Virginia Tech 62, Temple 7
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 11/20/99
Philadelphia, PA - November 20, 1999
1 2 3 4 F
Okay, we're going to make short work of this game report, much like the Hokies made short work of Temple.
One question: can we now retire all of the talk about the 1998 loss to Temple? It will always be important to keep it in mind as a reminder that "On any given Saturday….", much like the Virginia Tech faithful should always remember how the 2-8-1 season of 1992 demonstrated that there is a fine line between being a good team and being a bad team.
But in the days leading up to this game, the constant reminders of Temple's 28-24 victory over Tech in 1998 grew quite tiresome. The 1998 Temple loss as motivation for playing hard every Saturday has served its purpose and can now be put aside, because there are much larger goals that are almost within reach that serve just fine as motivation, thank you.
With this victory, the Virginia Tech Hokies can lay claim to their third Big East championship, but it is not yet an outright championship, or in other words, a championship won without a tiebreaker. That goal is now only five days away, assuming that you're reading this on Sunday.
But we'll get to all that in a second. First, let's briefly revisit
this game and then get down to the analysis.
There's really no reason to recap this game in detail, other than to comment a little bit on the flow.
In the beginning, this game was reminiscent of the Rutgers game. Much like the Scarlet Knights, the Owls drove down the field and scored effortlessly on their first possession. And much like that game, Tech responded quickly on a great play by Michael Vick. In the Rutgers game, he threw a pass to Andre Davis, but in this game, he scored on a 53-yard TD run.
But the similarities end there, because Rutgers scored on their second possession, and they scored later in the game, as well. Temple, on the other hand, was done after their first touchdown.
The early going was dicey. The Tech defense wasn't sharp. They weren't tackling well, and they gave up a long play early. The Tech offense also wasn't sharp, squandering numerous opportunities in the first and second quarters.
This game broke open when Tech's Larry Austin returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. That took the game from 10-7 to 17-7, and the Tech defense put the clamps on the Owls from that point on. It took the offense a while to shake the cobwebs out, and that arguably really didn't happen until the second half.
Sure, the Hokies were leading 27-7at the half, but Michael Vick had thrown two interceptions, and the Hokies had earned all their touchdowns on the strength of big plays. It wasn't until the second half that Tech started to play mistake-free football and grind it out on the Owls.
Vick bolted 75 yards for a TD on Tech's second possession of the third quarter for a 34-7 lead, and then the Hokies settled down into the running game. In the fourth quarter, the Hokies substituted liberally, playing their second, third, and fourth string quarterbacks (for the record, Greg Shockley is the fourth-stringer).
Behind the Stats
The Two Stats You'll Hear the Most This Week
In a News and Notes update last week, HokieCentral detailed offensive records that were on the verge of falling. In addition to the total points record mentioned above, Shayne Graham broke the record for PAT's in a season. He had 8, giving him 51 for the year. The old record was 48.
Records in Danger, Revisited
Here's a recap of records that are in danger:
Without running the numbers, the following records are also still in danger: team yards-per-carry average, team yards-per-play average, individual rushing TD's in a season, individual TD's in a season, individual yards-per-pass attempt, and individual yards-per-pass completion.
There's very little you can add to this game. It was a total blowout that is really not deserving of comment, because there was nothing special about it strategically, and there was very little drama. Tech went out, played very inconsistently in the first half and squandered a lot of opportunities, and still won in embarrassing fashion. Embarrassing to Temple, anyway.
On the message board, the fans very much took this one in stride, to the point where a mere three hours after the game, there were almost no posts on the game itself.
Not a criticism, but a remark: I thought the Hokies were a little flat in this game, even after they started running away with it. They didn't look energized on defense early in the game, although Ben Taylor provided a spark with two big hits later on.
I thought the team looked very business-like, and at times almost bored. During Davis's 65-yard TD reception, after he shook a couple of tackles and broke free, there wasn't the usual amount of cheering. Most of the Tech players on the sideline that can be seen on the replay are watching with interest, but not great excitement.
I know that I wasn't the least bit excited watching the game. I barked at the defense for looking flat early in the game, but other than that, didn't have a whole lot to say. And during the game, no one called me to comment on it, which is unusual.
Running Up the Score? The question of what constitutes running up the score is a good one, and I can tell you that the Hokies did NOT run up the score in this game.
You can recognize running up the score by the use of trick plays and long passes by the starting quarterback when the game is well in hand. Tech didn't use any trick plays late, and Vick threw very little in the second half.
What about the passing by Dave Meyer in the fourth quarter? Well, you've got to keep your backup sharp.
