- Jorge Milian
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Virginia Tech isn't used to getting embarrassed or embarrassing itself.
Two weeks ago against Boston College, the Hokies managed to do both.
Near the end of a 22-3 drubbing by Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the frustrated Hokies went into a collective meltdown.
Among the sideshows were television shots of linebacker Brenden Hill dancing a jig while his team was being pummeled, linebacker Vince Hall and safety Aaron Rouse getting into a heated sideline confrontation, and Virginia Tech players jawing with BC players and fans at Alumni Stadium.
There also were nine penalties, including a blatant late hit by defensive end Chris Ellis, resulting in his second personal foul call of the game.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit spent a chunk of the fourth quarter lambasting Virginia Tech's lack of discipline.
The next day, it was Frank Beamer's turn. The 60-year-old coach made his team watch a replay of the game that included Herbstreit's comments. He then issued a "zero tolerance" edict on any future shenanigans.
"He basically said he wasn't going to put up with anything," senior defensive end Noland Burchette said. "None of this nonsense -- on or off the field.
"He's a bottom-liner. The people that don't feel like dealing with it, he's just going to weed them out. He told us, 'If you're not going to help us here, then I'll help you get somewhere else.' That's just the way it is."
Coincidence or not, two players -- redshirt freshman defensive end William Wall and freshman defensive tackle Joey Hall -- were booted off the team the week after the BC loss.
Beamer's message appeared to get through last week during a drama-less 36-6 victory over Southern Miss in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies matched their season low with five penalties after coming into the game as the ACC's second most penalized team.
"It's pretty simple," Beamer said. "Play the play, get back in the huddle and get ready to play the next play. We don't need to be talking. We don't need anything else. If it's going toward helping us win the football game, that's great. If it has nothing to do with winning a game, then we don't need to be doing it."
Beamer said some of his players are beginning to realize that by committing needless penalties, "you're just giving yardage away."
"Those teams that we were playing," he said, "don't need our help."
That's certainly true of No. 10 Clemson (7-1, 4-1 Atlantic), which faces the Hokies (5-2, 2-2 Coastal) on Thursday night (ESPN, 7:30 ET) at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg in a critical ACC showdown.
The Tigers come into the game as the conference's hottest team, with six straight victories, including an impressive 31-7 thumping of then-No. 13 Georgia Tech this past Saturday in Clemson. The last meeting between the Hokies and Tigers was Jan. 1, 2001, in the Gator Bowl, which Virginia Tech won 41-20.
"I made a statement [earlier this season] that maybe we didn't have that real great team in the league this year, but I think I found a great team," Beamer said. "They're a little bit scary."
Both teams are in a position of having to win Thursday's game to remain in their respective divisional races. With the Hokies already saddled with two conference losses, a loss to Clemson likely would be a mortal wound to their hopes of returning to the ACC championship game for the second consecutive year.
"With two conference losses, it's like the sky is falling in Blacksburg," senior center Danny McGrath said. "We need a new coach. We need a new offensive line and a new defensive coordinator. Everybody is looking to blame somebody. Two losses doesn't happen that often around here."
Before this year, the Hokies hadn't endured two conference defeats this early in the season since 1993.
Opening the season against a collection of cream puffs, Virginia Tech bolted to a 4-0 start and a No. 11 national ranking. But the undefeated record and ranking went out the window with a pair of consecutive one-sided losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College.
"Some people lost focus," Burchette said.
During a three-week period sandwiching the two losses, Beamer suspended three players and dismissed two others.
The lack of decorum against Boston College on national television brought the Hokies' problems to a boil.
"You get in a little trap when you lose two in a row," McGrath said. "Nothing is going your way, then the cameras catch a couple of people doing things that are uncharacteristic of our team. Nothing needed to be said. We're not going to settle for that."
Jorge Milian covers the ACC for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.
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