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There Are Some Hokie Memories That Just Last Forever

I have to admit, I’m getting tired of all the negative Virginia Tech stories. I understand they need to be written, and I’ve written several myself. But it’s a rainy Wednesday that’s probably going to turn into a rainy Thursday, so I’m ready to read something positive.

As noted in a previous post, I was digging through the basement for some old newspaper clips involving Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall last night. Having found what I was looking for, I returned to the basement this morning to put them away. In the box I was returning these artifacts to was the program you see to the right.

Which sparked one of the greatest Hokie memories I’ll ever have.

That game back in 1995 wasn’t one filled with joy and anticipation. My wife and I had sat out in the rain the previous week against Cincinnati, a miserable contest where Virginia Tech didn’t even score. They were 0-2 after losing to Boston College in the opener, and there were even grumbles in the car driving to Lane Stadium that we may have wasted a bunch of money for these season tickets if they were going to continue playing like this.

As history will note, the Hokies bounced back in this game, beat Miami, and would not lose the rest of the season, winning 10 straight and culminating in a program-defining win over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

But that’s not what made the day special.

As I noted in a different story the other day, the world was not only given the likes of Chase Elliot in 1995, but also received a beautiful baby girl born to a single mother in Eastern North Carolina. She would later become our daughter, but it was not without some legal issues that made for more than a few sleepless nights for my wife and I. We had hired a lawyer to help us get through all these issues, and as we were driving from High Point, NC to Blacksburg, my Leroy Jethro Gibbs-style Motorola Startac flip phone rang.

We were on I-77 closing in on the North Carolina/Virginia line, and it was the attorney. She had good news, explaining that the last of the paperwork had been completed Friday, and everything was in order so that Monday morning, we could go get our new daughter and bring her home with us.

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There Is ONE Good Thing About All The Unrest In VT Athletics

While things are not a lot of fun these days in Blacksburg, there is one good thing about all the unrest around Virginia Tech athletics: You get to hear from all your old Hokie friends.

They all want to know the same thing. What the heck is going on?

Then there are the two friends I’ve known since my freshman year: Bob and Doug. The three of us have seen every twist and turn there has been involving Virginia Tech. Bob and I drove 12 hours to New Orleans to see Michael Vick and the Hokies in the national championship game. Doug and I flew to Chicago, rented a car and drove to South Bend to see Virginia Tech play Notre Dame for the very first time.

We’ve followed the Hokies for so long, we’ve gone from being able to fit in those narrow seats in Cassell Coliseum (it was actually just the Virginia Tech Coliseum for a couple of years before being renamed for Stuart Cassell) to growing to the point of being uncomfortable in those seats, to now seeing Hokie leadership show some compassion and just make the seats bigger.

We’ve seen coaches fired, coaches hired, buildings built, crushing defeats, and wins that made us disturb the neighbors with our celebrations. We’ve followed the Hokies through divorces, deaths of friends and family, and a variety of moves by the three of us to different parts of the country.

Together, we’ve seen fire and rain.

So it was no surprise I heard from Bob yesterday. It was his question I found unusual.

“Just wanted to check in on you and make sure you’re OK,” Bob said.

Why would you be concerned about that? I replied.

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I Don't Think We Should Be Considering Amputation. Yet.

It’s highly unusual I write on any subject for three days in a row. But I keep seeing this sentiment of “Fire Fuente” on social media, and I just have to address it in more than a couple hundred characters.

First, I understand the emotion to get on the phones and ask fans for millions of dollars to make a change.

Second, it’s a really bad idea.

I will acknowledge that Saturday’s game moved me from the “Fuente can be a good long-term coach for Virginia Tech” to “He’s never going to be more than a C-minus kind of guy in Blacksburg." But we’re like a patient who has finally realized their knee has been torn up so bad over the years, something needs to be done to possibly return it to the form of younger years.

The first step is not to amputate it.

