Temple 28, Virginia Tech 24
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 10/17/98

Click here for the game recap with stats

You know the feeling you get when someone you love - a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a child of yours - has done something really stupid, and you're really mad at them? You still love ‘em, but geez, didn't they just screw up big-time, and doesn't it really tick you off?

Well, that's how I feel about my Virginia Tech Hokies today. I still love ‘em, but boy, am I upset with them.

First things first: if you're looking for some sort of explanation of this one, you've come to the wrong place.

There is no sugar-coating this loss. No silver linings, no lessons to be learned, and nothing positive to take away from it. This is an unexpected, shocking, gut-wrenching loss to a team that shouldn't even be able to hold our water bottles on the field of play.

I didn't buy that "Temple can beat us" coach-talk that Coach Beamer was handing out all week long, and I still don't buy it. If you asked me to write my pre-game report again a hundred more times, I would write it exactly the same way, and I wouldn't change a word of it.

When we talk about Temple, we're talking about an injury riddled, 0-6 team that lost to Akron and William and Mary, for crying out loud.

So there's no dressing this one up and making it look pretty. It's a pig. It's an embarrassing, humiliating, train wreck of a game for anyone who pledges allegiance to the orange and maroon.

Kudos to Corey Moore for his post-game comments: "We're the laughing stock of college football right now, and deservedly so." Corey says he doesn't want to be a spokesperson for the team, but when he comes right out and says it plainly and clearly like that, you've got to admire the guy's ability to call it like it is.

Tech should have easily beaten Temple, and they didn't.

Let's peel up the smelly outer layers of this mess and take a look.

How I Found Out

As most of you know, I spent the weekend in Pennsylvania and attended a Penn State game with Mrs. HokieCentral, who is a PSU grad.

The PSU game wasn't until 3:30, and at about 2:00, I found myself wandering around in the Penn State bookstore while Mrs. HokieCentral came up with new and inventive ways to spend our hard-earned money on PSU stuff (and believe me, it's not hard - you think the VT bookstore prices are high? At Penn State, they have a few $15 T-shirts, and from then on, it's all $50 and up. The cheap, cheesy flags that cost you $17.95 at the Tech bookstores are over $30 at the PSU bookstore …and they only have printing on one side!).

They had ESPN on the TV's in the bookstore, and I managed to catch the score of the Tech game just before half time: VT 17, Temple 0, with 2:08 to go in the first half. It was about 2:15 in the afternoon.

Happy and secure in the knowledge that all was going as expected back in the ‘Burg, I went to the Penn State game.

The Nitanny Lions and Purdue Boilermakers teed it up and started playing what would turn out to be an entertaining game. The minutes passed, and with just under two minutes go in the first quarter, at approximately 4:05 p.m., the Penn State PA announcer came on the microphone and said …

"Scores of other games … these are all finals … Temple, 28…."

(and my brain said, "Well, why in the world would he announce the losing score first? And how did Temple score 28 points on us?")

" … Virginia Tech 24."

I can tell you what disaster sounds like. It makes the same sound as 96,000 Penn State fans gasping audibly, with a handful of them clapping. And it's followed a split second later by the plopping sound of the HokieCentral webmaster's head falling into his hands. That's what disaster sounds like.

I stayed like that for about a minute, and even after taking my head out of my hands and straightening back up, I was in total shock for about ten minutes. I kept thinking, "Maybe it's not a final, maybe he got it backwards, maybe…."

And then I thought, "No, it's Penn State. They know what they're doing here. He got it right. The Hokies lost. To Temple."

So that's my story. What's yours?

The Game

I received a request from a far-away fan to post a game report, because he said that he hadn't read the on-line articles, he didn't know much other than the final score, and he wanted to hear what happened from me. Well, my friend, here's what happened:

As expected, the Hokies came out and slapped the Owls silly for a while. On their first six possessions, Temple had 29 yards of offense, and one first down. The Hokie D dominated the Owls, and meanwhile, Tech's offense put up 17 points of their own.

But hidden inside all of this was an offensive series that would provide one of many disasters on this day.

At one point, the Hokies drove to the Temple one-yard line, where Lamont Pegues fumbled the ball away. The Hokies got it right back on a Temple turnover at the Owls' fifteen yard line, but the offense stalled … and Shayne Graham missed a 27-yard field goal. Good snap, good hold, he just missed it. It was three points that would prove to be dearly needed later in the game.

So, with two minutes to go in the first half, we had our comfortable 17 point lead.

But right before half time, Temple pulled off a play that would open Pandora's box. The Owls ripped off an improbable 65-yard screen pass TD that left Hokie observers moaning about multiple missed tackles.

No big deal. The Hokies still had the lead over a really bad team. Just one lucky play, right? Yeah, I wish.

From that point on, the flood gates opened on one of the most bizarre and unexpected defensive collapses in Hokie history. The Owls would proceed to easily put up 21 more points on a Hokie defense that suddenly went to sleep and played like they were stuck in quicksand.

In the third quarter, on their next offensive series, the Owls moved easily downfield on the Hokies, putting together a three-play, 50+ yard drive to score. Right after that, they connected on an 80-yard pass play, torching Loren Johnson in the process, and suddenly, with 9:07 to go in the third quarter, the Hokies were staring at a 21-17 deficit.

The Hokies would recover, but it would be too late.

Tech scored with approximately ten minutes to go in the game on a Lamont Pegues TD run, and the Owls simply shrugged their shoulders, drove down the field, and crammed it down Tech's throat, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with about six minutes left. 28-24, Owls.

