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Sep
12

Once Again, Preseason Hype Didn't Match Season Opener

I watched my first Washington Redskins game on television when I was 8, fell in love with the team, and have never missed a season-opener since.

So losing the first game of a season is no big deal. Winning the first one isn’t either, as there were times like when Sonny Jurgensen threw 4 touchdown passes against the Bears – including a 99-yarder out his end zone to Gerry Allen – that made you think that first game portended a great season. Then you looked back in December and realized it was only a moment in time, as the team ended the season with a 5-9 record.

Heck, this team won its season-opener last year, then proceeded to lose 7 of its next 8 to the point they were nearly unwatchable. Yet despite playing like a third-rate Indoor Football League franchise at times, they got it turned around in a season where the rest of their NFC teammates did not, managing to make the playoffs despite not even having a winning record at 7-9.

So anything can happen, no matter what you do in September.

But there was something about today’s loss that was annoying. Over my 57 years as a fan of the team, I’ve watched the relationship with the pro football team in Washington go from a feeling of deep trust and I can’t live without you, to the edge of separation, divorce and a feeling of I don’t even know who you are.

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Sep
11

It Wasn't Perfect, But It Was Just What Hokies Needed

It’s not often you can say that the key play of a game was the halftime interview.

But that may have been the case in Virginia Tech’s spread-covering 35-14 win over Middle Tennessee State today at Lane Stadium.

Despite last week’s impressive win over probably over-rated North Carolina, the Hokies did not come out for today’s first half with a fireball of emotion. While the defense continued to look sharp, the maddening offensive game plan used in the second half last week where the unit crawled into its shell to protect a lead was again on full display.

It was good enough to take a 14-7 lead at the half, as Braxton Burmeister threw a 6-yard fade pattern to the left corner of the end zone that Tayvion Robinson caught for one score, then new crowd favorite and designated wildcat quarterback Connor Blumrick scored from 2 yards out for the 14 Hokie points.

But it was also at times a ball of confusion when it came to the passing game. On some plays, Burmeister seemed as if he couldn’t find anyone open when he looked downfield, leading one to wonder if the Hokie wide receivers just couldn’t get any separation, or if Braxton wasn’t making the right reads and looking for completions in all the wrong places.

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Sep
11

20 Years Ago, In A Parking Garage At Tyson's Corner...

It’s a moment in time I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Twenty years ago at this exact moment, I was pulling into the company parking garage and had no earthly idea how the world was about to change in just the next few hours.

We had just moved to Ashburn 18 months prior, and my new office was in Tyson’s Corner, overlooking the Galleria Mall. Most of that time wasn’t spent in that office, but was instead used flying back and forth to Los Angeles to oversee a division my company had in Carson. Half those flights were on American Airlines, the other half on United, as I usually left on a Monday or Tuesday if there were meetings scheduled on Mondays at our offices, I used those two because they were the only direct flights out of Dulles to LAX.

I was sitting in my office on a phone call that morning when someone walked down the hall and said a plane had hit the Twin Towers. My first instinct was they were describing a small private plane that had gone off course and collided with the building, so after my call, I walked down to the conference room where a television was on to see what was going on. It seemed like half our staff was watching.

I arrived just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

Stunned would not adequately describe my reaction. This was like Hollywood movie special effects I was watching, but it was playing out in real life. What in the world was happening, we all thought.

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Sep
09

If You've Ever Wondered How Seriously We Take Security

If you like a tale with a happy ending, allow me to entertain you.

Back in 2012, I encountered a personal tragedy. A close personal friend had taken his own life, and he and I were sports fans who used to broadcast local high school sports. In the course of it, I started this site in 2006, and with his passing, I didn’t feel much like continuing.

So I left the site up, but I didn’t write anything for over a year. During that year I did no maintenance or updates on the site, and as a result, somebody in Russia exploited a security flaw that would have been stopped by regular updates. This earned the site a place on blacklists and all sorts of other warning places, and I quickly addressed it. I rebuilt the site from scratch and uploaded it, contacted Google, Norton and a bunch of other places to ask for a review, and the site was taken off all those lists.

But in the last 9 years I’d occasionally get a message saying the site still wasn’t safe. My host provider would assure me it was fine, and just about everyone I knew when I’d ask would say there was no problem.