You’re also calling for people to give money in the middle of a pandemic where discretionary funds are historically at their lowest in most households. It’s also 6 weeks before Christmas. You're going to ask people to skip out on buying a few extra presents for family so they can throw a few C-notes into a fund to hire someone you don’t even know who it is?

That’s the problem with these kinds of things. When the phone rang back in the early 2000s asking for some money to make sure we had a pot of gold to keep Frank Beamer from going to Alabama, my answer was an immediate yes. I knew what I was getting for my money: An established coach who loved Virginia Tech, had recruiting connections in every high school in the state and had just played for a national championship in the last few years.

I mean, who wouldn’t say yes to that?

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Recent Comments
Steven Wade

Patience

It’s all we have!
Monday, 09 November 2020 16:28
Dave Scarangella

It's not a strength, however o...

Particularly my Hokies
Monday, 09 November 2020 17:25
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With The Way Things Are Going, Do The Hokies Have A Plan B?

Back in 2018, you could see the beginnings of a worst-case nightmare emerging for Virginia Tech athletics.

Whit Babcock had been hailed as some sort of wunderkind athletic director, based mainly on two hires: basketball coach Buzz Williams, and a year later, football coach Justin Fuente. Buzz quickly got to work, winning 20 games in his second season, and Fuente got off to a similar fast start, coaching mostly Frank Beamer’s recruits to a 10-4 record, a division title, and a narrow loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game.

The future looked bright, and Babcock got a disproportionate share of the credit. “In Whit We Trust” people were saying, and it was because their superstar AD had righted the ship and was going to lead the Hokie athletic program to heights never before seen.

Whit was personable, good behind a mic, and clearly loved the spotlight. He was a spender and a big-picture guy who much preferred talking about building new facilities and hiring new coaches. Rolling up his sleeves and figuring out a way to fix the Hokie Club website to make it more user friendly for people wanting to give money, or increase the strength of the WiFi at Lane Stadium to attract younger fans, were not as interesting to him.

Of course, he didn’t have to do it himself. He just had to make it a priority and assign it to someone else and hold them accountable. And as long as the two pillar sports of fundraising – football and basketball – kept winning, it didn’t matter. Whit hired them and if needed, he’d hire more good coaches. If something went wrong, by God, Whit would figure it out.

In Whit We Trust, after all.

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My Advice To The Hokies Would Be "Just Win, Baby"

When it was scheduled, I’m sure Saturday’s Liberty-Virginia Tech game was expected to be a cupcake. An easy W. A breather on the schedule.

Now – although I expect Virginia Tech to win – it could be a turning point in the program.

I mean, think of it. Imagine if somehow Justin Fuente lost to Old Dominion in 2018. Then lost to UVA in 2019 and ended a 15-game winning streak against their state rivals while being the first time Virginia Tech had ever lost to UVA as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Now imagine completing the hat trick – and losing to Liberty in 2020.

That would be tough for even the most positive of Hokie supporters to swallow.

I don’t expect it to happen. But one of the two teams is ranked in the top 25 and it’s not the boys from Blacksburg. Virginia Tech has better athletes and a high-powered offense. But it also has a defense that makes mistakes and misses assignments, like when they did so with 8 seconds left in the first half against Louisville and Javion Hawkins went 90 yards for a touchdown.

Liberty, conversely, has an offense that is averaging 38 points a game. In it’s last 3 games, it has scored 40, 38 and 56. Against fellow ACC member Syracuse, Liberty handed off to Shedro Louis on one play and he hit the hole quickly, continuing straight up the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown. Content to show it was not a fluke, Louis would later do the same thing on a 52-yard touchdown run against the Orange.

I’m not saying he’ll do that against the Hokies. But if there’s confusion by linebackers or in the secondary, Liberty has the weapons to go where you’re not and turn a routine run into a long scoring play. Doesn’t matter if all the teams you beat have only 4 total wins, or how many 4 star athletes you have.

Make a mistake and speed kills. Liberty has it.

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Perhaps It's Time To Recalibrate Our Expectations For Hokie Football

­­­­Mornings after a Virginia Tech loss in football are never warm, inviting situations, and last night’s defeat at the hands of Wake Forest is no different.