What about the Hokies going for it on fourth and short near the end of the game? That’s a tough one. The Hokies were inside the Temple 5 yard line and had a fourth down, and in that case, it's almost impossible to NOT run up the score. If you kick the field goal, that looks like running it up, and if you go for it, that looks like running it up. It's a no-win scenario. The Hokies went for first down and didn't get it.
SOS and Bowl Help: it was a good day for the direct portion of Tech's strength of schedule component in the BCS. JMU lost, but UAB, Clemson, and Virginia all won, and Boston College defeated Notre Dame. The only other game involving Tech opponents was the Rutgers/Miami game, and that's a wash, since one won and one lost. From that standpoint, all games within the conference are a wash with regards to the SOS.
The Boston College win over Notre Dame is a big one for the Big East, because it knocked the Irish down to 5-6 and out of bowl contention. That means that the Fighting Irish can't take money from the Big East coffers by taking one of the Big East's bowl bids (per the agreement signed before the 1998 season by the Big East, Notre Dame, and the BE-aligned bowls).
Mike Tranghese, who was roasted by many Big East fans when he signed the deal, including me, must be laughing hard to himself right now. The Big East has four bowl tie-ins and gets to keep the money from all of them this year.
If the Hokies can make the national championship game, then it will stuff even more money into the Big East bank. To the best of my knowledge, the league gets a check for $12 million if a Big East team plays in the championship game, as opposed to the $8 million that the league gets when a team goes to an "ordinary" BCS bowl.
For the record, Tech's cut of a national championship game would be approximately $6 million, instead of "just" $4 million for a non-championship BCS bowl.
If the Hokies make the championship game, then the Big East owes Tech, big-time. The Music City Bowl signed a tie-in with the Big East this year thanks to Tech's great attendance and showing last year, so that's some $750k to $1 million the Big East gets, thanks to Tech. And if the Hokies head to the championship game, as detailed above, that's $4 million extra for the Big East (of which Tech gets $2 million).
How ironic. As the Hokies make tons of money for the football conference, the conference is busy charging Tech an arm and a leg for all-sports entry. But of course, it's the basketball schools who are charging the fee, not the football schools. The good news is, it's Tech's football brethren who benefit from Tech's success, not the "show me the money" basketball-only schools.
Big East Champs
Speaking of money, I know one guy who was grinning from ear to ear Saturday night, and probably still is: Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver. He's going to get a $4 million check to spend as a result of Tech's victory over the Owls. That's guaranteed, and he may get more.
But lost among all the BCS talk and all the worrying about whether or not Tech will play for the national championship is the simple, eminently enjoyable fact that the Hokies are Big East champs and are going to a BCS bowl. If Tech goes out and tanks the next game against Boston College (unlikely), they'll still head off to one of the top four bowls in college football with a 10-1 record. Should Tech lose and the Canes win out, with both finishing 6-1, the Hokies will win the tiebreaker over the Canes.
10-0. That record has never been achieved by a Virginia Tech football team. In a season full of firsts, that's probably the biggest one (at least until next week). But it is admittedly difficult to stop and savor the moment, because there's a really big goal dead-ahead that dwarfs the 10-0 record and Tech's third Big East championship.
Next Up: A Perfect Season?
As I write this game report, it is the night of Saturday, November 20th, and in a mere six days, the Hokies get to play for a prize that they have never laid claim to: a 7-0 Big East record and an outright Big East championship.
Standing in the way is a solid Boston College team that is a few gaffes away from being 10-0 themselves. The Eagles coughed up a 14-0 lead to Temple and lost 24-14, and they gave up an unbelievable 28-0 lead to Miami and lost 31-28 … at home. They are both losses that must be haunting a team that would otherwise be 10-0 overall, 6-0 in the Big East, and looking forward to a showdown with a Virginia Tech team with the same record.
As it is, it should be a heck of a game. BC is not spectacular, but is very solid and well-coached. And in a strange way, the Hokies have much to thank them for, because they'll provide an 8-2 record for Tech's strength of schedule component of the BCS rankings, assuming Tech can win and the SOS will even matter.
It's fitting that the Hokies will play for an undefeated record in front of their home crowd. It's a crowd that has sold out every single home game this year, including this one. Boston College is not a huge rivalry for Tech -- it started out that way in 1993-1995, but Tech's recent domination of the series has taken some of the luster off of the young rivalry.
The game is at 2:30 at Lane Stadium on Friday, November 26th, televised on CBS. Those fortunate enough to have a ticket get to see the Hokies make a run at history. The atmosphere should be incredible.