Friday, September 19, 1997

The HokieCentral Tailgate

I’ve been busy and sick this week, folks, so I didn’t have the chance to write up a synopsis of the tailgate. I did want to thank everyone who helped out. I’m not going to dare to try to name all of you, because then I’d leave someone out, and I’d have to feel guilty.

I will say thanks to our anonymous generous donor, who made it all possible. And yes, he did show up! It was most unexpected. Don’t go into a tizzy trying to figure out who it was, because I’m not telling, ever. He was pleased to see the turnout, though, and was glad to see that it was done first-class and that everyone was having a good time.

Special thanks to Hanover Hokie for the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted, and to Mrs. Atlee Hokie, who pitched in throughout the day. And now I’m going to stop naming people, but again, thanks to everyone who helped, whether big or small. We used up over a hundred name tags, and I’ve got pictures that I’ll scan and post some time.

One last thing – the funniest moment of the day wasn’t even witnessed by anyone but me and Mrs. HokieCentral. It came long after the game was over.

See, we didn’t finish off all three of the 5-foot subs at the tailgate. In fact, the third one wasn’t even touched. So after the game, I was wondering what to do with it. I didn’t want to throw it away, obviously, because that’s an incredible waste of good food.

The solution was obvious – after all, I was within driving range of approximately 10,000 on-campus students.

About an hour after the game, Mrs. HokieCentral and I parked the HokieCentral-mobile in front of Cassell and carted that monster sub in the front door of Pritchard. Right as we walked through the door, a lone resident came out of the stairwell. He had his head down and was doing his college-student best to ignore the old geezers (the wife and I are in our early 30’s) who were carrying the big box.

I said, "Excuse me. We’ve got this 5-foot sub left over from a tailgate, and I’m looking to give it away."

He still didn’t say anything, but his eyes got big.

"Do you know anywhere I could take it?" I asked him.

"I’ll take it," he said calmly, and immediately started to remove it from my possession. Let me tell you, he had that sub and was gone back up the steps faster than Ike Charlton runs the 40 when his pants are on fire. I don’t think he ever did say thank you. He just wanted to get the hell out of there before I changed my mind and told him to give it back. And I’m pretty sure he was thankful – I’d just given him a 5-foot sub, for crying out loud!

Sure, it’s one of those "you had to be there" stories, but trust me, it was hysterical.

The Nebraska Lesson

As I noted in my Syracuse game report, the Hokies cycled about 8 defensive linemen in and out of the game last Saturday. I received my Hokie Huddler this week, and in their depth chart feature, the numbers support this observation. Here’s how it breaks down:

Stud End: Engelberger 59 plays, Corey Moore 20.

End: Wheel 36, Chris Cyrus 27, Ryan Smith 9.

Tackle: Williams 38, Carl Bradley 32.

Nose: Hairston 39, Lambo 23.

That’s eight defensive linemen with at least 20 plays from scrimmage, and as I said in the game report, this was throughout the game, not just at the end. Given that they played this many guys in a big game, it’s obvious that the Tech coaches are serious about developing defensive line depth.

Contrast this with the offensive line, in which every starter played 62 downs, and every primary backup played just 2. The only exception was the Todd Washington/Keith Short combination at center, which was a 61/3 ratio because Washington came out for one play.

Enjoy this little bit of analysis, folks, because it’s rare that I notice this sort of thing. Most of the time I’m a bit of a blockhead when it comes to noticing the subtleties in a football game.

VT Soccer Comes Back Down to Earth

(Disclaimer: any idiotic statements I’m about to make can be solely attributed to the fact that I know nothing about soccer or Tech’s soccer history.)

After starting out 4-0 and achieving a #14 ranking on the strength of a victory over nationally-ranked Wake Forest, the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team was brought back down to earth by – it’s tough to say this – a far superior UVa team in Charlottesville on Wednesday night. The final was 3-1.

It was the first time the state soccer "showdown" had occurred with both teams ranked. Although soccer purists insist that an upset was eminently possible, the outcome was predictable, as UVa is a national powerhouse while Tech, though much improved in recent years, has a mere 4-1/2 scholarships to work with. Still, the undefeated soccer season was fun while it lasted.

According to the account of the game that I heard, UVa dominated the first half against a tight Tech team and had many opportunities on goal. The halftime score was 2-0, and UVa’s coach spoke of how they could have been, and perhaps should have been, up 4-0 or 5-0 at the break.

In the second half, Tech reportedly played UVa even-up, and indeed the second half score was a 1-1 tie, for the 3-1 final. Tech’s coach was proud of his team’s second half performance, and if Tech can maintain a national ranking after this loss, perhaps the team will rise to the occasion and continue on with what has already been the most successful season in Virginia Tech men’s soccer history.

