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"You'll Start All 11 Games Unless You Break A Leg"

Bruce Arians had a place in Virginia Tech football history even before he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over Kansas City this past weekend.

From 1983-88, Arians, a former Tech quarterback, was the head coach at Temple, where his 1986 team finished 6-5.

That included a 29-13 victory over the Hokies in the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk.

At the same time, Tech was looking for a successor to head football coach Bill Dooley, who also had served as Tech's athletic director. Reports of possible recruiting violations had led Tech president William Lavery to replace Dooley.

Dooley was succeeded as AD by Dutch Baughman, whose first choice to succeed Dooley as coach was Bobby Ross, who had resigned as head coach at Maryland.  

Frank Beamer and Ross were the two finalists. Arians had interviewed Dec. 18 and removed his name from consideration three days later.

He had a 21-39 record in six seasons at Temple and later served as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and Mississippi State. He was an assistant for six different NFL teams, including Kansas City, the team his Tampa Bay squad team defeated Sunday in the Super Bowl.

Arians had a checkered career as a Virginia Tech player, where he passed for a total of 1,270 yards and six touchdowns from 1972-74 and only led the Hokies in passing once, when he passed for 952 yards and three touchdowns in 1974.

That was the Hokies' first season under head coach Jimmy Sharpe, a protégé of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

After losing their first four games, the Hokies travelled to South Carolina, where they won 31-17. The next week, they headed to Virginia.

Arians, who was in his fifth year at Tech, had never played in a Tech-UVa game until Sharpe took over as coach.

Arians referred to it as "the biggest game of my life."

If so, it probably ranks no higher than No. 2 at this point.

After falling behind 28-14 in the 1974 Tech-UVa game, the Hokies cut the deficit to 28-27 on an 11-yard  touchdown pass from Arians to Martinsville's Ricky Scales with no time remaining.

That was followed by a two-point option attempt by Arians, who followed fullback George Heath's block into --or at least toward -- the end zone.

In the book 'Hoos 'N' Hokies The Rivalry, it is noted that officials gathered for some time but never gave a signal following the two-point conversion.

"It's still a very vivid memory for me," said Arians during an interview in 1995. "It's like it happened yesterday. I was lying in the end zone, my waist was on the goal-line and, all around me, I could hear my teammates cheering."

Arians subsequently got into coaching, serving (as mentioned above) as an assistant at Mississippi State and Alabama (under Bear Bryant) and did not hesitate to praise Sharpe.

"Jimmy said, 'Come on out for the spring and, if you still can't make it, I'll get you a high-school job,' " Arians related. "I said, 'Shoot, I've got nothing to lose but 20 pounds.'  I went back after two weeks and asked, 'What's the deal?'

"He said, 'You're the captain of the team. You're the starting quarterback. You'll start all 11 games unless you break a leg. It was a dream come true for me."

-- Doug Doughty

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Friday, 26 February 2021
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