Posted on: January 2, 2009 2:11 am
Edited on: January 2, 2009 11:18 am

Orange Bowl: Freshmen lift Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech and the rest of the past ACC Champions haven't enjoyed trips to Miami recently.

Florida State lost to Penn State in 2006, Wake Forest fell to Louisville in 2007 and the Hokies lost to Kansas last year.

Who knew the formula to success was a couple of freshmen?

Darren Evans had a fourth-quarter touchdown to give Virginia Tech a two-score lead. (Getty)Running back Darren Evans provided the spark on offense, while linebacker Barquell Rivers came up with the biggest play of his career midway through the fourth quarter to lift the Hokies to their first BCS bowl win, ending a three-game Orange Bowl losing streak by ACC Champions.

"Well, you know, if you can read, you knew what our record was, and we've been a part of that," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. "I felt like we let the ACC down a couple times ourselves. We got on a bad streak here lately, and it's time to get off of it."

Evans, who has been magnificent for the Hokies all season, ran for 153 yards on 28 carries, including a fourth-quarter touchdown to put the Hokies up by two scores. Throughout the game Evans had numerous big runs, looking more like a seasoned veteran as he wore down the Cincinnati defense.

"At this point of the season, we don't consider ourselves young," Evans said. "We had some tough games and everybody's played a little bit. You have to swallow that notion about being young and just go out and play."

Evans grew throughout the season and got stronger, rushing for 253 yards against Maryland, 111 against Duke and 114 against Boston College in the ACC title game.

And tonight he put together not only hard runs of 3 and 4 yards, but also big runs of 11, 13 and 32 yards.

“I’ve got to give props to the offensive line because they made a lot of holes out there. It was just kind of for me to take those extra yards.”

While Evans can celebrate with his MVP trophy, Rivers made one of the game's biggest defensive plays.

And that's saying something, considering the Hokies recorded four interceptions.

With the Bearcats trailing by 13 points and eight minutes to play, they had no choice but to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1. Tony Pike tried to score on a QB keeper, but Rivers drilled him, stopping him in his tracks and giving the ball to the Hokies offense.

Rivers, who had only seen limited action as a reserve, earned the starting job in the OB in place of Brett Warren.

"When a player goes down, you got to step up and play big and that's what I did," said Rivers. "I didn't have to make all the plays, but I made that one play and that was a key play in the game."

From there Evans and quarterback Tyrod Taylor ran more than five minutes off the clock, basically sealing the win for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech will use its freshman duo to its advantage next year, as it is expected to return 18 of the 22 starters on offense and defense from tonight.

"We do have alot of these guys coming back," added Beamer. "We've got some good runs we're redshirting, but there's no guarantees in this business. You've got to get down to it, but I do feel like we've got a lot of good players in our program and a lot of them are young."

Posted on: December 31, 2008 3:10 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2008 3:20 pm

Cincinnati's Pike has come a long way

There it is in black and white, or more like ... there it isn't.

Nowhere to be found is Tony Pike's name on the quarterback depth chart in the Cincinnati media guide.

But he's on that depth chart now. In fact he'll be the starter against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl after a tremendous season for a kid who had only 20 pass attempts before this season.

Tony Pike prepares for Virginia Tech.After Dustin Grutza went down with an injury in the Oklahoma game, Pike was thrusted into the lineup. He struggled against the Sooners, completing only 3 of 11 for 21 yards. But things would quickly turn around.

"After the Oklahoma game I had offensive and defensive players come up and let me know they are behind me and they believe in me," said Pike.

A few of those players, including starting wide receivers Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard used the bye week and extra practice time to get Pike used to the offense. It worked, because the following week he threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Miami (Ohio).

"We see Tony every single day at practice and how well he's been doing," said running back John Goebel. "We've always said he's got so much talent, but couldn't get any playing time to show it all off. When Grutza when down, we didn't lose any confidence in the offense because we knew Tony would come in and play really well."

That confidence helped Pike earn second-team All-Big East with 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns, while leading Cincinnati to its first BCS bowl game in school history.

"Pike knows how we feel about him," said offensive lineman Trevor Canfield. "He'd come around and talk to us all the time and say, 'Hey, you guys are doing a great job,' even if he did get sacked. He'd take the blame, even though it's our fault. There's no complaining."

