MIAMI - For Virginia Tech, there was no mystery. The Hokies came into the Orange Bowl convinced that if the defense delivered, everything else would fall into place.
Oh, how right they were.
Darren Evans had 28 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown, Virginia Tech’s defense came up with four interceptions and the 21st-ranked Hokies beat the 12th-ranked Bearcats 20-7 on Thursday night to join Southern California and Texas as the only schools to win 10 games in each of the past five seasons.
“All year, all year, all year we’ve been the underdogs,” Hokies cornerback Victor ’Macho’ Harris said. “All year. We had to scratch and claw our way to a victory. We had to scratch our way up to a victory. It says a lot about the character on our team.”
They were the underdogs again Thursday, plus were driven by the chance to avenge last year’s Orange Bowl loss to Kansas.
For the first 2 minutes, they seemed very much in trouble.
But the rest of the way was all Virginia Tech (10-4) — and coach Frank Beamer couldn’t remember too many sweeter wins than this.
“This game has special meaning for Virginia Tech,” Beamer said.
Pike — who wasn’t even on Cincinnati’s depth chart at the start of the season before blossoming into an all-Big East quarterback — threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, but had his night marred mightily by the four picks and getting stopped on a fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter.
Mardy Gilyard had 255 all-purpose yards and a touchdown catch for Cincinnati (11-3), which had its six-game winning streak snapped.
“You work out in the summer and in preseason camp because you want to get to this point,” said Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, whose team was picked fifth in the Big East’s preseason poll. “But you want to finish it off, so there’s a lot of disappointment.”
Not for Virginia Tech, there wasn’t.
And not for the Atlantic Coast Conference, either.
The Hokies became the first ACC team to win a BCS game since Florida State — ironically, perhaps — beat Virginia Tech, then a Big East member, for the national championship to close the 1999 season.
The ACC was 0-for-8 in BCS play since.
And the oft-maligned league was just 5-12 over the past two seasons in all postseason games before the Hokies broke through.
“We hung in there,” Beamer said.
Evans, the game’s MVP, got the clinching score early in the fourth, after Pike threw his third interception — albeit on a highlight-quality play by Virginia Tech defensive end Orion Martin.
Deep in his own territory, Pike rolled right and threw back to the left, hoping the misdirection would pay off. Martin never bit, made a diving interception at the Cincinnati 10, and Evans rumbled in from 6 yards out for a 20-7 lead with 11:29 left.
Pike got the Bearcats to the Virginia Tech 1 on the next drive, tried to run in on fourth-and-goal, and was stuffed by Barquell Rivers with 7:25 left to end Cincinnati’s last realistic comeback chance. His fourth interception came 5 minutes later, capping a night to forget by the quarterback who wasn’t even on the Bearcats’ three-deep when spring ball began.
“Their secondary was the best I’ve ever played against, as long as I’ve been playing football,” Pike said.
Gilyard walked off the field with tears in his eyes.
“I’m really hurt,” Gilyard said. “I really wanted this game for the seniors, the guys I came in with. I’m really, really hurt.”
The Hokies’ best defense was their ball-control offense. Virginia Tech held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
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