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Evans, defense help Virginia Tech end BCS struggles

Jan 2, 2009 - 8:11 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- It was a freshman that helped Virginia Tech turn around its BCS fortunes.

Freshman Darren Evans rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown and No. 19 Virginia Tech took advantage of four turnovers to post a 20-7 victory over 12th-ranked Cincinnati in Thursday's Orange Bowl.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also rushed for a TD for the Hokies (10-4), who snapped their four-game losing streak in BCS games, winning for the first time since the 1995 Sugar Bowl.

Virginia Tech had lost five of its previous seven bowl games overall.

The Hokies also gained some credibility for the Atlantic Coast Conference, snapping the league's eight-game losing streak in the BCS.

"I know that the ACC takes a beating at times," Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster told The New York Times. "But I think it's really top to bottom the most competitive league in the country."

Evans finished with 28 carries en route to notching his fourth game with 100-plus yards in his last six and being named the game's MVP.

"It means a lot to me, with this being my freshman year," Evans said of being named MVP. "I've got to give a lot of props to the offensive line. They made a lot of holes out there for me, and really, it was just out there for me to take. Coach put the ball in my hand a lot and I appreciate that."

"Darren has scored a lot of touchdowns," Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "You knew the talent was there. To me, he played faster as the year went along, and I think that came with confidence. I thought here at the end, he played fast. He looked fast. He really continued to improve."

Behind Evans, Virginia Tech finished with 252 yards on the ground, well above the 167.9 yards it entered the game averaging.

While they once again had a huge effort on the ground, the Hokies also starred on the defensive end, coming up with four interceptions - including one in the end zone - and completing a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.

"We left a lot of points out there," Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly told The Times. "It was one of those games where we got close but couldn't put it in the end zone."

Tony Pike threw for a touchdown but was also responsible for all four interceptions for the Bearcats (11-3), who had a six-game winning streak snapped.

"We knew he took chances," said Virginia Tech safety Kam Chancellor, who had two interceptions. "I had a feeling we were going to be able to get our hands on a lot of balls."

The costly turnovers and some questionable play calling in the red zone caused Cincinnati to have a disappointing showing in its BCS debut, leaving a bitter taste on its first 11-win campaign.

The Bearcats were threatening to break a 7-7 tie in the closing minutes of the second quarter, but Pike threw his first interception of the night when Hokies junior Stephan Virgil came across the end zone to pick off the pass.

Virginia Tech then went down the field in 11 plays, leading to a 43-yard field goal by Dustin Keys as time expired.

Keys added another field goal on the Hokies' first possession after halftime, connecting from 35 yards out to cap a 13-play drive that spanned 68 yards.

The Hokies then put the game away early in the fourth, taking advantage of an interception by Orion Martin deep in Cincinnati territory.

Martin jumped in front of a running back to pick off a pass in the flat at the Bearcats' 10-yard line, setting up a 6-yard rushing score for Evans on a third-down play with 11:33 remaining.

Cincinnati had a chance to get into the end zone again late, but Pike was stopped dead just short of the goal line on a fourth-down run by freshman linebacker Barquell Rivers.

Rivers is one of eight defensive starters that will return for the Hokies next season, combined with the sophomore signal caller Taylor and Evans.

"We've got a lot of good young players in the program," Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer told The Times.