Virginia Tech’s loss to the Yellow Jackets last Saturday was emotional for me.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one.
As I lamented another deflating defeat, I stayed in the stands and tried to come to terms with what just happened. Virginia Tech had blown another two-score lead and for the second consecutive week, the Hokies lost by a single point.
I was surprisingly shocked. I never thought Virginia Tech would fall to 2-7 in my lifetime.
Also seemingly stunned was sixth-year defensive end TyJuan Garbutt. He sat on the ground on the sideline after the game, watching Georgia Tech celebrate a come-from-behind win. Garbutt looked exhausted in every possible way — physically, mentally and emotionally. People on the sideline did their best to lift him up, but Garbutt had reached the end of his rope.
Fourth-year player Josh Fuga wasn’t far from Garbutt, except Fuga’s emotions ranged from angry to inconsolable. Multiple people tended to Fuga, but the emotions flowed nonetheless.
Watching this, I too became emotional. I’ve spent enough time around football players to know the trials and tribulations they face on a regular basis. Garbutt, Fuga and the rest of their teammates are laying it all on the line. It’s just not been enough.
Seeing those players, who are taking classes I took just a few years ago, run through the emotional gauntlet is difficult to watch. It was equally hard to witness Virginia Tech squander another game with my Dad in attendance.
Virginia Tech football is a large part of my relationship with my Dad. He’s always rooted for the Hokies and when I came along, I was quickly folded into the greater Hokie community. When I decided to attend Virginia Tech as a student, that membership became even more meaningful.
Saturday was just the second time that my Dad has been able to watch a Hokies game in person. The first was also an excruciating loss — Tech’s water-logged 17-13 defeat vs. Pittsburgh in 2015.
Watching the Hokies lose, in-person, in the stands, next to my Dad, was a rough experience. Especially when that loss zapped Virginia Tech’s already slim chances of making a bowl game this winter.
I know I’m not alone in that regard. Like the players, Virginia Tech fans are also struggling right now, albeit in a different way. The Hokies are not a 2-7 type of program. This isn’t Indiana, Northwestern or Oregon State, where a 2-7 record isn’t all that shocking.
Virginia Tech is a far more prestigious football program than either of the ones I just mentioned, yet the Hokies are falling closer and closer to the bottom of the Power 5. For the third straight season, the Hokies are guaranteed to finish with a losing record. It’ll be the fourth time in five years.
Talk about a rebuild all you want — they’re emotionally draining for players, coaches and fans. No one demanded instant success — but missing a bowl game again is another gut punch.
It’s even more frustrating when just to the southeast, another first-year coach has inspired a relatively equally talented roster to a 6-3 record. That equally talented roster is favored to beat Virginia Tech by six points as of the time this column was written.
The remaining games on the schedule are going to elicit similar emotions to Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech. The Hokies are likely to lose to Duke this weekend and again to an in-state Group of 5 team the following Saturday. A loss to the lowly ‘Hoos would generate more rage and sadness than any loss this season.
I guess my point is this — it’s alright to be frustrated. It’s alright to be sad. Virginia Tech football holds a special place in all of our hearts.
Just remember that you’re not alone in feeling like that.
Garbutt and Fuga reminded me of that on Saturday.