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"Everybody Appreciated His Integrity & Honesty The Most"

Long before Florida State joined the ACC in 1990, then-Seminoles football coach Bobby Bowden had become aware of one of his future conference rivals.

Decades earlier, Bowden was the football coach at West Virginia when the Mountaineers played Virginia in 1972

Of those two, only UVa was an ACC member at the time. Bowden, who died earlier this week at 91, was the Seminoles' head coach from 1976-2009.

Surprisingly, he was named ACC coach of the year only twice despite such accomplishments as opening conference play with 29 straight wins, posting a record 173 conference victories, and winning or sharing nine ACC championships.

Four separate Virginia head coaches -- George Welsh, Al Groh, Mike London and Bronco Mendenhall -- have beaten Florida State once. Nobody from UVa has done it twice.

UVa's biggest win in the series was in 1995, when a Cavaliers team led by George Welsh upset then-No. 2 Florida State 33-28 in Charlottesville.

As a coach, Groh's only victory over FSU was in 2005 in Charlottesville.

"It was the same year that they had the anniversary of the '95 game," Groh said in a phone interview this week. "It was kind of ironic that both those wins in Charlottesville occurred with that same team in place, one time as participants and another time as honorees."

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College Notebook: Cavanaugh Remembers Bobby Bowden

In nearly 40 years as a college football coach, including stops at five different ACC programs, it's no wonder that Jim Cavanaugh had some thoughts on the passing of distinguished former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

"It's funny,"said Cavanaugh, who spent most of his career under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. "I coached against [Bowden] when he was at West Virginia and Florida State. He knew who I was but he knew me more as Chuck's friend."

When Cavanaugh was on the staff at N.C. State, one of his colleagues was Chuck Amato, twice the assistant head coach at Florida State sandwiched around his six-year tenure as the head coach at State.

"I coached against [Bowden] on both sides of the ball, on offense when I was at N.C. State and North Carolina, and then defense at Tech," Cavanaugh said.

'The ol' boy could recruit. He had good players, and I'll tell you this: they played hard. He also had a great staff, too, now. I think, sometimes, that gets lost in the shuffle with some of these big-time guys. They could coach 'em up, too, now."

Cavanaugh worked at so many places that it's hard to remember, but he does remember a stint at Maryland and going up against a Bowden-coached West Virginia team.

Bowden got to Florida State in 1976 and Maryland left the ACC in 2015.

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Thank you, Chris Davis, For All Of The Memories...

As an Orioles fan, you would think that Chris Davis’ retirement would bring me eternal joy.

You’d think that Davis’ decision, which the Orioles announced on Thursday, would be reason to celebrate. I mean, Davis’ seven-year, $161 million contract has largely been a disaster, and for an organization in full rebuild mode, getting that money off the books will go a long way.

You’d think that I’d be happy. But in reality, Davis’ retirement makes me quite sad.

I’m sad because from 2012 to 2016, Davis was a linchpin in the Buck Showalter run of success. After floundering in Texas for a few seasons, Davis emerged in Baltimore as one of the best power bats in all of baseball. Over those five seasons, Davis slugged 197 home runs and led the American League in bombs on two separate occasions.

His 53 homers in 2013 and 47 homers in 2015 not only led the junior circuit but enshrined Davis as one of the best power hitters to ever wear an Orioles uniform. His 53 homers in 2013 are also the most in Orioles’ history for a single season.

Davis was reliable and productive. His glove improved too in Baltimore, making him one of the best first baseman in baseball during that time span.

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Tonight's The Night: Hokies To Watch During NFL Preseason

For fans hungry to watch their favorite pro football team, the preseason begins tonight for most of the NFL, and when the games begin, Virginia Tech will be well represented.

Currently, there are 25 former Virginia Tech players on NFL rosters. This year, there will be a few more guys playing significant roles than there have been recently – especially given the program’s impressive representation in the 2021 NFL Draft.

From VT To WFT

The Washington Football Team has rostered a few Hokies for the past few seasons, and although the faces have slightly changed, the WFT will still have more than its share of Virginia Tech players. Kendall Fuller remains one of their starting cornerbacks, while Logan Thomas (who recently received a three-year, $24 million extension with the team) is their top tight end (No. 82 at right).

