By KYLE HIGHTOWER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was candid this week in acknowledging that a lackluster 6-6 regular season was not the standard that the Hokies had grown accustomed to.
It took one of their best finishes of the season, but no matter what people remember about this year's team, they will be recalled as winners.
Cody Journell kicked a 22-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime to help the Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Friday night.
The victory helped the Hokies avoid their first losing season since 1992 _ an accomplishment that will definitely give them a boost going into an offseason that could include some changes in the coaching staff.
"It's kind of like nothing comes easy for us," Beamer said. "It is work, but we got a bunch of guys that will hang out, and we're not always ready, but we kind of hang on and keep working at it. ... We could have shut it down, and these guys never did."
He avoided any questions about possible staff shake-ups that may be coming in the coming weeks.
"We are going to enjoy this win," he said. "These guys worked hard for this win tonight. It wasn't easy. We are going to enjoy this win and talk about our game with Rutgers."
Rutgers (9-4) had a chance to tie it in overtime, but Nick Borgese missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt to the right.
The loss ended a run of five straight bowl victories for the Scarlet Knights and kept them from recording their first double-digit win season since 2006.
The win also was the Hokies' 12th straight victory over their former Big East Conference rival.
Virginia Tech trailed 10-0 at the half, then rallied in the final 30 minutes thanks to some timely turnovers and offense. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in the first half and finished with a pair of interceptions, but also had 192 yards passing and the game's only passing touchdown.
"I can't commend the defense more," Thomas said. "The entire season that's kind of how it's been. I have to give a shout out to (linebacker) Bruce Taylor because he played his tail off the entire game. It felt like he was in the backfield making a tackle on every play."
Taylor finished the night with a team-high 11 tackles to lead a defense that held Rutgers to 67 yards in the second half.
Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum, selected the most valuable player of the game, picked off Gary Nova's pass early in the fourth quarter to set up the tying score.
He said though the offense took its lumps early, he was never down on their effort.
"That's just the way the game panned out," Exum said. "We never lose hope with the guys on the other side of the ball. Our job, honestly, is just to go out there and get as many three-and-outs as possible and give the most opportunities as we can to put points on the board.
"We did a good job of that tonight."
Rutgers seemed to be in command until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, when turnovers and a sudden surge from the Hokies' offense quickly turned the momentum.
Down 10-0, Virginia Tech took over after Rutgers missed a field goal and moved into Scarlet Knights' territory for the first time in the game on a 32-yard pass from Thomas to Dyrell Roberts.
Thomas then found Corey Fuller for a 25-yard strike on the next play, before the drive stalled on the 8. It forced the Hokies to settle for Journell's 25-yard field goal.
Exum intercepted Nova's pass on the ensuing drive, giving the Hokies a first down on the Rutgers 21.
The Hokies found the end zone three plays later on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Fuller with 10:56 left as steady rain began to fall.
"We finally caught them off balance," Thomas said. "We finally got them uncomfortable. ... I just had to put the ball out there for him."
Virginia Tech defensive end Tyrel Wilson then came up with the defense's second turnover of the night, recovering a fumble inside the Scarlet Knights 40 after Nova dropped a snap while lined up in the shotgun.
An intentional grounding penalty on Thomas forced a punt, though, with less than 7 minutes to play.
They got another chance a few series later, only to see Journell's 51-yard field goal come up short with 2:20 showing on the clock.