The Run It Back series is a new feature that will be written weekly during the 2020 football season. Whoever the Hokies are playing in the upcoming week, we will run it back and take a look at one of the previous meetings between the two squads, chatting with a member from the team who made a big impact in the game.
There are certain Virginia Tech football games, both good and bad, that remain in the minds of the players and fans no matter how many years have passed. The 2007 games against Boston College, both the heartbreak brought on by Matt Ryan and the run of redemption to beat the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game, are two of those that have become implanted in Hokies everywhere.
On that fateful rainy Thursday night, Boston College entered Lane Stadium as the No. 2 team in the nation. Meanwhile, the Hokies were looking for a staple victory after getting run out of the stadium earlier in the year against the eventual National Champion, LSU.
“Boston College came in really highly ranked, which seems crazy in retrospect because there’s no chance they were the No. 2 team in the country,” 2007 Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon said. “For comparison’s sake, we played LSU that year, who obviously won the National Championship. You’d think LSU’s second string was probably better than Boston College.
“It was weird that they were ranked so high, not that they weren’t a great football team, obviously a great quarterback. We were very confident going into that game that we were going to make a big statement because we kind of needed it with us getting our asses handed to us on national television by LSU.”
After that non-conference embarrassment at the hands of the Tigers, Virginia Tech entered the battle against the Eagles with a 6-1 record, rattling off five straight wins since the loss. In a low-scoring defensive battle, Virginia Tech found the end zone first when Glennon connected with Eddie Royal for a score.
Following a 44-yard field goal from Jud Dunlevy with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, the score was 10-0. The Hokies seemingly were on the way toward securing a victory when D.J. Parker intercepted Ryan at Boston College’s 29-yard line with 6:05 left in the fourth.
However, back-to-back runs and an incomplete pass from Glennon deep down the right sideline to Royal stalled Virginia Tech’s progress. Instead of trying a 46-yard field goal, Beamer elected to have Dunlevy pooch a punt down to the 8-yard line.
“Obviously some things happened that were beyond my personal control, but like ‘Damn, I wish I would have played that differently’ was in the last six or seven minutes we got pretty deep in Boston College territory,” Glennon said. “Hindsight is 20/20, obviously if I would’ve hit that big play I wouldn’t be saying this. I could’ve at the very least taken smarter throws, shorter throws which would have A) probably put us in field goal range, and B) taken some more time off the clock. Six or seven minutes and you’re up 10 points, I probably should have been thinking keep the clock running.”
Instead, Ryan engineered a 9-play, 92-yard scoring drive, taking just 2:05 off the clock. Then, chaos ensued. Boston College’s onside kick attempt bounced off the chest of Josh Morgan and the Eagles recovered in the mad scramble.
“If I was told that Boston College could kick it to one person, I would’ve picked Josh Morgan,” Glennon said. “Probably the surest hands on the team.”
From there, you could already see the script starting to play out. Ryan connected with Andre Callender seven plays later for a 24-yard touchdown behind the defense. The once raucous crowd inside Lane was silent as Boston College escaped with a 14-10 victory.
“All I could hear was Boston College’s sideline celebrating,” Glennon said. “I think we were pretty much in shock.”
It was a gut punch for the Hokies, but it didn’t send them reeling the rest of the season. Virginia Tech won four consecutive games in impressive fashion and found themselves matched up with the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game.
However, before the Hokies could catch their breath, they were down 10-0. Safety Jamie Silva stripped the ball right out of Tyrod Taylor’s hands and returned it 51 yards the other way to put Boston College ahead in the first quarter.
“We all came into that game on a mission,” Glennon said. “Obviously we were beyond motivated to get redemption on Boston College. All a sudden we caught a few jabs in the face and it felt like we were down 10-0 before you blinked. I felt like it happened pretty quick. There was zero panic on the sidelines. It was zero finger pointing. I don’t remember hearing anyone on offense or defense getting upset or anything like that. There was a weird sense of calm is the best way to describe it.”
Glennon responded in the second quarter with two touchdown passes to Morgan and Josh Hyman to knot things at 16-16 going into the half.
“We went into halftime and I just remember we were pretty spirited in there,” Glennon said. “I think there was a sense of the inevitable. We had taken their best blow, and we were still standing. Momentum was on our side.”