During basketball season, however, it happened again. A few posters on Techsideline.com’s basketball board mentioned this, and I was getting tired of it. I went back to my host and we again scanned every file on the server. Everything was declared clean and safe, but I rebuilt the site again from scratch. There was no earthly way in my mind there could be an issue.

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Sep
08

Nobody's Saying Justin Hamilton Is Too Young Any More

There have been some great stories coming out of Virginia Tech after the Hokies claimed a season-opening win over a ranked team.

But the one that makes me smile the most regards defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton.

When he was named to the position, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. From everything I’ve heard from folks in Blacksburg, he’s very good. Great teacher, great communicator, patient, a Hokie through and through. He’s the kind of person you rebuild the foundation of a program with.

But he’s also young, and this was his first coordinator job with a major program. Youth can be both a strength and a weakness in such situations, because on one hand you have the potential for longevity that is a huge bonus in the long run.

But in the short run with an impatient fan base, you are not given a margin of error to make mistakes. Plus, as I learned in the business world, you may think you are ready to run the show, but for most, it takes a little time to get into the proper mindset of running things.

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Sep
07

Hokies No. 19 In AP Rankings, 21 In Latest Coach's Poll

For the first time since the week of October 18th last year, Virginia Tech’s football team is nationally ranked.

The Hokies – on the strength of a 17-10 win over then No. 10-ranked North Carolina – are ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, and 21 in this week’s coaches poll. In the writers poll, UNC fell to 24th, while Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M comprise the top 5. Clemson is the ACC’s top-ranked team, falling to No. 6.

In the coach’s poll,  North Carolina fell to No. 22, while Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M comprise the top 5, which is identical to the AP rankings. Just like the writer’s poll, Clemson is the ACC’s top-ranked team, falling to No. 6.

Last year the Hokies were ranked No. 20 in the pre-season poll, and were ranked as high as 19 until a week 5 23-16 loss to Wake Forest bounced them from the top 25 list. The Hokies would beat Louisville in week 6, but then lost 4 straight to make their disappearance from the polls in 2020 permanent.

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Sep
07

Hokie Offense Is Going To Need To Take More Deep Shots

It’s now the Tuesday after Labor Day. Everybody’s back at work. The first full weekend of college football is over. So it’s time to empty the notebook about things seen this weekend before moving on to week 2.

Which Version Of Braxton Are We Going To See Saturday?

Oh, I know his name will be Braxton Burmeister, but Friday night we really saw two different players. First-half Braxton was smooth and cool, completed 7 of 8 passes with the only incompletion a dropped pass by Tre Turner in the end zone, and his team ate up huge chunks of time in running to a 14-0 halftime lead.

Second-half Braxton wasn’t quite so cool. He only completed 5 of 11 passes for 43 yards, threw an interception, and missed some wide-open people on what should have been easy throws. Some of that was caused by the plays being called, as Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen went very conservative in protecting that 14-0 lead.

But while seeing a lot of good things Friday night, it was the consistent lack of the Hokie offense taking deep shots again UNC that bothered me. You don’t have to be the Oakland, er, Los Angeles, er, Las Vegas Raiders and go deep all the time. But if you look at most successful teams over the last two decades, it has been the threat of a deep ball that keeps defensive backs from creeping up close to the line, and thus opens up the running game.

Of course, if you pass all the time, the running backs and offensive line never get in a rhythm and the running game doesn’t realize its potential, so finding that optimum mix is something coaches experiment with all season long. I didn’t think the Hokies really tried to find such a mix Friday, and you’ll notice in the second half that as the passing game stumbled, so too did the running game.

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Sep
06

Exactly Seven Years Ago Today, In Norfolk and Columbus...

When you get to be an old geezer like me, you look back, and at times remember really special occasions you did not expect to end up being so special.

Like what I experienced exactly 7 years ago.

That’s because September 6, 2014 was the date of my 40th high school reunion in Norfolk. That alone should have made the night special enough, because unlike earlier reunions where people try to impress their classmates with their success, 40th reunions don’t have such drama. The number one thing people are impressed with is that we all survived and are still standing. Nothing else really much matters.

