Virginia Tech successfully reached the halfway point of its monthlong internal referendum on desire after a game that felt like watching a kid pull the wings off of flies.
The Hokies' quest for a third consecutive ACC championship game and BCS bowl berth officially ended just after 3 p.m., when Georgia Tech put the finishing touches on its rout of Duke to win the Coastal Division and a spot in the conference-title game.
By that point, Tech had matters well in hand in a 36-9 win against a depleted Maryland team playing for next season.
The Hokies could have gone down that path as well, after consecutive losses torched their big-boy goals and relegated November to a second-tier beauty contest for the Gator Champs-fil-A Bowl in Orlantaville.
"I'm proud of our guys," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "We had a couple tough losses and we've come back and hung in there and stayed together, and hopefully we'll play our best football at the end of the year. That's what we're trying to do, and we'll keep on moving in that direction."
Since October losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, the Hokie brain trust repeated has the mantra of a sixth consecutive season with at least 10 wins. While not an insignificant accomplishment, it's also one that doesn't fit on your finger or occupy prime real estate in the trophy case.
"I come out every game," tailback Ryan Williams said, "and just try my best to help the team win. That's all I can do. I can't control anybody else's mood or what they do out there. If (10 wins) motivates them, then more power to them. But to me, football itself motivates me."
Williams, the redshirt freshman rewriting Darren Evans' one-year-old records, is doing more than his share after another top-shelf performance. His 126 yards and a touchdown complemented quarterback Tyrod Taylor's 268 yards passing and three scores.
The Hokies went for nearly 500 yards and 36 points and appeared that they could have had many more of both, had Beamer not pulled his punches in the later rounds against close friend and Maryland counterpart Ralph Friedgen.
"I told him I'm thinking about him and hang tough," Beamer said of his post-game exchange with Friedgen. "And I know he will."
Tech scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions to open a 27-3 halftime lead, then settled for Matt Waldron field goals after reaching the red zone in the second half.
The Hokies' defense, meanwhile, limited an opponent to one field goal and fewer than 300 yards for the second consecutive week.
Quarterback Chris Turner's knee injury the week before against N.C. State forced the Terps to start little-used sophomore Jamarr Robinson — or justified starting him, depending on your philosophy regarding future personnel deployment.
Robinson's athletic ability and 233 yards of offense portend good things, but a first start against a defense of Tech's caliber is above his current pay grade. He grossed 165 yards rushing, but a good deal of that was of the run-for-your-life variety. He completed just 12 of 32 passes and was sacked six times.
"A loss is never good," Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael said, "but a good thing that I think we took from that is we had to come together. The emphasis as a team is brotherhood. You've got to go out there and play for your brother, and I feel like that's what we did. We stressed that point all week and that's what we did.
"After you lose a few games, you can have fun now. It's the same game we've been playing since we were five years old. That's what I tell the guys: 'Just go out there and have fun.' That's the good thing that came from those two losses."
After consecutive wins, the finishing schedule sets up well for the Hokies. A home finale against an N.C. State team that's allowed at least 455 yards in four of its last five games, and then a road trip to pick over the Thanksgiving turkey carcass of Al Groh's finale in Charlottesville.
"We've talked to them about being as good as we can be," Beamer said. "We've still got a chance for 10 wins. We've got work to do, now. It's not going to be easy. But we still have an opportunity to do that, and then just become the best football team you can be right now, and whatever happens, happens."
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times