You could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, feel it in their hands. This one was different.
Their eyes welled this time. Their voices cracked. Their handshakes gripped like pliers.
But the similarity ends there.
"Oh, are you kidding?" offensive-line coach Curt Newsome said on the field, moments after the 30-12 dismantling concluded. "Last year it was expected. This year? This team? This was hard."
Don't misunderstand. Last season was not easy. Tech had to overcome a pretty fair quarterback, Matt Ryan, who was last seen crafting his NFL rookie-of-the-year acceptance speech.
But the 2007 Hokies, teeming with NFL prospects, clearly were the class of the ACC. They dusted BC in the title game, with Sean Glennon winning MVP.
These Hokies never looked the part.
Until Tyrod Taylor created two touchdowns, the offensive line forged holes for Darren Evans and the defense bullied a freshman quarterback.
"Who'd have thought this after East Carolina?" outside linebackers coach Jim Cavanaugh said as he and defensive coordinator Bud Foster embraced on the field.
After the opening loss to East Carolina. After a 1-3 stretch later in the season that left Tech groveling for help just to win the Coastal Division. Heck, even after the victory over last-place Duke two weeks ago in which the Hokies managed one offensive touchdown.
"I never doubted the team," cornerback Macho Harris said. "I never doubted the coaches."
Easy to say now. But surely there were doubts — about the offense, about the kicking game, about fate.
Never about the defense.
Truth be told, Boston College lost this game two weeks ago when starting quarterback Chris Crane sustained a broken collarbone at Wake Forest, leaving the position to Dominique Davis. A redshirt freshman, Davis performed admirably in last week's victory over Maryland.
But that game was at home. And it was most certainly not against Foster's defense.
A rookie quarterback making his second start? Against a Foster defense in a championship game? Absent Secret Service protection and Jerry Rice at wideout, the kid had no chance.
Foster moved safeties Kam Chancellor and Dorian Porch closer to the line of scrimmage, suffocated the Eagles' running attack and dared Davis to throw.