BLACKSBURG, Va. - Marcus Vick draws praise for his poise from his coaches and teammates nearly all the time. He'll never have a better chance to show he's worthy of the accolades.
The quarterback for fifth-ranked Virginia Tech figures to be severely tested by Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday night. A heavy pass rush is anticipated, and Vick has strict orders to get rid of the ball.
The last time Virginia Tech played a team with the speed of the Seminoles was Miami, four weeks ago. Vick was miserable, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball away four times in a 27-7 loss.
This time, a running attack that has piled up 610 yards in its past two games could be the centerpiece of the Virginia Tech offense. Vick is taking it in stride.
"We've just got to try to match it up, put a hat on a hat and see if we can block these guys," he said. "If we can't, then, hey, we've got to work some wonders."
Vick worked plenty of those as the Hokies started 8-0, but hasn't been asked to do as much since the loss. Instead, the Hokies have relied on power back Cedric Humes and flashy Branden Ore to carry the ball - and the load - on offense.
The Hokies say the change in focus was no slight to Vick, but recognition that if the running game can't be stopped there's no reason to cut back on it.
"What we've done the past few games is we said, 'Marcus, manage the game and let your running backs make a few plays and keep the other team off the field,'" tight end Jeff King said of the change. "It's not that we're taking the ball out of Marcus' hands. It's that we're doing what we need to do to win, and win handily."
Against Virginia, it was 52-14. Against North Carolina, it was 30-3.
Coach Frank Beamer bristled at the notion that Vick has been de-emphasized, even while allowing there is much Vick can improve on as the Hokies and Seminoles vie for a spot in the Bowl Championship Series - probably against Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
"Marcus is very much a threat, very much responsible for this football team being where it is," Beamer said.
Against the Seminoles, Vick needs to show he has learned that there are better ways to deal with a stout pass rush than by trying to do everything himself.
Beamer also expects Vick to be better protected by his teammates.
"You've got to block them, and Marcus has got to be good and get the ball out of there when he needs to, or go to the right place at the right time," Beamer said.
Who: Virginia Tech (10-1, 7-1) vs. Florida State (7-4, 5-3)
When: 8 p.m., Saturday
Where: Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
TV: ABC-Ch. 6
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