JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- At times this season, Virginia Tech
and Louisville appeared headed to the Bowl Championship Series.
The Hokies were overwhelming favorites to win the inaugural
Atlantic Coast Conference title game against slumping Florida State
in early December and advance to the Orange Bowl. But the Seminoles
jumped out to a big lead and upset the Hokies 27-22.
The Cardinals were widely picked to win the depleted Big East
and earn a BCS berth. But they lost twice on the road -- a
surprising blowout at South Florida and a triple-overtime defeat at
West Virginia -- and faded from league contention.
Twelfth-ranked Virginia Tech (10-2) and No. 15 Louisville (9-2)
are looking for redemption in the Gator Bowl on Monday.
"Football is a lot like life, and you're going to have
disappointments," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "The issue is how
you come back from them."
Both teams have rebounded before.
The Hokies bounced back from a loss to Miami in November and
hammered Virginia and North Carolina to reach the ACC championship
game in Jacksonville.
"You didn't want to see the ship sink, so you had to make a
stand," senior defensive tackle Jonathan Lewis said. "The
question is whether we can bounce back (again). Hopefully, the
team's up for the challenge."
The Cardinals have won five in a row since losing to the
Mountaineers. Now, Louisville is playing in its first New Year's
Day game or later since 1991, when Browning Nagle threw for 451
yards and three touchdowns to help the Cardinals shock Alabama
Louisville probably shouldn't expect as much offense in this
The Cardinals will be without sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm,
who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against
Syracuse in November. He passed for a Big East-leading 2,883 yards
and 19 touchdowns this season.
Freshman Hunter Cantwell, who threw for 271 yards against
Connecticut in the season finale, will make his second career start
against the Hokies.
"If someone had said before the season that I would be our
quarterback in the bowl game, I probably would have told them they
were crazy," Cantwell said. "But this is something I've wanted to
do my entire life. It feels good be in here and be in charge."
The game features the nation's top-ranked defense (Virginia
Tech) against the eighth-ranked offense. But there might be a more
intriguing matchup, especially with Cantwell replacing Brohm in the
The Hokies could have their hands full trying to block
Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who has 19 sacks and 11
forced fumbles this season.
The senior from Miami won the Bronko Nagurski Award as college
football's best defensive player and the Ted Hendricks Award as the
top defensive end.
"He's had an unbelievable season," Louisville Coach Bobby
Petrino said. "Not only is he getting sacks, but he's causing
turnovers. A lot of that has added momentum to the offense, given
the offense short fields and the defense has scored touchdowns when
it has happened, so he truly has had a great year. He deserves all
the awards and recognition that he's gotten."
He needs five sacks to break the NCAA record of 24 set by
Arizona State's Terrell Suggs in 2002.
It could happen.
Dumervil set an NCAA record with six sacks against Kentucky in
the season opener, and Tech's elusive quarterback Marcus Vick was
sacked six times against the Seminoles. Making matters worse for
the Hokies, they might be without left tackle Jimmy Martin, who
sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in
At the very least, Martin will be slowed trying to block
"He's going to be going up against a pretty good player, and I
don't think you can go out there and be 90 percent and be
effective," Beamer said. "You have to be 100 percent."
If Martin doesn't play, the Hokies will turn to junior Brandon
Frye to make his first career start.
"I've been watching a lot of film and I feel I'll be ready,"
Frye said. "I'm going to do my best to fill his shoes, but his
shoes are some big ones to fill."