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Let's Not Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water Over Bowl Streak

I still remember the conversation clearly.

My friend Bob and I were making that long walk from the Superdome in New Orleans to our car. We had driven down from High Point, NC the day before to see history. Having graduated in the late 1970s, we’d seen our share of bad football, so with Virginia Tech playing Florida State for a national championship, we just had to be there.

We saw history being made, but for Florida State, not Virginia Tech. And like any fan, we were bummed that we came so close but didn’t grab the brass ring. We would drive all the way back to North Carolina hardly saying a word, but as we got in the car that night, we talked about what a ride it had been. We’d seen Fire and Rain in Virginia Tech football, and the loss was not going to deter how great the year had been.

“At least we can compare it to 3-win seasons under Jimmy Sharpe,” I said. “Can you imagine someone who was a freshman in 1995 and is graduating this year? The worst they’ve ever experienced is a 7-5 season. They’ve had a Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and National Championship game in 5 years. Their worst season is still better than our best seasons when we were students.”

“Wait until they have a season again when they don’t go to a bowl,” Bob answered. “They think it’s automatic. They’ll want to fire everybody.”

Little did we know that the next time the Hokies would not make a bowl game would not just be a few years down the road. It would instead be several decades later, to the point that entire generations would never experience a season where Virginia Tech didn’t have a winning record and didn’t go to a bowl.

Today, however, it looks like the streak is over. And Bob – who isn’t much to look at but nevertheless has been my friend since the 70s – nailed it on that January night in 2000. People today don’t appear to know how to act, and it sure seems like there is a group of people out there who want to fire everyone in sight.

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Colleges Need To Pay Attention Or Risk Having A Kodak Moment

This morning, I was working on the details of a focus group I will be involved in later today, where I will work with an organization to help determine what their brand really is, what they believe differentiates themselves in the market, and what they think people really value them for.

As is usually the case, I jotted down a few stories to illustrate what we will try to accomplish, and for most marketing people, the story of Kodak usually makes an appearance. That iconic company was known by everyone because of their success in the area of film and cameras, and they actually invented the first digital camera in 1975. Thanks to that invention, we now carry and capture all of our favorite memories on something as small as our phones.

But Kodak eventually went bankrupt in 2012. They thought their unique ability in the marketplace was making film and cameras instead of capturing all those memories. Others (like people who build phones) did see that, and developed products that made most of what Kodak was selling obsolete.

The story immediately reminded me of what’s going on in sports these days. Turn on a television and you will see more and more fans dressed up as empty seats. Whether it’s college football, pro football, auto racing, etc., Athletic Directors and Team owners – to use a bad pun – are not getting the picture.

Just one month ago, I returned to my alma mater at Virginia Tech to see a football game between the Hokies and Notre Dame, the first time I've done that in three years. Even though the Hokies lost, it was a fantastic time. It was a chance to see dozens of old friends, experience the electricity of "Enter Sandman" as the team made its way into the stadium, tailgate with some great people, etc. The experience - and the related memories - were what made it great.

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It's Time To Admit To Myself Something About Virginia Tech Football

It’s the day after another bad Virginia Tech loss. You’d think by now, I’d be getting really good at handling this sort of situation.

But yesterday’s loss really bothers me. This one showed me something I guess I’ve sort of known in the back of my mind, but the maroon and orange parts of my brain kept keeping it from rising to the surface.

I can’t ignore it any more.

It all centers around the state of the team in the third quarter of yesterday's game for the Hokies against Boston College. Virginia Tech played the first half with emotion, aggressiveness and momentum, and each good play seemed to feed that and create another good play. The team was confident, and they seemed to be having fun.

From the time they left the locker room at halftime, however, all of those elements were gone, specifically on offense. That's when the game for all intents and purposes was lost.

I'm not a guy who calls for people to be fired, as I don't know what was really called, what an athlete didn't execute, or what a quarterback did or didn't see when a play didn't work. I tend to judge those kinds of conversations as none of my business.

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Recent Comments
Dave Scarangella

Totally agree with that last s...

Not going to a third-rate bowl game because you barely got to 6 wins isn't going to be that big a letdown. But as far as recruitin... Read More
Monday, 05 November 2018 08:57
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Hokie Fans The Morning After Ga. Tech Debacle: Dazed & Confused

It’s the morning after Georgia Tech’s romp through Blacksburg, and it seems like most Hokie fans are feeling like the Virginia Tech defensive line played last night.

Dazed and confused.

