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November 30, 2007

Virginia Tech hopes to erase bad memories

MORE: Who has the edge?

The last time Virginia Tech and Boston College met, Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan's stomach was churning.

Ryan's counterpart, the Hokies' Sean Glennon, had an even sicker feeling.

Ryan led then-No. 2 Boston College on two touchdown drives in the waning minutes of their Oct. 25 meeting in Blacksburg, Va.

"Boston College has scarred me for life," Glennon said.

Thanks to the Eagles, Glennon and the rest of the Hokies won't take a lead for granted anymore. Virginia Tech led Boston College 10-0 when the Eagles got the ball with 4:16 left in the game. Ryan promptly led a 92-yard touchdown drive to narrow Tech's lead to 10-7. After an onside kick, Ryan and the Eagles struck again with a 66-yard scoring drive for a shocking 14-10 win.

In a matter of minutes, a Virginia Tech victory over the second-ranked team in the country - and a Heisman contender - became a devastating loss.

Virginia Tech now has a chance to do some frightening of its own. Since the loss in Blacksburg, the Hokies have won four in a row to win the ACC's Coastal Division for the second time in three years. Boston College has lost twice since, but still won the Atlantic to advance to meet Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game in Jacksonville, Fla.

"There's not much more we can ask for," Glennon said. "We can't complain about what happened and the heartbreaking loss. We've got another shot at them."

What BC will find in a second meeting is a transformed Virginia Tech team. The Hokies' punishing defense, which frustrated Ryan for three quarters, is still there. However, Virginia Tech has found answers for its once-struggling offense.

Now that Glennon and true freshman Tyrod Taylor are healthy at the same time, Hokies offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring has installed a two-quarterback offense. Glennon and Taylor are interchanged at will, sometimes more than once during a possession.

Against Virginia last week, the Hokies switched quarterbacks 20 times on the way to a 33-21 win. Modeled somewhat after the Chris Leak-Tim Tebow rotation used by Florida last year, Virginia Tech hopes to capitalize on Glennon's experience and skills as a pocket passer while taking advantage of Taylor's skills as a runner.

In addition, Hokies tailback Branden Ore goes into the ACC title game off his best game of the season, a 147-yard output against Virginia Tech. The Hokies' maligned offensive line has regrouped, too.

"They're scoring points now," Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "Before they weren't scoring a lot of points. They're starting to hit their stride."

If one player is looking to rediscover his stride for Jagodzinski, it's Ryan. In his past five games, Ryan has completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,805 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Before the first Virginia Tech matchup, he had completed 71.1 percent of his passes, with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Ryan's struggles for three quarters against Virginia Tech were followed by back-to-back losses to Florida State and Maryland. That could have signaled the end for a Boston College team that does not have a conference championship ACC or Big East to its name.

The Eagles regrouped behind their defense led by coordinator Frank Spaziani, who is a holdover from Tom O'Brien's staff. The team's attitude changed during a game at Clemson, when the Eagles held Tigers tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller to a combined 62 rushing yards. Ryan led Boston College to 17 fourth-quarter points in a 20-17 victory.

That comeback clinched the division title and gave BC a chance to make the leap from consistent program to a conference champion. BC has been to eight consecutive bowls, and they currently have a seven-game bowl winning streak. But the Eagles' last major bowl game was the 1985 Cotton Bowl, the final game for Heisman winner Doug Flutie.

"One thing we were stuck at for a long time is being one game away from getting to that point," said Jagodzinksi, who was BC's offensive coordinator in 1997-98. "They broke through that barrier that's been sitting there for many years."

The Hokies, though, aren't anxious to help their former Big East opponent make school history. On top of a second ACC title since joining the league, Virginia Tech is looking for redemption.

"I couldn't pick a better team to play in the ACC Championship Game," Glennon said. "They took our hearts from us in those last five minutes that Thursday night. There's not another team I'd rather play."

David Fox is a national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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