Monday, December 9th, 1996

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Orange Bowl...

I don't know about you, but I was mentally committed to Tech vs. Florida in the Orange Bowl. I mean, for that not to happen, Texas was going to have to beat Nebraska. Texas beating Nebraska? The proverbial snowball's chance, eh? Well, as they say, that's why the play 'em.

After all was said and done this weekend, after the bowl bids had been announced, I got a phone call Sunday evening at about nine o'clock. After I picked it up and said hello, the voice at the other end said simply and without preamble,

"So. What about Nebraska?"

What about Nebraska? Are you glad that we're not playing pass-happy Florida and their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, or are you terrified that we've got to go up against the two-time defending national champions? Are you happy that we get to play a running team with a defense that's designed to stop the run, or are you scared that Nebraska's option attack will do to us what Syracuse's option attack did, only worse?

Doesn't matter. The bottom line is this: on the journey to success and national respect, you've got to play - and beat - the best. There is a select group of four or five teams in the country who are considered "the best," and yes, Nebraska's one of them. After two years of ten victories apiece, after winning 20 of our last 21 games, it's time to strap on cleats with one of the top teams in the country and take the measure of these Hokies. Time to find out what we're really made of.

For all the glory of "winning the Sugar Bowl," you have to be honest and admit that "beating Texas" didn't do that much for us as far as national respect goes. This Hokie team has had a boatload of opportunities come their way in the last two years, and they've taken advantage of nearly all of them, with the exception of the Syracuse game earlier this season.

But now comes the biggest opportunity of all. Nebraska.

The good news is, if I had to pick one team in Tech history to accept the bid to play Nebraska, it would be the bunch of guys we've had the last two years. This team is comprised of winners, big-game hunters who rise to the challenge. Regardless of what the outcome is on December 31st, I'm 100% certain that we won't be embarrassed, and I'm also certain that we've got an excellent shot at winning this game.

Whatever, it's going to be a blast just seeing the Orange and Maroon tee it up against Big Red. I already got a little preview of how exciting it was going to be as I was watching the bowl selection show Sunday evening. At one point in the show, after announcing the pairings, CBS came back from a commercial to talk about the Orange Bowl. On the center of the table in front of Craig James and Pat O-Brian were a Nebraska helmet and a Virginia Tech helmet, lined up face mask to face mask.

I got chills. Chills. I'm really looking forward to this.

Yes, Other Things Did Happen This Weekend

The AP pollsters continue to amaze: believe it or not, Tech moved ahead of the AP's darling, Northwestern, and into 10th in the AP poll this week. The Hokies remained #9 in the coaches poll.

In the NFL showdown between the Packers and the Broncos, Vaughn Hebron had 7 carries for 30 yards for Denver, while Antonio Freeman had an eye-popping 9 catches for 175 yards and 3 TD's. The Pack romped, 41-6.

The Hokie basketball team bumped off Coastal Carolina, 63-45 on Saturday, before a Cassell crowd of about 5200.

Lastly, be sure to check out the latest "My Opinion" for one reader's exhaustive analysis of the AP voters and why this year went the way it did for Tech in the AP poll.


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