Tim Settle will be one of their second-team defensive tackles for the third consecutive season, and Justus Reed (an undrafted rookie) has joined him this offseason as a reserve defensive lineman.

Cornerback/part-time kick returner Greg Stroman is also on Washington’s roster for the fourth year, but he is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

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ODU Football Notebook: New Players Making Their Mark

(Photo Courtesy Of Old Dominion Sports)
Levi Wentz (11) Has Shown Exceptional Speed At Linebacker

Under a blazing Norfolk summer sun, Old Dominion has completed its first few practices on the march towards the Monarchs' September 3rd opener at Wake Forest. A few things of note that have happened thus far near the corner of Powhatan and West 43rd:

Bly Making Good on Last Name

During the first practice last Thursday, freshman receiver Jordan Bly made a spectacular catch from Hayden Wolff, as a 40-yard pass to Bly was juggled and almost intercepted before Bly came down on his back with the ball.

After making some great strides during spring camp, Bly has continued to impress and was on the second team taking kick returns as well.

“He had a great practice,” head coach Ricky Rahne said after the first session last Thursday. “He plays with some confidence and I’m excited about how he went out there and for him, it’s always going to be about what kind of confidence he plays with because he certainly is a talented player and I think he can help us this year.”

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Barno Heads Up A Defense That Could Be Surprisingly Good

The 2020 college football season was full of things most fans are still trying to forget.

Chiefly among them was limited to zero fans in the stands.

Experiencing a player’s performance while in the stadium is entirely different than watching it on television or streaming it on your smartphone or computer. So when it comes to this season, I’m excited for people to have the opportunity to watch Virginia Tech’s players in person.

Amare Barno is one of those players, and Virginia Tech fans came close to never witnessing him play in person, which would have been an outright shame.

Barno is probably the most talented edge rusher to wear a Virginia Tech uniform since the mid-to-late 2000s. The Hokies have had some good ones since then — James Gayle, Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem come to mind — but none of them had the ceiling that Barno does.

That potential almost landed Barno in the NFL Draft this spring, but Barno ultimately decided to return to Virginia Tech and try and improve his draft stock. Barno’s return is a godsend for the Hokies, who have enough talent on the defensive front to make a difference on gamedays.

Barno plays a large role in that — the JUCO transfer registered 6.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 11 games in 2020, leading the Tech pass rush. His speed and length off the edge makes him someone that opposing coordinators will have to scheme heavily against each week.

But alongside Barno are some talented players with a chance to break out. Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks both return at defensive tackle, as does Josh Fuga. Clemson transfer Jordan Williams is in the mix there as well, giving Tech a solid two-deep that allows defensive line coaches Bill Teerlinck and JC Price to keep their interior players fresh.

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Who Will Start At Quarterback For Old Dominion Sept. 3?

For the first time in two years, ODU will see the field when the Monarchs travel to Wake Forest to open their season on September 3rd.

But first, there's fall camp, and the biggest question being asked after the two session that have been open to the media is this: “Who will start at QB?”

(Photo Courtesy Of Old Dominion Sports)
Hayden Wolff

UCF transfer D.J. Mack, redshirt freshman Hayden Wolff, and senior Stone Smartt are the three QBs vying for the job. Coming into camp, I thought it would be Mack, but so far Wolff has shown more promise, even without the mobility of Mack, or Smartt.

Mack has shown flashes of why some think he may be the starter, especially in the play-action game. But Wolff benefits from having been here, as he is a standard pocket-passer who can run when needed, though not to the level of Mack or Smartt.

“Coach (Kirk) Campbell has done a really nice job of rotating them (QBs),” Old Dominion head coach Ricky Rahne remarked. “It’s been one of those things where they have each made an impression and each has to keep going."

"We are still at least a week, maybe a week and a half away from deciding,” Rahne said about the quarterbacks. “Right now they are doing a good job and we are very much in the process.”

Smartt was the starter much of 2019 when ODU went 1-11, but couldn't break out that season and grab the reins as Wolff started three games, and Smartt shared time with Messiah deWeaver.

