it," he said.
The Hokies (9-4), written off more than once this season as potential repeat winners of the Coastal Division, earned the league's automatic Bowl Championship Series berth and will come back to Florida for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 for the second straight year.
"It's so special," he said, clutching an orange. "I've said many times that this might have been the youngest football team I've ever had. I thought our schedule was the toughest it's been in years. We lost a couple key guys to injuries. We had reasons to divide a little bit and separate, but we never did that as a football team. … We hung in there."
They likely will face Big East champ Cincinnati (10-2 entering Saturday night's game at Hawaii). The Bearcats haven't played in a New Year's Day game since the 1951 Sun Bowl.
"We never gave in. We always fought," said sophomore quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the game's MVP.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs this year, but we have a great family atmosphere that starts with the coaches and trickles down to the players," added senior defensive end Orion Martin, who returned a fumble for his first touchdown. "We stick together."
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division winners and No. 18 Eagles (9-4), who still have never won an outright league title in either the Big East or in back-to-back tries against the Hokies in the ACC, are probably headed to the Music City Bowl Dec. 31 against an SEC team. That would all but assure Florida State a spot in the Champs Sports Bowl.
"We fell a little bit short," B.C. coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "I want you to know I'm so proud of our football team … They just fought and found a way to win all year."
Not on this day.
The Hokies, who lost the regular-season meeting 28-23 on Oct. 18 in Chestnut Hill, Mass., turned in perhaps their most complete performance this season in the league's biggest game, being played in Tampa for the first time after three years in Jacksonville.
Taylor, whose two rushing touchdowns gave his team a 14-0 lead, and redshirt freshman tailback Darren Evans (114 yards, one TD) helped the Hokies control the clock.
Defensively, the Hokies stacked the box to stop the run (B.C. had 45 yards on 24 carries) and force redshirt freshman quarterback Dominique Davis, the former Lakeland Kathleen star in just his second start, to beat them. Davis had his moments in the first half (9 of 13 for 70 yards and a touchdown), struggled in the second and finished 17 of 43 for 263 yards with two interceptions. He was sacked five times and lost a fumble that Martin returned 17 yards for a touchdown that all but sealed the win.
"You have to give it up to those guys, their defense was great," Davis said. "They put pressure on me the whole game."
"I said many times I kind of felt like we let the ACC down last year," Beamer said of a loss to Kansas in the Orange Bowl, "because I don't know that we played as well as we needed to play or should have played. So we're going to do our best to represent the ACC, a league that we are tremendously proud to be a part of and represent them the right way."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.