Dialing Long Distance
by Jim Alderson, 10/3/01

It is no longer still September, and the Tech football team can now turn its attention to what, even if our esteemed Athletic Director is able to line up the AFC East for an OOC (certainly the NFC East wouldn’t be much of an improvement), will remain the most important portion of the schedule, the conference games. Life is about to get tougher.

September went as expected, with the Hokies pounding inferior opposition into submission. Western Michigan and Central Florida are what they are, decent teams seriously hamstrung by who they are (unless the direction in a team’s name is also the name of their state, they are going to have a problem) and where they make their conference home, or in UCF’s case, where they do not, although the Golden Knights can take pride in their probably being the best Independent around. As for Rutgers and UConn: gee, wouldn’t you have found it thrilling to be among the lucky few who got to observe that display of gridiron ineptitude last Saturday?

With the possible exception of Temple, where they seem to be reacting to their pending I-AA classification by electing to play as if they were already there (Owl recruiting, never exactly Canes-like to begin with, has now been officially flushed - anybody care to hazard a guess as to how bad they will be by 2004?), every team remaining on Tech’s schedule is better than what the Hokies have already blasted.

That begins Saturday at Mountaineer Field, where the newly energized 'Eer faithful await with bated and rabid breath. A packed house of some of the most vociferous fans in the business will present this Tech team with their first true test in front of a hostile crowd (a lot of adjectives can be used to describe the Rutgers crowd, none of them hostile, except maybe to their own team after the UConn debacle) who have grown rather weary of Tech’s domination of this border war to the tune of three straight, six out of seven and nine out of twelve. And while Tech, if they play close to their potential, should win this year’s Coal Bowl, the memories of ' 99, when the Hokies did not play up to snuff, lurks in the background. This would be a most opportune time for a repeat of last year’s ECU game, when Tech ended all suspense very early (standing in the upper deck last year of dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at halftime watching all of that purple stream towards the parking lot was a heartwarming experience) and swat aside any hope of a WVU upset.

The Tech team is undefeated following their month-long cakewalk, but the rest of the schedule is composed mostly of teams with coaches who have spent some time studying Tech’s defense as well as more than a few hours contemplating the special teams havoc Beamerball can create and are not nearly as likely to be caught as flat-footed as Mike Kruczek. While it may seem odd to be saying this about a team that has scored 179 points in four games, the offense is going to have to step it up. Andre Davis is too valuable an offensive commodity to be used only returning punts and downfield blocking.

Some continue to claim that Beamer and Bustle should throw in the towel on the season and insert Bryan Randall at quarterback. Coaches of undefeated teams are not quick to write off successful seasons, which is exactly what starting Randall would amount to. While all of the playing true freshmen have provided glimpses of how good the Tech team can be in 2003, it remains true that the best thing about freshmen is they eventually become sophomores. Bryan and KJ are giving every indication that they are going to be outstanding players, but they aren’t right now, and what both need the most at this point in their careers is instruction, which they will most assuredly get. Patience is a virtue.

For Tech to continue winning (it should go without saying that the scores are going to get closer), something more than a dink passing game is going to have to be employed, or the offense is going to be seeing some fifteen and sixteen man fronts (put nothing past Elmo). September’s games were used as an opportunity for Grant Noel to gain confidence and experience, and it worked like a charm. It is now time for Grant to kick it up a notch (yes, I am watching Emeril Live). While I certainly wouldn’t mind watching Andre return every punt that is not blocked for a touchdown, the odds of that happening are fairly slim, and I suspect a sizable chunk of practice time this week is being employed working on the deep game. As the Coach has pointed out, they are very close, but this ain’t horseshoes, and a deep passing threat is vital to augment the running game that so contributes to Tech’s success. Grant and Andre, it’s time to hook up.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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