That Georgia Tech would win the game was not a huge surprise to those who have followed Virginia Tech for any length of time. That they would treat the Hokie defense the same way Alabama did back in 1973 when the Crimson Tide won 77-6 WAS a big shock.

This was like watching a high school game where one team was clearly superior to the other. One team just lined up and ran the same 5 or 6 plays over and over again, as if to tell their opponent “here it is, try to stop it.” Virginia Tech couldn’t. It was so dominating, Georgia Tech didn’t complete a single pass and still put up 49 points. They only attempted one pass, as their running game was so dominant, they didn’t need to throw it.

It’s not like they didn’t know what was coming, either. Georgia Tech’s old-school triple option offense has bedeviled the Hokies for years. Over the last four years, the Yellow Jackets have lost 23 games, so there are teams out there who have figured out how to deal with it. But to Virginia Tech, it has been kryptonite.

Last night may have been the worst of the performances.

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After Today's UVA Win Over Duke, The Rivalry May Finally Be Back

I have been warning my Virginia Tech friends that they need to watch out for Virginia, because this year they have a good quarterback in Bryce Perkins, a fast receiver in Olamide Zaccheaus and a couple of good defensive backs in Juan Thornhill and Joey Blount.

But secondary to that is what I’m seeing every week. The team in Charlottesville is buying into what Coach Bronco Mendenhall is selling, and with each win, their confidence is growing.

Last week it was No. 16 Miami. Today it was Duke in Durham.

I’m not sure how much credit to give for the win because the Blue Devils could arguably be the worst 5-1 team to walk this earth. Pro scouts seem to like quarterback Daniel Jones, but all he showed today is that he has a strong arm that allows him to throw interceptions into double coverage much farther down the field.

Duke’s offensive line didn’t help him any either, as they protected their quarterback the way I exercise: Not very well and not very often.

But it was a win. The Cavaliers are 5-2, they play their next three games at home, and will probably be even more confident by the time they come to Blacksburg at the end of the season. For 14 years, the Wahoos have had a tendency to get late into games with Virginia Tech and start thinking “how are we going to lose THIS year.”

That’s not going to happen this year. They have some balance. They believe. And no matter what the most hard-core of Hokies wants to believe, they have a good football team.

They do have weaknesses. The biggest has been in the kicking game, but they seem to have found one in Brian Delaney. He was their kickoff man until last week, when they used him as the placekicker against Miami. He responded with three field goals, including a 46-yarder, and the Chantilly kicker was the toast of the media circuit this week because of it.

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Five Things I Learned Watching Virginia Tech Rally To Beat UNC

Virginia Tech’s comeback win over North Carolina last night was one of those games where Hokie fans should be glad the standings have only columns for wins and losses, and not areas where a game can be judged as “pretty”, “ugly” or “lucky.”

As a result, the Coastal Standings of the Atlantic Coast Conference only show that Virginia Tech is 3-0 in league games, in first place, and has a one-game lead over Miami and Virginia. But last night’s game showed more than that; here are five things I learned in watching them last night:

1. This team has heart. Yeah, I know everybody says that about their team. But last night they found themselves in a situation where only two miracles would prevent them from losing the game. They were late in the 4th quarter. A North Carolina touchdown – given the way Virginia Tech’s defense had played all evening – was a virtual certainty. That TD would have given UNC a two-score lead, and there wasn’t enough time for the Hokies to counter. The only thing that would grasp defeat from the jaws of victory for the Tar Heels would be either an interception – and there was no way UNC was going to throw the ball so close to the goal line – or a Virginia Tech defensive player came up with a hard hit or a strip of the ball that resulted in a fumble. Realistically speaking, the odds of that happening were right up there with a super model giving me a call during a timeout and asking what I’m doing after the game.

But it happened (no, not the thing with the super model). Safety Tyree Rodgers put his helmet into the midsection of UNC running back Michael Carter – who had run through the Virginia Tech defense all night with the same ease most of us would walk through a shopping mall – and the ball popped up in the air. Cornerback Jovonn Quillen grabbed it, dropped it, grabbed it again, then fell down on the two yard line. Half the miracle was done, but now the other half – having this offense go 98 yards – had to happen.

Coaches tell you in practice all the time that you can do things like this, but they rarely happen. The Hokies DID drive the length of the field, they DID score the winning touchdown, and they DID add a two-pointer to make sure a field goal didn’t beat them in the final minute. Such is the stuff legends are made of, and is also the stuff confidence, belief and heart are made of. There were probably players on the field who hoped they could do something like this, but didn’t really know if they could.

