Rocky start ends with redemption for Glennon, Virginia Tech
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer clearly remembers the day he benched starting quarterback Sean Glennon. It was a Monday in early September, and Glennon protested.
"He said, 'I think I can win the ACC championship. You're going to need me to win the ACC,'" Beamer said. "I was trying to say we need a mobile quarterback right now because we're having a hard time protecting. Sean was right."
And he'll always remember the day Glennon proved it.
On Saturday, when it mattered most, it was Glennon who led No. 6 Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1) to a 30-16 win against No. 11 Boston College (10-3, 6-2) in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game -- a win that avenged a regular-season loss to the Eagles and earned the Hokies a trip to the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. Fans chanted Glennon's name as he was deemed Most Valuable Player for his 174-yard, three-touchdown performance on 18-of-27 passing.
"I was confident that I was going to be a part of this team again," said Glennon, already decked out in his ACC champions hat and T-shirt. "It was tough at first, but I kept a lot of confidence that I would get another opportunity and be able to help this team out. I knew how talented we were. When my opportunity came, I just tried to make the most of it and help the team out any way I could."
In addition to getting what they needed out of their starting quarterback, the Hokies also put together arguably their most impressive second-half defensive performance of the season and stopped Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan from scoring in the final two quarters, let alone repeating any late-game heroics like those when the teams met Oct. 25 in Blacksburg, Va. In that game, Ryan led his team to two scoring drives in the final 2:11 to overcome a 10-0 deficit and beat Virginia Tech 14-10.
"We just learned from the last game," said linebacker Xavier Adibi, whose 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 11 seconds remaining secured the win. "We took that last game as a blessing in disguise. We learned from it and knew we had to come out and play 60 whole minutes. Down the stretch, our defense just really stepped up."
Virginia Tech looked like an entirely different team from the first time it faced Boston College, in part because of the two-quarterback system Beamer has employed since and in part because of the return of linebacker Vince Hall, who broke two bones in his wrist against Clemson and missed the next four games. Hall led the Hokies with 11 tackles, and he intercepted Ryan in the fourth quarter.
"For us to lose that game, it had a double impact because I couldn't do nothing for the team," Hall said of the Oct. 25 game. "I always feel if I am out there, I can help the team out some way or another. This time, I was trying to tell the defense, I'm here this time."
Offensive tackle Duane Brown also made his presence known with a little "Beamerball."
Brown blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, and in the second quarter blocked an extra-point attempt, resulting in Brandon Flowers running it back for two points.
"After that first Boston College loss, our motto was to finish," Brown said. "You play three quarters that fourth quarter, you put it out on the line. This is what our season came down to. We knew that we had 15 minutes to choose our destiny. Everybody was fired up. People were banged up, but refused to come out of the game. It was a team effort. That loss, it hurt us, but it helped us come together and stay focused."
This time, Virginia Tech held the Eagles to 112 total yards in the second half. Although Ryan didn't score one passing touchdown, the memory of what he did in the first matchup still haunted the Hokies. Ryan finished with 305 yards on 33-of-52 passing.
"You've gotta hold your breath man, when he's back there," Brown said. "He's a great quarterback. He picks defenses apart. No matter what you throw at him, he's always going to find somebody open. He's a great player, but we've got great players also."
This is where Virginia Tech was expected to finish, as the Hokies were picked by the media in July to win the conference. Not even Glennon, though, imagined he would be in this position. He lost the starting job after an embarrassing 48-7 loss to LSU in the second game of the season and has since been rotating with true freshman Tyrod Taylor, who poses more of a running threat. Taylor took off for a 31-yard dash against Boston College that led to Glennon's 24-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal and a 23-16 lead.
"It's just been such an emotional roller coaster this season, and for it to end on probably the most unbelievable high of my athletic career, and to get the MVP, it just shows how blessed I've been," Glennon said. "I was just so grateful to be standing up there because a few months ago, I didn't think I would be."
Josh Morgan -- whose 5-yard touchdown reception from Glennon in the second quarter was not only the first offensive touchdown of the game but the first first-half offensive touchdown in the three-year history of the ACC championship game -- said he wasn't surprised.
"That's just Sean Glennon," Morgan said. "He's a competitor. He's got thick skin. He's not going to really let nothing get him too down. At the same time, he's a winner."
And now Beamer knows it.
Heather Dinich is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.