ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) It took a late touchdown in the final game for Virginia Tech to secure a bowl bid for the 22nd consecutive year.
Now the Hokies (6-6) need to beat Cincinnati in the Military Bowl on Saturday to extend another impressive run.
''We kept one streak alive,'' assistant coach Shane Beamer said. ''Now we have to keep another streak alive, and that's 22 straight winning seasons.''
Virginia Tech never figured to be in such a vulnerable position after whipping Ohio State on the road in early September. The 35-21 upset remains the playoff-bound Buckeyes' lone loss, and it turned out to be the highlight of an up-and-down season for the Hokies.
''It got pretty inconsistent after that,'' junior quarterback Michael Brewer said. ''We suffered some injuries, lost some timing as an overall unit, and it kind of snowballed. We kept trying to fight to get back to that level of play that we showed against Ohio State, and it just never really happened.''
The Hokies needed a 24-20 win over Virginia in the regular-season finale to even their record and get the opportunity to face the Bearcats (9-3).
''Six and six is not what any of us expected going into the season,'' Beamer said. ''But with the adversity we faced, with the injuries and things like that, a lot of tough, close losses, the chance to send our seniors out the right way ... would be a great way to finish the season.''
Cincinnati took a different route to the Military Bowl. After successive losses to Ohio State, Memphis and Miami left the Bearcats with a 2-3 record, they won seven straight to earn a share of the American Athletic Conference championship.
''One thing that I can truthfully say is that we've gotten better as the year has gone on,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said.
Some things to know about the seventh Military Bowl:
BEAM ME UP: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who's recovering from throat surgery, will work upstairs in the coach's box at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Beamer had the operation in early December and helped prepare the team for this game. But he won't be on the sideline because doctors fear the risk of infection.
Now in his 28th season at Tech, Beamer (230-115-2) is one of only 10 coaches in NCAA history with 200 career wins at one FBS school.
HOME GAME: Thousands of Virginia Tech fans will make the short trip north to Annapolis, which creates something of a home game for the Hokies.
Because of the renovation and expansion of Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats played all their home games in the Cincinnati Bengals' stadium.
''We haven't had a home game all year long,'' Tuberville said. ''Winning part of a conference championship without a home game is pretty good. We'll feel right at home.''
BATTLE LINES DRAWN: With Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel (3,010 yards passing, 30 TDs and 11 INTs) leading the way, Cincinnati reached the 30-point mark in nine games this season. Virginia Tech yielded 20 points or fewer in six games.
So there isn't much of a mystery about how this game shapes up.
''If you just look at the stats, it's clearly our strength vs. their strength - our offense vs. their defense,'' Tuberville said.
FACING THE ACC: This marks the third straight season that Cincinnati has squared off against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe in a bowl game.
The Bearcats beat Duke in the Belk Bowl in 2012 before absorbing a 39-17 defeat against North Carolina in the same bowl last December.
''The older guys are telling the other guys that we need to look good,'' senior linebacker Nick Temple said. ''We've still got a chip on our shoulder.''
BOWL GROWING: The Military Bowl has come a long way since the first one in 2008, when Wake Forest faced Navy at ancient RFK Stadium in Washington.
Although it helps attendance to have nearby teams such as Maryland and Virginia Tech in the game, Military Bowl president Steve Beck said, ''I think we'll do well no matter what teams we have.''
He added: ''It's really come to a whole new plateau. Our suites sold out well before we had any inclination of what teams were coming.''