The third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter went by with no scores on either side. The biggest offensive drive of the game for the Hokies began with 10:36 on the clock. Taylor got things going with a 31-yard gain on a quarterback draw. Glennon reentered the game and hit Morgan for a 9-yard completion. Brandon Ore carried Virginia Tech to the 24-yard line before Glennon had his special moment.
Facing a third-and-13, Glennon attacked the ballhawk Silva with the same play he dialed up for a touchdown the week before against UVA. This time, he used a shoulder fake and connected with Royal for the go-ahead score.
“We were about to run that play and Ed Wang jumped offsides,” Glennon said. “We went from like third-and-7 to third-and-12. We called the same play, and in between I decided I was going to pump [Silva]. I felt like because he’s so aggressive he would bite on it. When Eddie ran that corner route, I just shoulder rolled him, and sure enough he bit hard. Eddie cut underneath him with the post route. Really all I had to do was deliver the ball. Eddie was open.
“Again, I don’t know that my brain was at the point, ‘All right, I’m going to pump fake Jamie Silva’ on the first one. I just kind of decided when I was lining up in shotgun on the second one that I was going to do it. Anyone who thinks I was reading the defense by doing that, I had predetermined where I was throwing the ball as soon as we broke the huddle as long as we were going to get the look we expected. Eddie made a great catch.”
Matt Ryan was still standing on the opposite sideline. With the Hokies up 23-16, he drove the Eagles right down the field. Facing a fourth-and-4 from the 13-yard line with 2:25 remaining, Bud Foster brought the pressure and Ryan was forced to roll to his left and throw across his body. Vince Hall intercepted the pass and thwarted the Eagles comeback.
Boston College got the ball back again with 34 seconds left in the game, but all hopes of more heroics were washed away when a tipped ball and Xavier Adibi 40-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the 30-16 win and the ACC Championship. Glennon was named MVP of the game, going 18-of-27 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns.
“I just remember the end, the nervousness on the sideline saying, ‘Oh God, we’ve been here before.’ We’re up a touchdown and Matt Ryan has the ball,” Glennon said. “Our defense had been playing great. I think that was the first time all game that I was and guys around me were nervous. We were like, ‘Oh, man. Oh, man. Matty is about to do it again.’
“Obviously that was a huge celebration and one of the better memories of my career. The yin and the yang, the 180 of hearing Lane Stadium probably as silent as I’ve ever heard it in my life and losing that first Boston College game to the feelings of redemption. I never really felt that before in terms of how much was put into trying to right a wrong from the previous game. The pain of the first game was definitely outweighed by the joy of the win in the second one.”
Glennon still holds some ‘what ifs’ about that first game against Boston College. It’s been in his memory for 13 years now, especially considering the opportunities that Virginia Tech could have had if it won that game with a two-loss LSU team earning a trip to the National Championship instead.
“Something that doesn’t get talked about as much, we ended up being No. 3 in the BCS that year going into bowl season with Ohio State No. 1 and LSU No. 2,” Glennon said. “We could’ve played Ohio State for the National Championship that year, which would have been awesome. I think we would have had a shot if we win that game. Definitely a thorn in my side the last 13 years, thinking about what could have been and how we could have played for a National Championship.
“Definitely one of the highlights of my career with getting the MVP. That made it a little bit more special. The team part of it was more satisfying to me of overcoming the demons of that loss. Going head to head with Matty Ice and coming out on top. Obviously winning an ACC Championship and going to the Orange Bowl. If I had to pick one of the two games to win, I think we won the right one.”
The 2020 version of the Hokies return home to a far quieter version of Lane Stadium than the one Glennon’s remembers through the first 59 minutes of that 2007 game. Glennon liked the resilience he saw in the team through the first three games, but was a little concerned with the way the UNC game turned into a Big 12 shootout. Still, he’s most impressed with the weapons Virginia Tech has on offense.
“Pretty exciting to see what might be the best running back we’ve had since David Wilson, Ryan Williams era,” Glennon said. “This kid is talented. For a long time Virginia Tech had a factory of churning out defensive backs and running backs. It looks like Herbert is going to be the next great one in line.
“Hendon Hooker looked great coming in. I just like what he’s made out of. He’s not the most talented quarterback in the world, but he’s a gamer. He just has a way of making plays, so I like watching him.”