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I Can't Say Thanks Enough For What Frank Beamer Has Done

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.

Bill Dooley improved things slightly as the next coach, but he did it with a clock in his window that was a replica of a UNC football helmet. He didn’t particularly like Virginia Tech traditions, he wasn’t a Hokie, he was never going to be a Hokie, and he sure wasn’t going to stay around for a long time. Then he too was asked to leave.

Enter Frank. He was a Hokie and a gentleman. He showed respect to everyone, whether it was the press, fans who stopped him at the airport, donors or somebody out in the hall way. He was humble Fancy Gap Frank, and he set out to fix what was wrong. His only major failing was his loyalty to friends, and after a number of disappointing seasons, then athletic director Dave Braine essentially told him to fire some of his friends and bring in better coaches, or he would be shown the door. Frank did what needed to be done.

The next year, the bowl streak started, which was a big deal for those of us who had a couple of Peach Bowls to show for the last 20 years of being a fan. In 1995, Jim Druckenmiller and company made it all the way to the Sugar Bowl, but ESPN’s Lee Corso consistently said the Hokies had no chance against Texas. We weren’t a brand name and had no place in even being in the bowl. Texas fans bemoaned the notion they had to play a no-name like Virginia Tech. The game had the worst slot of all the major bowl games: New Year’s Eve at 8 PM.

Then, after trailing 10-0, Frank and the Hokies beat Texas 28-10. Corso even had to apologize the next day and admit the Hokies were for real. My daughter was 8 months old, and I thought how cool it would be if she one day went to Virginia Tech when they were considered a big-time program.

Back then you couldn’t buy Virginia Tech merchandise such as jackets, coats, etc. in regular stores. The Hokies were not a brand name, so you could buy Oklahoma, Nebraska..even UVA stuff at sporting goods stores. But anything VT was either in the bookstore or nowhere. When the Hokies came back and made the Orange Bowl the next year, jackets by Starter with the unique “square root of 1” VT logo started showing up. Maybe, many of us thought, we’re about to belong.

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Guest — DougJohnson

Yes, my friend, We Belong.

Thank you, Coach Beamer. We Are Virginia Tech.
Sunday, 01 November 2015 17:40
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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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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
Guest — Wade Johnson

Not ready to make that concess...

Nobody is more disappointed than I am, just ask my wife, but I have been to the games and what I see on offense and defense is dif... Read More
Monday, 05 November 2018 08:49
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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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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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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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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In Analyzing Yesterday's News, A Few McChicken Nuggets...

There is no love lost between Virginia Tech and Michigan when it comes to football, and yesterday’s decision by Michigan to opt out of games with the Hokies in 2020 and 2021 will only add to the rancor. After all, the folks in Blacksburg have long had a nickname for the Wolverines: “McChicken”.

This all started many years ago when Virginia Tech started climbing the mountain of gaining national respect in football. Back-to-back appearances in the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl in 1995-96 certainly helped, then a quarterback by the name of Vick pushed them over the top when the Hokies played in the National Championship game.

But during that time, Virginia Tech tried to schedule bigger names, as they have (and still do to a degree) been accused of playing weak non-conference opponents. One team they tried to schedule, and according to various reports repeatedly said they weren’t interested, was Michigan. They WOULD schedule Virginia, but not Virginia Tech. Thus the “McChicken” nickname.

The animosity got worse in 2012 when the teams played in the Sugar Bowl. A late pass to Hokie WR Danny Coale that would have won the game was ruled incomplete despite just about every replay angle showing he caught it (my seats in the Superdome were right in front of the play and I thought the game was over). “Danny Coale caugh the ball” is now a rallying cry for the Hokies; I had the misfortune of flying home after the game seated next to a Michigan fan who was far from gracious, regaling me with stories of just how superior Michigan was to the world.

So Michigan is not exactly on the Virginia Tech Christmas Card list. Mine, either.

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Don't Laugh, You're Probably Just As Superstitious Too

It just occurred to me that I may have to stop writing stuff for this site for another week or two.

It's because I am extremely superstitious when it comes to sports (don’t laugh, you know you are too). Around mid-April, the Caps were down 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, every time I mentioned them something bad happened to them, and I stopped. They rebounded, won the series with Columbus, then Pittsburgh, then Tampa Bay.

So Friday, believing the curse was over, I started posting regularly again.

Then the Caps lost Monday night.

I realize the actions of one old man in Ashburn Farm should not have any effect on the play of a dozen or more professional athletes from all over the world who are doing battle 2,000 miles away. But sports fans are not always given to rational thought.

And I’m not alone in this regard.

I, for example, know whether my favorite team won or lost when I was wearing just about every shirt or jersey I own. If I eat a particular meal and one of my teams has a big win, I eat the same meal before the next big game. If I get up and go in the kitchen for a particular soft drink or snack and I come back and my team has hit a home run, scored a touchdown, gotten a goal, etc….I go back and get another when that teams needs a big play.

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I Really Don't Like The 1st 4 Games Of VT's Football Schedule

Today, Virginia Tech announced the exact times of its first four football games. And I until I looked at them, I never quite realized how much I don’t like the Hokies’ 2018 schedule.

If you will look to your left in the first column, there’s a block that says “On Deck” where I type in all the schedules of the area teams and sports I’m interested in: The Redskins, Nationals, Caps, Wizards, NASCAR, Virginia Tech football, Virginia Tech basketball, and the football schedules of the three main Ashburn schools including Stone Bridge, Broad Run and Briar Woods. That column shows you by day what’s coming up in the next few days, or if you want to see a specific team, or the entire month, you can just go to the menu and click on “Calendar.”

It’s an entirely self-serving exercise that allows me to check the site every morning, see what’s on the schedule, and know whether it’s going to be a good sports TV day/night, or whether it’s a good day for yard work, grocery shopping or running errands. The calendar program allows me to import items in mass, which I do for the bigger ones that are from 82 to 162 games. But since they include ads and a bunch of other junk I don’t necessarily want, I hand key in the smaller ones like football and college basketball schedules.

It was while doing this that I realized Virginia Tech’s schedule starts out fine, with a nationally televised Labor Day game against Florida State. But then the next three are potential “trap” games, and could set a direction for not only the season, but Justin Fuente’s coaching tenure at Virginia Tech.

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