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Extending Whit's Contract A Deal That Needed To Be Done

It’s not a huge secret that I’m not one of Whit Babcock’s biggest fans.

But today’s decision to extend the Virginia Tech Athletic Director’s contract through 2029 is an absolute no-brainer in my mind. It needed to be done.

That's because these are strange and interesting time in college athletics. With the looming specter of COVID in the background, I don’t think anyone can say for sure what’s going to happen one month from now, let alone 5 years from now. I’m sitting here in my office right now, with two tickets to a football game with North Carolina only 25 days from now.

I’m not 100 percent sure I’ll go. Or if it will even be played.

All because of COVID.

On top of that, the subject of conference realignment has come back from the dead like Lazarus, as  Oklahoma and Texas are supposedly leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025 if not sooner. This supposedly will start a string of domino-like moves that could blow up the college football landscape as we know it, with teams changing conferences and maybe even breaking away from the NCAA.

The smart play in both of these is to have an experienced AD at the helm to navigate the proper course. As Ricky LaBlue wrote in this story, Whit hasn’t been perfect, but he’s done a lot of good things. He knows the lay of the land, he has assembled a team around him, and no school wants to be dealing with a brand new person driving the bus when all hell possibly breaks lose in college sports in 2025.

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Virginia Tech Extends Babcock's Contract Through 2029

True to its historical modus operandi, Virginia Tech once again valued continuity and stability in the athletic department when the university extended director of athletics Whit Babcock Monday.

The extension, which inks Babcock until June 2029, heightens the probability that Babcock will select Virginia Tech’s next head football coach.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Excluding football for a moment, Babcock has mostly made excellent coaching hires since arriving in Blacksburg in 2014. The list is actually quite extensive.

We can start with the men’s basketball program, where Babcock has made two hires already. Buzz Williams elevated the basketball program in true mercenary fashion, coaching the Hokies to consecutive NCAA Tournament bids (including a Sweet 16 appearance) before bolting for more money in a bigger conference. Babcock then hired NRV native Mike Young, who pushed the Hokies back into the NCAA Tournament in just his second season.

Then there’s Kenny Brooks, who’s headed the women’s basketball program since March 2016 and won 63 percent of games he’s coached. Brooks’ team made their first NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.

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Is Jordy Mercer Beginning a New Chapter in Baseball?

No matter what people tell you, Jordy Mercer knows baseball.

Admittedly, I’m in the minority who has consistently believed that Mercer belongs on Washington’s roster. He’s similar to the team’s backup infielders in past seasons. Stephen Drew’s presence from 2016–17 immediately comes to mind.

While he shouldn’t be asked to play much, Mercer is a dependable option off the bench or as a starter once or twice per week – not to mention as a leader in the dugout.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that Mercer (who turns 35 years old later this month) no longer merits much playing time in the big leagues, which puts him at a crossroad. Does he want to be a clubhouse presence off the bench, or is it time to acknowledge that he has no real future as a player?

Mercer was a nearly forgotten member of the Nationals roster earlier this summer. However, as the organization has battled COVID-19 during the last couple weeks, and since the departure of Kyle Schwarber at the Trade Deadline, Mercer has been serving as manager Dave Martinez’s unofficial bench coach.

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Gray And Adams Are A Reminder Of What Matters In 2021

Having witnessed a game in which young players like Josiah Gray and Riley Adams stole the show, the DC community should also be reminded of what’s important for the next two months.

Don’t let the potentially poor production of Gerardo Parra and Alcides Escobar cloud your opinion of the Nationals. The young players are who matter, whether they produce enough to win games or not.

Whenever he’s on the mound, that starts with Josiah Gray.

The second start the 23-year-old made for the Nationals was better than his first – which was impressive in its own right. Against a Braves team that features some intimidating hitters (even with Ronald Acuña Jr. on the Injured List), Gray struck out 10 batters and allowed only four hits over five innings.

Sure, we can all argue that Dave Martinez should let Gray pitch into the sixth inning, but that’s not the point. Any double-digit strikeout performance from a rookie pitcher is worth getting excited about.

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

Stephen Newman

Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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