December 4, 2004 was a defining moment for the Virginia Tech football program. In their first ACC season, the Hokies headed to Coral Gables to take on the other expansion team, the Miami Hurricanes, for the conference championship.
Up until the last couple of weeks with the playoff and Orange Bowl news, nobody has had many good things to say about the ACC recently. Things were a lot different back in 2004 when the league added Virginia Tech and Miami to join Florida State and Clemson in a league that appeared to be on the rise. On the field, things haven’t worked out quite as well as everyone would have liked, but in 2004 things were different. The ACC was legitimately good.
- Miami was ranked in the top 10 for much of the year. They handed Louisville their only loss, they beat Florida State, and they also beat Florida 27-10 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
- Florida State went 9-3 and smacked WVU in the Gator Bowl.
- Virginia went 8-4 and was “on the rise” (which is the same story they tell recruits every year).
The Hokies, Miami and FSU were capable of going toe-to-toe with major programs, as the Hokies had shown earlier against USC and would later show against Auburn. In my opinion, that first de facto ACC Championship Game featured, overall, the best matchup of all the ACC championship games.
Virginia Tech won it, and it was a huge deal. Everybody got to go back to New Orleans (or in my case, as a senior in college, I went for the first time), and it turned out to be the first of eight straight consecutive 10-win seasons.
But what do you actually remember about the game, except for the Eddie Royal catch?
- Miami head coach Larry Coker was 43-5 at Miami before the 2004 VT game … from that point on, through 2006, he would go 16-10.
- VT had a better ACC record and the same number of losses, but Miami was ranked higher (#10 vs. #12).
- Miami QB Brock Berlin entered the game with 2370 yards, with 21 TDs and just 4 INTs.
- All-American tight end Greg Olsen was out for Miami. LT Eric Winston was also out.
- Very good crowd in the Orange Bowl … their new home has no character for college football.
- Miami had lost by 3 to UNC, by 7 to Clemson, and they had handed Louisville their only defeat.
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