But this Sunday morning does seem different. Sort of a fork in the road when it comes to the potential of head coach Justin Fuente.

No, not the kind of fork that leads to people gathering up torches and pitchforks to ride him out of town on a rail. Or a hollow pledge to stop watching Hokie sports. Or refrain from donating money to Hokie athletics.

We are who we are as Hokies. My blood type will always be part Chicago Maroon and another part Burnt Orange. For good or bad, I’ve been a Hokie since the first day I walked on the campus as a high school senior in 1973, and will remain one until I draw my last breath.

That’s not going to change.

But last night’s game has caused me to admit I might have been too optimistic about Fuente’s ability to lead the program back to the heights Frank Beamer had scaled in Blacksburg. Doesn’t mean Fuente's a bad coach, as no other coach in Virginia Tech’s program got the team in the top 10 as often or in a national championship game either.

But Fuente has had an issue with discipline with his teams from his very first season. For years, we’ve made excuses, saying he needs more time to get his own players in the program. Or that he needs to get his own coaches. Or it takes time to learn his system. Seems like there’s always a reason that when things go bad, folks believe just being patient for a few more years will solve everything.

But it’s now year 5. These are his players. These are his coaches. And these results – like last night’s loss to Wake Forest – are ultimately on him. For many years, people would say you win championships with good “D”, and they were referring to defense. Now it means discipline, and it’s something that continues to plague Fuente’s teams.

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Hokies-Liberty Leads Off Noon College Football Games

I have an old friend who has been telling me for 45 years that if you're not prepared, you're dead.

So since I don't want to see anybody mortally wounded for not properly preparing for a big Saturday of college football watching, here's a list of every game to be played and includes where it will be televised. By my count, every game except one - Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic - can be seen somewhere.

Here's the list. First part is the noon games, and if you click on "continue reading" you'll see the rest of the list: 

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MASN Will Be Showing Wake-VT at 3:30 Saturday

Just about every time Virginia Tech is scheduled to play on a Regional Sports Network (RSN), it is virtually guaranteed that all week long, people will either ask whose carrying the game in their viewing area, and some will even fret that somehow the game won’t be shown at all where they live.

This week will be no different, as the Hokies’ 3:30 PM game with Wake Forest Saturday is scheduled for an RSN. That usually means NBC Sports Washington, but they are devoting eight hours of programming to “Trackside Live” that Saturday, and their second channel is focusing on the wonderful adventures of kickboxing and MMA that afternoon as well.

Fortunately, this area in Northern Virginia has a second regional sports network, and the people who brought you every minute of the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals – The Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) - will also be showing Virginia Tech-Wake Forest.

On Comcast/Xfinity, the HD channel is 845. MASN is also channel 640 on Directv, channel 432 on Dish Network and Channel 577 for HD on Verizon Fios.

You’re welcome 😊

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With Apologies To Springsteen, This Team Was Born To Run

It wasn’t the kind of game that left you beating your chest and screaming at the world “See? We’re really good!”

But Virginia Tech’s win over Boston College last night showed a few intriguing statistics that could serve warning that this year’s Hokie team might just break its string of underperforming seasons under Justin Fuente and be surprisingly good.

Everyone knew the defense would be suspect – and it lived up to that billing last night – but there’s also been a hope if the Hokies got the right people in the right seats on the bus on offense, one unit could offset the growing pains of the other and have a special season.

Which is sort of what happened last night.

Fuente – who must have been doing it just to aim a middle finger at me for last week suggesting it was dumb to win the toss yet defer to the second half so that suspect defense could be on the field immediately – did it again last night, and BC obliged, easily moving the ball down the field. Fortunately, they held on to the football as effectively as I exercise, and an early BC fumble prevented VT from starting a game behind. Again.