But while I was reeling in the years hearing story after story from my friends, something else was going on. Virginia Tech was in the Horseshoe in Columbus playing Ohio State, and as anyone who knows me understands, my blood types are Type Orange and Type Maroon. I didn’t have great expectations for the Hokies, so it was being DVR’d back at my house in Ashburn, and I was going to get up early the next morning, drive home, and then watch what I thought would be athletic carnage.

But as I was donating my drink tickets to old friend Wendy Rieger (of NBC 4 fame here in the DC market), my phone started buzzing. Texts from multiple people – who happened to be in Columbus – filled my phone. Whatever I was doing, they all said, I needed to extract myself from what was going on and find a television.

The Hokies were beating the eventual National Champion Buckeyes.

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Sep
03

Rumors Of VT's Demise May Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

In the hierarchy of Hokie football games, there are those you want to win. There are others that you can only hope to win.

But tonight’s 17-10 victory over North Carolina was one Virginia Tech needed to win.

These last few years have seen a crisis of confidence in Hokie Nation. The glory days have drifted away to the point that it wasn’t a year or two since the football program was really good; it was a decade or two. Questions about whether Justin Fuente could coach, recruit, or even just smile in an interview were constantly asked.

Visiting teams no longer feared Lane Stadium and its fans. Even the signature moments of the team coming on the field to Enter Sandman grew great notoriety, but then you remembered when the game actually started, the team lost.

Add in the doldrums created by the pandemic that may never end, and folks during the summer talked in tones of a strange and unusual indifference when it came to the season. They needed to be awakened from this low-energy slumber by things like a huge crowd screaming its guts out so people even inches away from each other couldn’t hear what was being said. They needed a win over a top 10 team like North Carolina to give them hope this could be done more than once in a lifetime.

They needed a reason to believe.

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Aug
23

We All May Have Jumped The Gun On Comcast, ACCN

For a brief hour or two last night, ACC fans weren’t in Iowa. They actually WERE in heaven.

Thanks to the word being spread throughout social media, the biggest block of ACC fans who have not been able to watch the ACC Network – those who have Comcast/Infinity as their cable provider – were ecstatic after turning their televisions to an obscure channel and seeing the network in their homes.

Last night if you went to Channel 1322 on your Comcast guide, all you saw was a channel that said SEC Network, and all of the blocks of programming said “OFF.” But if you pressed on it any way, you got the three pulsating buttons you normally see while the cable box is searching, and after about 45 seconds, you saw the ACC Network.

The programming that was on was routine and boring, but that wasn’t the point. After two years of Comcast refusing to carry the ACCN, the channel at least was now coming into homes like mine in Ashburn without having to stream it on an app with a friend’s log-in. The long struggle to be like other neighbors with Cox, Verizon, Dish Network, DirecTV, etc. seemed to be over.

“Seemed” being the key word.

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Aug
18

Now We Know: Radford Reunites With Buzz At Texas A&M

Well, that didn’t take long.

Less than 48 hours after having all his legal issues settled in a Montgomery County court room, Tyrece Radford officially said goodbye to Virginia Tech’s basketball team, announcing on his Twitter account he was going to reunite with the man who recruited him to Blacksburg – Buzz Williams – at Texas A&M.

“I want to say Thank You to Virginia Tech for allowing me to be a part of this family. I am extremely grateful for my time here. Thank you to the coaching staff, my teammates, my advisor Alise and the entire Hokie Nation!” Radford said in a graphic that included him already in a Texas A&M uniform.

“I am proud to be a member of this community and to have earned my degree while in Blacksburg. After discussions with my family and closest mentors, I have decided to continue pursuing my dreams by transferring to Texas A&M and finishing what I started 3 years ago. Go Hokies & Go Aggies!”

As mentioned in this story from yesterday, it has been speculated for some time that Radford had made contingency plans pending what happened in Monday’s hearing. Some thought it was a distinct possibility he might have all charges dropped for probation violations stemming from an early February DUI conviction, but others were not so sure if the University’s judicial system would still allow him to play.

Now seeing Radford going to Texas A&M would seem to confirm that, because it’s doubtful after Monday’s hearing that he got a call from Williams Monday night, got photographed in a Texas A&M uniform Tuesday, and tweeted it out today. It would seem to have been in the works for some time.

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