All that pomp. All that circumstance.
Dulles District Overlord Dave Scarangella noted right before Virginia Tech’s showdown with West Virginia that the Thursday night broadcast was, “one big ol’ commercial for Hokie football.”
Dave couldn’t have been more accurate.
Virginia Tech’s athletic department staff and fans put together one heck of an atmosphere for Thursday night. They sold out Lane Stadium. We got the full round of pyrotechnics before the game. The ACC Network again displayed the novelty and excellence of Enter Sandman and plenty of people noticed on Twitter.
But Virginia Tech got routed by their rivals to the west, losing to West Virginia 33-10.
It only means so much.
Tech did everything they could to lose on Thursday night. They committed 15 penalties for 132 yards, an unconscionable and inexcusable number. The team fell apart in the fourth quarter, allowing 17 unanswered points to cap the evening. Tech never established an offensive presence, particularly on the ground.
I originally thought penalties were the reason Tech lost on Thursday night. I no longer believe that’s the case.
Tech lost because they don’t have enough talent.
That’s something that can be remedied over time and Brent Pry will have that opportunity. And maybe, one day, Tech will more often take advantage of the incredible atmosphere they get to play in front of inside Lane Stadium.
More often than not, the Hokies do not take advantage of the big stage — at least in my adult life. I started covering Virginia Tech football in 2014, and since then, excluding 2020 when fans weren’t in attendance, the Hokies are just 5-7 in prime time home games at Lane Stadium.
We can all remember the lowlights. Tech’s 30-6 loss to Miami in 2014 came just weeks after the Hokies’ upset of Ohio State in Columbus. Of course, Ohio State returned the favor the following season in a 42-24 second-half drubbing.
The magical 2016 season was marred by a head-scratching 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech. The Hokies also fell apart at the Battle of Bristol earlier that season, but I left that game out. In 2017, it was the deflating loss to No. 2 Clemson.
2018 was especially difficult, as Tech lost to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech under the bright lights. The following year featured one of the worst losses in Lane Stadium history — a 45-10 dismantling by the Duke Blue Devils.
Last year wasn’t any better, even after that season-opening win against North Carolina. Virginia Tech blew a big lead in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame to lose 32-29. And for this season, we can add a Black Diamond Trophy loss.
As much as we all enjoy the atmosphere at these games, it’s time to be honest with ourselves and admit that Virginia Tech’s on-field product is far behind the off-field promotion and marketing. Once again, Enter Sandman was the highlight of the evening for Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech wasn’t just the worst team Thursday night. The Hokies are several steps behind West Virginia, and mind you, the Mountaineers are a middling Big 12 team with a head coach on the hot seat.
And yet, the difference was stark.
Virginia Tech won’t play as poorly as they did on Thursday every time out for the rest of the season. But they probably won’t look much different until there’s some serious upgrades on the roster, and those upgrades will take time. Between incoming freshmen classes and additions through the transfer portal, Pry will have to better his roster over the course of the next three-to-five seasons.
Until that happens, Tech will continue rolling out the pomp and circumstance for these nighttime games in Lane Stadium and fans will keep showing up. Unfortunately, those spectacular environments will continue to overshadow the team’s actual performance.
The hope is that the status quo won’t last. Maybe in two years, you’ll be able to tune into these commercials for Virginia Tech football and not be disappointed.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed Enter Sandman.