Enter Hendon Hooker as the rightful starting QB and Khalil Herbert, who Fuente actually remembered to use in the first quarter this week. Those two must have been channeling Bruce Springsteen in the tunnel before the game while humming “We gotta get out while we're young…`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

Each carried 18 times. According to Hokiesports.com, Hooker gained 166 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. Herbert gained 146 yards, for 7.9 yards per carry, so that duo had 36 carries and between them averaged 8.7 yards per carry. A dog with a note in his mouth can call plays when you can give the ball to either of two players and you average that kind of yardage.

Which is what gives me such hope about the season. Fuente is allegedly a quarterback whisperer who excels in the passing game. But the strength of this year’s team is a huge, talented offensive line and several great runners, and at times it seems like Fuente resists that gift, wanting to call frequent pass plays, probably because that’s his comfort zone.

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Recent comment in this post
LT Banks

run baby run

good analysis on O&D; good hope and projection; HH improve passing, backups continue to prep; no need to apologize to BS, he may f... Read More
Sunday, 18 October 2020 15:48
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Another Old Geezer Tale Of Back In The Day....

Since we all have a lot of spare time on our hands, I find myself thinking a lot. Like of all my 64 years, what was the best year of my life.

I’m not talking about the year that had the best events happen in your life. I mean, the year I got married was a great one. The year my daughter was born is another. Last year around November when the Nats won the World Series AND an adorable beagle/hound mix came home with me one Saturday was pretty sweet.

But best year? Probably 1974.

I started that year as a high school senior. I finished the year after one quarter as a freshman at Virginia Tech.

What made it so great? Well, those last months of being a senior in high school were very cool. Long-lasting friendships were made. We walked around the halls of Lake Taylor High School like we owned the place. There was the prom. Graduation. A summer like no other as we prepared ourselves to finally be free of the shackles our parents had placed on us. It was going to be great.

Once there, I would say those first couple of months shaped who I became as an adult. Curfews? We didn’t have any stinkin’ curfews. If we wanted to stay out until 5 AM, so be it. We were free.

But a funny thing happened on the way to all this freedom. One Saturday night, after several Fridays and Saturdays where it seemed we were staying out until 4 AM just for the sake of staying out until 4 AM, I decided I wanted to go to bed at midnight. I was scoffed at as being a lightweight, but I soon learned freedom involved the freedom to do what I wanted to do. And, I decided, I like to sleep.

As any college student encounters, there was no longer a parent waiting at the door when you came in 30 seconds before curfew to ask “have you been drinking?” So we drank. A lot. As the musical group Big & Rich once sang, we “drank enough to drown.” But after a couple of weeks of this, I tired of waking up with a bad headache due to a few calls to Ralph on the big white porcelain phone in the middle of the night.

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With Each Day, Seems We Lose More Sports Heroes Of My Youth

One of my oldest friends is a guy named Tim, and the last two days have bought back memories of a wonderful spring in 1978. Unfortunately, the memories have been rekindled because of the passing of key sports figures of that time.

“Our class is graduating,” I always say to Tim, as with each year it seems like people we knew have passed away.

One was Wes Unseld, who passed away Monday at the age of 74. It does not seem that long ago that Tim and I were long-haired students at Virginia Tech (much like we were last week until the barber shops opened again) and we were at his apartment, watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

For weeks we had heard that “The Opera Isn’t Over ‘Til The Fat Lady Sings” thanks to Bullets Coach Dick Motta, but we knew that day somebody would be singing. We watched on Tim’s 19-inch color television with no remote control and no cable (and don’t get me started on no computers or internet) but in our caveman-like accommodations, we were able to see that the Bullets had a slim 101-99 lead and the Seattle Supersonics had just fouled Unseld.

Back then, Wes was an incredible rebounder, but he shot free throws like I dance: not that well and not that often. He had only hit 55 percent of his free throws all season, but Wes was one of those players who just always seemed to get the job done when needed the most. He hit both free throws, and a few seconds later Norfolk State alum Bobby Dandridge slammed home a dunk and the Bullets won the deciding Game 7 105-99. Unseld would be named the Finals MVP.

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