If you’re a long-time watcher of Hokie athletics, there’s one premise you eventually learn: you will have good times and bad, but in the end, the Hokies will always break your heart.
This particularly applies to the historically tight games that go back and forth, where either team could make a play and win. Hokie history is filled with tales of sorrow in losing these narrow games when there were at least 2 or 3 moments where victory could be rescued from the jaws of defeat.
Such was Saturday’s game at Lane Stadium with North Carolina. Five times I prepared myself for the fact VT was going to lose. Six times I got my hopes up that instead, the Hokies would win.
Seven times I just thought they were trying to kill me.
When the dust cleared, Virginia Tech pulled it out and won 43-41 in SIX – count ‘em – SIX overtimes.
The game could end up being the proverbial fork in the road for Fuente and this team. It had all the things the great teams of the past had, with players battling through injuries and making big plays; the crowd turning electric, shouting until they were hoarse; the defense coming up with a big stop at just the moment it was desperately needed, and when all looked lost, the Hokies somehow found a way to win.
The whispers that Fuente may not be the guy to lead the Hokies hasn’t been subtle the last few weeks. People were suggesting he’s lost the team, doesn’t relate all that well to his players, and doesn’t put the right guy in the right seat on the bus, particularly at the quarterback position.
Yesterday’s game would be considered Exhibit A that such talk is pure, 100 percent, Grade A hogwash.
The group I saw on the sidelines and on the field yesterday was alive, full of fight and full of emotion. They rallied around their coach and each other. Players moved to other positions to help fill holes created by injury. Tight end Dalton Keene moved to running back and contributed; freshman Norrell Pollard got his chance at DT and made two sacks. Defensive back Khalil Ladler came off the bench and saved the game with an open field tackle at the two in the fifth overtime.
Then there was the matter of who played quarterback.