Slip Into Your Thick Skin and Get Used to It

Now that Virginia Tech has crushed its first two opponents, the Hokies seem the most likely candidate to seize the mantle of Big East power, given that WVU, Miami, and Syracuse are all in a contest to see who can go into the tank the quickest. The media, which always tries to find the dark lining in Tech’s silver cloud, is setting its sights on the Hokies’ pathetic out of conference schedule. What can I say? Cowards like easy targets.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of our schedule versus anybody else’s schedule, and I don’t want to get into a shouting match with jealous fans from other floundering teams about our schedule. I will go on record as saying that our schedule stinks, but there’s nothing I can do about it this year, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

What I really want to do is offer some advice: get a thick skin about this subject, and get it now, because if you think it’s rough so far, it’s only going to get worse.

Remember that an attack on our schedule is not an attack on our team or coaching staff. If it does degenerate into that, then anyone who says, "Tech sucks! They haven’t beaten anybody who’s any good!" needs a class in Logic 101, because the Hokie schedule bears no relationship to the quality of our team (never mind that most of us have said the same thing in the past about BYU).

You can take comfort in knowing that the fact that Tech’s schedule is coming under fire is a sign of respect, and a sign that people are paying attention. You can also take comfort in the vision of Donovan McNuggett disappearing under a wave of Hokie defenders. Let me tell you something, folks, I’ve seen this Tech team play, and they don’t "suck," no matter how many bad teams they tee it up against.

Also, remember that when this team lists its goals, nowhere in that list of goals will you find the phrase "Successfully defend our pitiful schedule against attacks from outsiders." The primary goal of this team, and your primary goal as a fan, should be to go 7-0 in the Big East, win the conference outright, and return to the Bowl Alliance, where the chance at beating a quality team with a national reputation will finally occur … not to mention a big, fat payday.

In short, I’m going to ignore the attacks and debates because I don’t have time for it. I suggest you do the same, unless one of you out there can actually do something about it.

In the meantime, Tech is working on it, but solutions are far off. In an article written by The Roanoke Times’s Jack Bogaczyk earlier this week, he reported:

"The Hokies have talked and written to several schools, but associate athletic director Danny Monk, who coordinates football scheduling, said it is difficult to find vacancies before 2003. Monk said Tech and North Carolina are each looking for a home game in 2000, and one alternative suggestion is for the teams to meet at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte.

"Tech also has called or written to Penn State, Illinois, Purdue, N.C. State, Maryland, Army and Navy, among others. Monk said Illinois has mentioned a four-game series, and the Hokies and Terps might consider a three-game series, home-and-home and a third game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium."

All of which sounds good. And all of which sounds too far off. Most of Dave Braine’s legacy is great, but this part of it stinks.

Here's Who I Want to Play

With all this talk about the Hokies’ schedule, I thought I would sit down and map out all of the other teams in Division 1-A, by conference, and list who I do and don’t want to play. I have some comments at the end of the list.

Conference Teams I Want to Play Teams I Don’t Want to Play
Atlantic Coast Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Duke, Wake Forest
Big Ten Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin Indiana, Minnesota
Big 12 Baylor, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma State
Big West Nobody Boise State, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico State, North Texas, Utah State
Conference USA East Carolina, Louisville Cincinnati, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Houston
Mid American Marshall Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan
Pac-10 Arizona, Arizona State, California, Southern California, Stanford, UCLA, Washington Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State
SEC Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee Vanderbilt
Western Athletic Brigham Young Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Rice, San Diego State, San Jose State, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Texas-El Paso, Tulsa, Utah, Wyoming
Independents Army, Navy, Notre Dame Alabama-Birmingham, Arkansas State, Central Florida, Louisiana Tech, Northeast Louisiana, USL

The first thing you notice is that I have no interest in playing any of this year’s out of conference opponents, except of course Virginia.

The second thing you’ll notice is some of the notable teams I don’t want to play that you might think it’s okay to play: Duke, Wake Forest, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, nearly all of Conference USA (except the hated Louisville Cardinals), Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Vanderbilt, Air Force, Colorado State, SMU, Wyoming, and Central Florida.

Time obviously prohibits talking about why I don’t want to play each of those teams, but in many cases, it’s because the nation wouldn’t pay attention, or we wouldn’t gain any respect by beating them.

The third thing you’ll notice is a couple of teams that I want to play that you might not want to play, most notably ECU and Marshall. I’ll always be up for playing ECU, because they’re a soul mate school to Virginia Tech (good team, no national respect), and the atmosphere for the ECU game is always a great college football atmosphere. As for Marshall, I think it would be a nice rivalry, with both schools taking a lot of fans to the other’s stadium.

One last comment: I listed exactly 50 teams that I’d like to see us play out of conference, 49 if you don’t count Virginia. You’re telling me we can’t schedule a home-and-home series with any of those 49 teams?

Once Ms. Sharon McCloskey is named our athletic director, which will be soon, there’s one thing she can do to make a lot of friends among Tech fans (other than getting us into an all-sports conference, of course) – improve the football schedule.


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