Tech's last gasp would come minutes later, in a furious two-minute drill that saw the Hokies drive from their own 7 yard line to the Temple three yard line. By all accounts, Sorensen was masterful on the drive, connecting on every one of his passes, with most or all of them going to Angelo Harrison.

Harrison's last catch was at the three-yard line, where the Hokies faced a second and two. Stith was stuffed on the next run, and on third down, Sorensen dropped back and hit a wide open Ricky Hall in the end zone.

Hall did something he and thousands of Hokie fans will never forget. He dropped it, and then fell to the turf in agony.

On fourth down, Tech tried to run a sweep with Pegues, but having seen the same play on the same situation in an earlier drive, the Owls were all over it. They greeted Pegues at the three yard line in a big flock of hooting football players, and Lamont was pushed harmlessly out of bounds.

Ball game. And the sting of a game that took only three hours to play will now take years and years to fade. Depending upon how the rest of the season goes, this one may stick in our craw for a long, long, long time.

There, are you happy I went over it?

Lessons Learned

You've got to be kidding me. Sure, there are lessons to be learned from this game, but remember, we've been over this territory before. There's not a single lesson to be learned from this game that our team and coaches shouldn't already know from last year's Miami of Ohio game.

After that infamous Miami of Ohio game last year, I sat and thought long and hard, and I came up with what I thought was a pretty good game report. I talked at length about what it meant to lose that game, and what steps the fans, players, and coaches needed to take in order to become a top-level team.

I see no reason to recycle that whole discussion, and I'm sure our coaches and players don't, either. But if you want to take a look, check out last year's Miami of Ohio game report.

As a team, and as a fan base, and as a coaching staff, I think it's obvious that there are still steps we have to take in order to become a perennial Top 10 team. Great teams don't lose at home to winless Temple.

It's a long journey, folks. Very long. We're chipping away at it, bit by bit, and I thought we had made quite a bit of progress this year, most notably with the favorable press we had been receiving at a national level. This Temple game sets us back, that's for sure, but there's nothing you can do but pick up and move on.

I'm as sick as the rest of you, and I'm as sick as the players and coaches are about this. But mostly, I'm sick of thinking about it and talking about it (and boy, did everybody at work want to talk about it!)

Sometimes these things just happen, folks. They shouldn't, but if you sit around and think about the should-haves, could-haves, and would-haves, you'll go nuts.

Sometimes, your team does everything right and puts together an incredible win, like the Hokies did against UVa in 1995. And sometimes, your team does everything wrong, and puts together an incredible loss. That's Temple, 1998, and the loss we just suffered is every bit as amazing and as fraught with drama and improbability as the win at UVa. If I was one of the 1500 Temple fans in existence, I would be going nuts right now.

I will tell you one thing: I no longer have that feeling of invincibility that I was suffering from as recently as the Boston College game. That's history, and I'm back to taking them one at a time. Each week, you take what you get with this team, and in games 1 through 5, we got the best of them. This week, we got the worst of them. Life goes on.

The Final Word from a Wise Person

Many of you emailed me with your game reports, and I appreciate them all. They enabled me to get a handle on what happened, and how we lost. Had we won the game, I would have merrily reprinted them without hitting a lick, but since we lost, I felt that I had to say something myself.

The funny thing is, this is probably the worst game report I've ever written (but it's probably the worst game you've ever seen, so they're a matched pair). There's nothing I can add to what happened. We came out flat, missed opportunities offensively, and for once, got complacent on defense, and gave up enough big plays to lose. It stinks, but you've got to hand it to Temple. We opened the door a little crack, and they kicked it in.

But back to your emails. The best one I received came from message board poster "HOaKIE," who had a big day planned with his four year old son. Let him tell you how it went:

Will: I was going to give you a long game report, but this short one sums it up better.

I took my 4-year old son to his first Tech football game. Instead of pre-ordering tickets for this game, I bought tickets outside the gate for $12 apiece because I didn't know if he would sit through the entire game. He is a bit fidgety at long events. The seats were on the press box side, 40 yard line, triple L row. Great seats.

My son did fine (can't wait to take him again). I even had him standing on his seat during Tech's last drive of the game chanting "GO TECH, GO TECH". Brought tears to my eyes. After the game was over, I was, like all of the Tech fans, in deep shock and depressed. My son, on the other hand, just wanted to go by the Duck Pond before we left so he could see the ducks. He told me he had a good time at the game and liked spending the day with me and without his 2-year old twin sisters tagging along.

All the way back to my parent's home in Lynchburg, I kept racking my brain trying to figure out why Tech got beat. Was it the play calling, or the dropped passes by Hall, the missed FGs by Graham, poor coverage by the secondary, Nick's inability to throw deep, missed tackles by the defensive line? What was it?

When we arrived at my parent's house, my Dad asked me what happened.  Why did Tech lose? I told him I didn't know -- couldn't figure it out. My 4-year-old son overheard the conversation and spoke up with a confused look on his face since my Dad and I couldn't answer this simple question.

My son said, "Because the white team (Temple jersey color) got more scores." Profoundness out of the mouth of an innocent 4-year-old. That is the simple answer to why Tech lost. And, in my mind, a succinct summary of this game.

Even though we lost in one of the biggest upsets of the last 20 years, I still had one of the best times because I got to spend it watching Tech football with my 4-year old son.


Will here again: next time someone asks you what happened in this game, tell 'em what the four-year-old said: "The white team got more scores."

And then go look at some ducks or something.

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