BCS Bowl Win Streak Comes to an End With Cincy Loss

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Well, it was bound to come to an end at some point. After three consecutive wins by Big East schools in BCS bowls (West Virginia twice, and Louisville), Cincinnati was not able to keep up the momentum this evening against a stout Virginia Tech team. In beating the Bearcats 20-7 this evening, Virginia Tech broke a streak of their own, albeit, a streak of futility. Tech had been 0-4 in their last four BCS bowls prior to tonight, and the ACC had been 1-9 in their last 10 BCS bowls.

The game essentially ended when with roughly 10 minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati was not able to punch the ball into the end zone, while being down by two scores. Curiously, the fourth down play was a single wing naked boot leg by quarterback Tony Pike, who simply retreated when hit by a Hokie defender at the one yard line. That was pretty much the story of the game as Cincy never really got a run game going, probably hampering their passing attack more as time went on. Any glimmer of hope for Cincinnati was shuttered when they perpetrated a "roughing the kicker" penalty on the ensuing three-and-out effort by Virginia Tech.
A few things that stood out to me while watching this game:

  1. Virginia Tech's defense was stout as heck. They brought significant pressure to Tony Pike, "Macho" Harris played lights out in the secondary, and they were able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.

  2. As pointed out by Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis during the telecast, Virginia Tech Offensive Coordinator Brian Stinespring brought a vastly different offensive game plan than had been executed by the Hokies in the past. This was a much more adventurous set of plays that allowed for a more vertical passing game than Hokie fans are used to seeing. If Cincinnati's defense was simply relying on game tape from games this season, they were going to be ill-prepared for their Orange Bowl opponents.

  3. Brian Kelly is a great coach but I think he was so enamoured by his passing game on the first drive of the game that he refused to mix in enough run plays for the duration of the game. Running back Jacob Ramsey seemed to offer a spark on the ground at the beginning of the second half for the Bearcats, but Kelly didn't seem to want to return to utilizing him at any other point in the game, especially the ever important red zone opportunity mentioned above.

  4. On a positive note, Cincy wideout Mardy Gilyard is straight nasty. You probably already knew that, but he proved it all the more with 255 all purpose yards, a touchdown, and a personal best in receiving yards (158 yards). It will be interesting to see how NFL talent evaluators receive Gilyard when he prepares for the draft.

Final thoughts:

The Virginia Tech Hokies were the better team this evening. The Cincinnati Bearcats showed signs of life in the passing game at points, they showed tremendous poise on defense through most of the game, but in the end, turnovers and a lack of variety in play calling on offense led to their demise in the 75th Orange Bowl. The Big East ends up 2-1 against the ACC in bowls this season, but unfortunately, the conference dropped the all important BCS match-up. Fortunately, the conference remains above .500 in bowl games this season (3-2) and has one more opportunity to keep it that way when the UCONN Huskies take on the Buffalo Bulls in the International Bowl on Saturday.

Photo Credit: C.W. Griffin / The Miami Herald