Reflections: The ACC Championship Game

only thing you could have improved about Saturday night’s game was the weather,
and even that wasn’t bad. Rain throughout the day ruined tailgating, but shortly
after kickoff, all precipitation stopped. The wet weather gave way to a virtuoso
performance by senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor, as the Virginia Tech offense
relentlessly sucked the life out of Florida State. The result was another ACC
Championship and redemption for a five-year-old wound.

That opening paragraph was unthinkable three or four years ago, but yes, it
was the Virginia Tech offense, not the defense, that led the way for this win.
Having said that, the defense did its part. They staked the Hokies to an early
lead and had a strong second half, setting the table for the offense to pull
away and turn a 21-17 halftime advantage into a comfortable win. Florida State
scored a cosmetic touchdown late in the game, while the Hokies were celebrating
on the sidelines, to make the final score 44-33.

But we know it wasn’t that close. We know that for nearly 60 minutes, the
Hokies played a game of keep away, torturing the Noles by letting them get
close, but never letting them close the gap. The Hokies led by one score most of
the game … then two … then three. There was no way FSU was going to catch
Virginia Tech in this one.

Big-Game Atmosphere

Can I say, just one more time, how thrilled I am to have the game in
Charlotte? The ACC desperately needed a championship game with atmosphere and a
high level of play, and they got both.

My own personal experience on game day was excellent. I’m fortunate enough to
have an old college buddy living in Charlotte, and he and his wife did a
fantastic job of hosting about 15-20 of us in their home Saturday afternoon,
where we could have a few beers, watch the SEC Championship Game, and stay out
of the rain.

From there, he whisked us to a parking lot just four or five blocks from the
stadium, and we encountered no traffic at all along the way. I thought this was
because my buddy is a genius who really knows his way around the Queen City, but
apparently, a lot of you had a similar experience: easy travel to the game, with
plentiful parking close to the stadium.

But what really got me fired up was the entry into the stadium. There’s
something about a high-stakes, neutral site night game to really amp up the
excitement. The gate I used to enter the stadium was backed up with a crowd of
fans from both schools, jammed in tight and whooping it up. The air was
electric. Florida State vs. Virginia Tech, with the conference championship at
stake. I’m not going to use the corny “it doesn’t get any better than
that” line, but if it does get better, it doesn’t get much better.

Once in the stadium, the facilities were fantastic, and there was an
excellent crowd at the game. Attendance was announced at 72,379, which was on
the high side for actual attendance. The rain kept some fans away, and there
were empty seats sprinkled throughout, but there were large amounts of fans in
every section, and the place looked almost full on TV. I thought it looked and
sounded great on the ESPN broadcast. One wonders what it would have been like
had the weather been about 50-60 degrees and dry. (The box score says 36 degrees
and rainy.)

Then the game started, and it just got better from there.

Perception and Reality

One of the interesting things about reviewing games on DVR and taking notes
is contrasting my in-stadium, game-time impressions with the analytical tools
and replay capability that television and the box score provide.

I’m sure that most of you are like me, in that your game-time impressions are
more emotional and … non-specific, for lack of a better term. I
“feel” a game while I’m watching it live in person, and afterwards,
knowing the outcome and having the stats available, I go into analysis mode.

Watching this game live in BOA Stadium, I was very confident. I had a feeling
from the early stages of the game that if the Hokies just held on to the ball
and didn’t