MIAMI - Using a dominating defensive performance and a couple of touchdown passes by Bryan Randall, Virginia Tech completed its march through the ACC by knocking off Miami 16-10 at the Orange Bowl to claim the conference championship and earn the league's automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series.
With the win - Tech's eighth straight - the Hokies finished the regular season with a 10-2 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the ACC. Two Sugar Bowl representatives said that they plan on taking the Hokies and pairing them against SEC champion Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3rd. The BCS' official pairings come out Sunday.
"To come in here to a great stadium and to beat a great team to win the ACC championship outright is just a great feeling for us," Tech head coach Frank Beamer. "I want to thank our coaches because they've done a heckuva job and I want to thank our seniors because they've given us great leadership.
"It was just our time and it feels good to come into this league and feel like you belong in the league. Hopefully, they'll appreciate us being in the league we can add to this great league."
Tech took the lead for good in the fourth quarter and then used its defense to slam the door on the 'Canes. Early in the fourth, Eddie Royal returned a punt 18 yards to the Miami 39, giving the Hokies great field position. On the next play, Randall found Royal running across the middle and Royal sprinted 39 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
On the ensuing extra point, Miami's Orien Harris blocked Brandon Pace's extra point - Pace's first miss of the season. The block left the score at 16-10 with 11:29 left in the game.
But Tech's defense simply stifled Miami, holding the 'Canes to only 43 total yards in the final 15 minutes. Miami got three more drives after the Hokies scored, but failed to move the ball.
The 'Canes (8-3, 5-3) took over at their own 12 for what was to be their final drive with 1:14 to go. Miami quarterback Brock Berlin completed an 8-yard pass to Sinorice Moss, but Tech defensive tackle Jim Davis batted down Berlin's next two pass attempts and defensive end Darryl Tapp batted down the final one on fourth down. Randall took a knee as the Hokies ran out the final 57 seconds and then started celebrating.
"We've been saying that from the start of the year," Tech cornerback Eric Green said. "There's something special about this team. Everyone believes in each other and the coaches believe in us. Coach Foster was in there in tears and it's great to see a coach who believes in you like that. For our fans to come down here and support us like this, I don't think I'll ever be on a team where everyone, the players and the fans, are all together. I'm so proud. I'm definitely glad I came to Virginia Tech and didn't go to Miami. No regrets."
Randall made his case for the ACC's offensive player of the year honor, outplaying Berlin in a match-up of the league's top two quarterbacks. He completed 11-of-18 for 148 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Randall, who has thrown 90 passes without an interception, threw 14 touchdown passes and one interception in the Hokies' final six games.
Berlin completed 16-of-31 for 139 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. As a team, Miami finished with only 190 yards.
Tech also got a huge game from tailback Cedric Humes. The redshirt junior took over for Mike Imoh early in the game after Imoh's injured hamstring simply wouldn't let him go full speed and he rushed for a career-high 110 yards on 27 carries. As a team, the Hokies rushed for 149 yards.
"This season has just been special, from where we started out and where we were picked and then come in and run the table [down the stretch]," Beamer said. "I think this one [the win over Miami] ranks right up there.
Tech now will take some time off before preparing for Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. That game will be played Jan. 3rd in New Orleans.