Monday, September 8, 1997

Quick hitter: the Hokies cracked this week's AP poll at #22 (up from #27) and moved up to #19 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll (up from #22). Now, on with the news!

Druck Gets the "W" in Pro Debut

I went into Blacksburg with a friend yesterday and watched Jim Druckenmiller’s first career start as the quarterback of the tradition-laden San Francisco 49ers. Champs sports bar in Blacksburg has a pretty impressive setup on NFL Sundays, one in which they show six NFL games at one time, with the bar patrons voting on which game will be shown on the one big screen TV that they have. Naturally, the 49ers/Rams game won that vote in a landslide.

Druck took the field to raucous cheering from the Champs crowd, and throughout the game, if you didn't know better, you would have thought that the Hokies were on TV, the way the crowd was cheering and groaning with each twist and turn in Druckenmiller's day. It was a great environment for watching a game, and it struck me at one point that San Francisco created a lot of new Niners fans in Blacksburg the day they drafted Druck.

But on to Druck's performance. I’ll be blunt: if you saw him play the last two years, then you’ve seen him play much better than he did on Sunday. Working behind a hideously ineffective offensive line, he was under pressure all day, and his numbers reveal both his inexperience and the heat the Rams defense was bringing on him. When all was said and done, his totals were 10 of 27 passing for 102 yards, one TD, and three interceptions.

The performance was a classic rookie QB performance, fraught with inconsistency and moments of promise. Druck’s one TD pass, an early strike of 25 yards to J.J. Stokes, was a nice toss. He threw it into double-coverage, but he put it in the only place where Stokes could get to it, and he did indeed come down with a tough catch.

Other than that, Druck had his moments, but he struggled a lot. One of his interceptions was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgment, coming on the Ram’s ten yard line as he was being sacked. Instead of eating the ball on a third down so the Niners could kick a field goal, he threw an ill-advised pass as he was going down that was easily picked off by the Rams.

One of the things that Druck struggled with all day was his unfamiliarity with the raw physical talent that NFL defensive players possess. Several times, including at least one other interception, he underestimated the ability of the defensive backs to close on the ball and make a play.

The important thing, though, is that he won his debut, 15-12. He made mistakes, but they didn’t kill his team, and the Niners responded with a great defensive effort that kept them in the game. Also important to note is that the Niners offensive line is terrible. They were unable to generate any run support, and Druck barely had any time to pass before the pocket collapsed. Not a good scenario for a rookie quarterback, and it showed in Druck’s overall performance, but again, he got the W, which is more than Joe Montana could say in his 1979 debut for the Niners.

There were several fun moments to watch in the game. One moment came when new Niners linebacker Kevin Greene, wearing street clothes, head-butted Druckenmiller while Druck had his helmet on. Greene seemed to take a general liking to Druck, cheering him on and encouraging him as the game went on.

Another nice moment came after the victory, as Druck, obviously not thrilled with his performance, trotted off the field with a blasť look on his face. Steve Young ran over to him, slapped him on the helmet excitedly, and appeared to be yelling at him to loosen up and enjoy his first NFL victory. It was a great move and a good gesture by the veteran Young, making sure that the rookie realized the magnitude of what he had just done. Druck loosened up after that and realized that although the Niners had won in spite of him, not because of him, he had indeed just played his first full NFL game ... and it was a win.

Lastly, Druck was accosted by #9 for the Rams after the game, and the two posed for a picture that someone off camera was taking. I was just starting to wonder who #9 was when someone near me yelled, "Hey, that’s Will Furrer!" It was a neat moment to watch, these two former Tech quarterbacks, who never played on the same Hokies team, posing for a photo together.

All in all, a good day for Druckenmiller and Hokies everywhere.

A Chat With a Former Hokie

My buddy and I were sitting at the bar next to a rather large young man who was watching the game by himself and would occasionally take an interest in the conversation I was having with my buddy, especially when the conversation would turn to Tech football. Finally, as I was extolling the virtues of Vaughn Hebron to this guy, and remarking on the fact that it’s probably Vaughn’s ability as a receiver that has helped him keep his NFL career going, he said to me, "Yeah, I played with Vaughn."

My ears perked up, and rather than mess around with it, I looked at him and said, "Who are you?"

"I’m Jeff Holland," he answered.

After shaking his hand (and completely forgetting in my excitement to introduce myself and my buddy), we chatted with Jeff, a former Hokie defensive lineman, for awhile about a number of subjects, ranging from the 2-8-1 team of 1992 to Tech’s recruiting in the Norfolk/Hampton/Va Beach area, to former placekicker Ryan Williams. Jeff showed us his 1995 Sugar Bowl ring, and I managed not to debase myself by asking if I could kiss it, or something equally loony.

I reminisced about Jeff’s fumble return for a TD against Virginia in 1993, but Jeff seemed most impressed with my buddy’s recollection that it was Jeff who blocked the field goal that Antonio Banks returned for a TD in the 1993 Independence Bowl. Jeff seemed thankful that we didn’t mistake him for Eugene Chung, saying "You wouldn’t believe how often that happens to me. In fact, when I first started at Tech, he took me aside and told me that was going to happen a lot. He was right."

It was fun talking to Jeff, who is continuing his education and is due to graduate with a Masters in May.

That’s what I like about living down here in God’s country – you never know who you’re going to encounter in a bar in Blacksburg.

HokieCentral Tailgate Details

All right, folks, here’s the skinny on the tailgate:

The First Annual HokieCentral Tailgate will be held in the Litton-Reaves parking lot (parking lot #9) on September 13th, the day of the Syracuse game. The tailgate will start at 12 noon, and will run until 5:00 at the latest, if people are still hanging around at that point. We’ll have three five-foot subs from Sub Station II in Blacksburg for you to munch on (each sub feeds about 25 people), and barbecue for about 100 people will be provided by Hanover Hokie’s Bulletts fast-food chain (forgive me if I spelled that wrong, Hanover).

I’m not sure if I’m going to provide any sodas or not, so if you want something to drink with your food, you should probably bring it yourself to be guaranteed of having something.

The one thing I will not be providing is alcoholic beverages, for obvious liability reasons, so if you’re interested in those, it’s strictly BYOB. And be sure to bring one for me while you’re at it.

Drew Kubovcik of the Hokie Huddler staff will visit at some point to take pictures and swap tailgate stories for a feature that the Huddler is doing on tailgating. Tech broadcasters Bill Roth and Mike Burnop have been invited, and although Bill didn’t give me a concrete yes or no, he did say that anytime the words "free" and "food" are put together in an invitation, you have the best possibility that he and Mike will show up. They’re pretty busy that day, though, so we’ll see.

Later in the day, around 4:15-4:30, a roving Virginia Tech pep band will stop by to entertain us with all your Hokie favorites.

Except for the pep band, all the excitement and the food will happen early, so be sure to get there while there’s still some subs and BBQ.

I will have nametags, so be sure to snag one if you want to identify yourself to everyone. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Here is a map showing the exact location. The map was provided by lanerat - at least I think that's what he calls himself on the message board. Thanks lanerat, and sorry it's so hard to read folks - I screwed up the original that lanerat sent to me. But I think it's good enough for you to get the idea. Look for a tent with a big "" banner hanging on it!


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