Now they know. Which could be a huge asset down the road this season.

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I Still Can't Say Thanks Enough For Everything Frank Has Done

Today it was announced that a monument celebrating Frank Beamer will be unveiled at Moody Plaza, located on the Southwest corner of the Lane Stadium footprint adjacent to Beamer Way. It will happen about 3 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff of Saturday's game between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

My first thought was "I wonder if younger Hokies realize just how bad things were when Frank took over the program?" They probably know him as a former coach, I thought, or even a nice old man they see on television from a long time ago. But maybe not the guy who totally transformed this program into what it is today.

Three years ago, when it became apparent Frank would retire, I wrote this to summarize just how I felt. Seems appropriate to re-post it now....

To truly appreciate what Frank Beamer has done for Virginia Tech, allow me to share some of my earliest memories of being a Hokie.

The year was 1973, my senior year of high school. The check was in the mail to the admissions office, and I was going to be spending the next 4 years in Blacksburg. I picked up the Sunday Virginian Pilot in Norfolk (my hometown) and there was a story on Virginia Tech losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. By a score of 77-6.

That’s no typo. 77-6. Laughingstock wasn’t a strong enough word for how the Hokie football program looked back then.

My four years at Virginia Tech would be the four years of Jimmy Sharpe. The wishbone worked in the second year, as the Hokies won 8 games, but didn’t get a bowl bid. Things then fell apart as the team would go 6-5 and then 3-7-1. Sharpe would be fired. A football player would die in the dorms the day after a game in 1977, and Virginia Tech was in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference were the envy of all of us. Why not Virginia Tech? many of us thought, but the perception was simply we were not good enough. In 1977, an expansion committee actually sent a group to Blacksburg to examine the possibility, but they stayed all of about 45 minutes. Their minds were made up before they ever got there.

The Hokies were small potatoes.

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Five Things I Learned From Watching Virginia Tech Beat Duke

Last night’s Virginia Tech win over Duke – and the fact it isn’t raining for the first time on a weekend in what seems like 5 years – has certainly made for a much nicer and peaceful Sunday morning.

But while a much nicer deal to wake up to, there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the Hokies. Here are five things I learned in watching them last night:

1. When properly disciplined and focused, this team can do just about anything. This has been the case for Virginia Tech since the beginning of time. If you look at the three bad losses they’ve had since 1998 that made headlines last week, they always bounced back and had great games in the next one. After the Temple debacle in 1998, they beat UAB 41-0. After losing to JMU in 2010, they beat ECU 49-27.

You could argue neither UAB or ECU were any good (UAB finished 4-7 and ECU finished 6-7 those years) but Duke was ranked and the game was on the road. Hearing all week they were a bunch of over-rated lightweights who lost to a winless ODU program undoubtedly helped with that focus, so in that regard, it was a blessing in disguise.

I always thought Virginia Tech would be 4-1 after the first 5 games, with the loss being to Notre Dame. My reasoning was the team doesn’t do well when it thinks it is really good (and this goes back way beyond the Fuente era) and if they went into that game 4-0, they would probably have a top 10 ranking they didn’t deserve, think they were world beaters and maybe lose because of that. ODU stripped the team of that possibility, and if they play against Notre Dame like they did against Duke, they have a chance to still be 4-1.

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We're Now At A Fork In The Road For Virginia Tech Football...

It is a dreary morning. Raining outside. Cool. Dark. Depressing.

And, oh yeah, Virginia Tech lost yesterday to ODU. The same ODU that was 0-3 and lost to national powerhouse Liberty by 42 a few weeks ago.

Happy Sunday.

Life dictates you try to look at the bright side, put some lipstick on that pig, and put it all behind you. It gets easier over time, because the Hokies have a tendency to do things like this ever so often. An upperclassman in our dorm my freshman year at Virginia Tech jokingly told us “just remember, in the end, the Hokies will always break your heart,” and over the years I’ve determined he wasn’t joking: A brutal loss to Temple in 1998; an equally stunning defeat at the hands of James Madison in 2010; smaller, lesser ones that ended up stinging just as much in between.

This one didn’t hurt as much, I’ll admit, because of what it meant to ODU. Norfolk is my hometown, and this win was probably every bit as exciting to Monarch faithful as when the Hokies went to the Horseshoe and beat Ohio State. I even watched that upset in an ODU bar in 2014 (40th high school reunion) and some even said how cool it would be if ODU ever got to experience a win that big.

Now they have.

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