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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.
That’s why I think this is a fork in the road for Virginia Tech football. Win this and the team goes to 5-2 with a nice season possible. Lose it and the barbarians will be at the gates.
This has happened before. Back in 1976, the Hokies were in their third year with Jimmy Sharpe, and after a 4-7 first year, they went 8-3 in his second. People were happy, and they just barely missed a bowl bid. Then in 1976, Virginia Tech was 6-2 (including a win over UVA) and with a sweep of the final 3 games, would probably get the bowl game bid they had narrowly missed the year before.
But the Hokies lost to a Tulsa team that would collapse down the stretch and only win one of its final 4 games in 1976. The next week, the Hokies were shutout by Richmond, and then finished the season losing its third in a row, dropping a 28-21 decision to Florida State. Both Richmond and Florida State finished the year with losing records.
Nobody knew it at the time, but that Tulsa game was the fork in the road for Sharpe. They kept the losing streak going the next season, losing 3 more in a row. A win against William and Mary and a 14-14 tie to UVA in a year where the Wahoos would only win one game all season long, was followed by 4 more straight losses. Confidence in Sharpe was gone. He was fired at the end of the season.
I’m not saying any of this will happen with Fuente. But much of the fanbase seems to have a certain “of course we’ll beat them” feeling about the game, and that’s dangerous. Liberty has weapons. Strange things can happen.
So for Fuente, it’s Al Davis time. Just win, baby. All will be cool.
Don’t win, and as we all saw back in 1976, the fork in the road can take you to a place you don’t want to go.