Even when Pike broke his arm against Akron and didn't return until three games later, he kept positive. He was given his opportunity when somebody went down and now Chazz Anderson would see his, leading the Bearcats to three consecutive victories.

"I think it says everything about the tam. Coach Kelly has always preached 'next man in' and it has given the players an opportunity to get ready," added Pike. "Getting the reps you need in practice. We had our teammates around us buy into the next guy coming it and it really helped us go a long way."


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 24, 2008 1:27 pm

CBSSports.com 120 -- Surprising Iowa

As the season winds down and we are closing in on what could be a wild finish (especially in the Big 12), it is time to reflect on some of the biggest surprises this season.

We all know about Alabama and Ball State, who check in at No. 1 and No. 14 in this week's CBSSports.com 120, but what about some of those other teams we predicted to not do so well back in August.

Two teams in the Big Ten are at the top of the list, beginning with Iowa, who joins the Top 25 this week, moving up from No. 30 to No. 25.

The Hawkeyes were predicted to finish eighth in the conference in our Big Ten preview, but here they are with a chance to go to a Jan. 1 bowl game.

Back in August Dennis Dodd said: I never thought I'd see Iowa sink this low under Kirk Ferentz. The off-field stuff is more than a distraction. The biggest blow is the decline in talent. The recruiting just hasn't been good in recent years. Last year's 6-6 record is going to look like a BCS bowl after 2008.

Iowa looked like it was headed for a rough season after losing three in a row to drop to 3-3 after six games. But the Hawkeyes finished strong, beating Wisconsin 37-16, Penn State 24-23 and closing out the regular season with a 55-0 thrashing of Minnesota.

"It's a long season and we've had our ups and downs," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I cannot say enough about the leadership we've gotten from our upperclassmen and a lot of other guys. I'm pleased with the attitude the team kept all through the season."

One guy Ferentz can thank is running back Shonn Greene. The junior came into the season with just 378 career rushing yards and sat out all of 2007 to work on his academics. 

Now his name is popping up on Heisman lists after rushing for 1,729 yards with 17 touchdowns this year.

"My expectations at the beginning of the season were just like everybody else - I didn't know what to expect," Greene said to Daily Iowan. "I just stuck with it, and with my teammates helping me out with stuff like that, we just happened to have a good season."

Iowa can now look forward to capping their strong season in either the Outback Bowl against a SEC team or Champs Sports Bowl vs. an ACC squad.

The Hawkeyes aren't the only Big Ten team that has been a surprise -- Northwestern is sitting at No. 18 after downing Illinois 27-10 this weekend. Many publications, including ours had the Wildcats finishing near the bottom of the rankings. But led by quarterback C.J. Bacher, the Wildcats are looking for their first 10-win season since winning the Big Ten in 1995.

Another big surprise has been Cincinnati. The Bearcats were predicted to finish fourth in the Big East behind West Virginia, Pittsburgh and South Florida, but they are on the verge of winning the Big East and check in this week at No. 16 with a 9-2 record, including 5-1 in the conference.

Not a bad season for a team that has played four different quarterbacks. Tony Pike guided the Bearcats to their biggest win of the season, beating Pittsburgh to take control of the Big East. They only need to beat Syracuse this weekend to earn an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl, most likely the Orange Bowl.

One more team that has surpassed all expectations is Air Force. Since this one is all on me, this is what I said in the Mountain West preview, when I predicted them sixth:

The Falcons should expect a drop-off from last season after losing two of the best players in school history -- Shaun Carney and Chad Hall -- to graduation. Only three starters are back on offense and the Falcons will break in a new quarterback, either Eric Herbort or Shea Smith. The defense is thin on returners too, but safety Chris Thomas is back after recording 110 tackles.

So much for finishing sixth. The Falcons are 8-4 and in fourth place in the division, behind three ranked teams (Utah, TCU and BYU). Air Force had a tough loss this week, but are still ranked No. 43 this week, much higher than was expected at the beginning of the season.


... Mississippi jumped from No. 43 to No. 28 and is on the verge of reaching the Top 25 for the first time this season.

... The highest-ranked team with a losing record is N.C. State, which checks in at No. 57 this week. The Wolfpack have won three in a row, beating Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina.

... Rotten Apple Cup. With Washington State's victory, it moved up to No. 104, while Washington fell to No. 117. The Huskies are ranked ahead of SMU, North Texas and Western Kentucky.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com