November: A Cold Cruel Month
by Marty Cassady, 11/14/02
Whenever my brother and I talk or email, the conversation inevitably revolves around golf, food and Virginia Tech football (these are a few of our favorite things.) Earlier this week, as we sought answers to questions like What happened to VT’s run defense? Why am I not making any putts? and Did you know Fuddrucker’s has a one pound hamburger now? one of us (the smart one) remarked that he’d like to see the Hokies’ recent November record, broken down by season and by personnel -- specifically, how the Michael Vick-led teams did compared to the rest of the "Beamerball era" (which is how we refer to the 1993-present run of 9 (to be 10) consecutive bowl appearances.
I had the day off, and this sounded like a challenge. My source for numbers here is, of course, TSL’s football page and searchable scores database.
Since VT's bowl run began (the 1993 season through the weekend of 11-9-2002):
Stated in non-table format:
Breaking it down by year, pre- and post-November 1st:
For the sake of even more argument, let's compare the post-November 1st regular-season records of the VT teams that had "great" seasons (1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000) with the teams that had "good" seasons (1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002.) I think most of us would agree that there aren't any "bad" seasons in the mix, and 2002 could still turn out to be "great." And I’m putting 1993 under "great," since I also think most of us would agree that turning 2-8-1 into 9-3 with a bowl win is pretty "great."
Sobering statistic: From 1993-1996, VT was 11-2 (.846) after Nov. 1st, excluding bowls. Since 1997, VT is 11-9 (.550) after Nov. 1st during the regular season. Without Vick's 5 post-Nov. 1st wins as a starter, that drops to 6-9 (.400.)
Here are some conclusions you can draw from those statistics:
1.) The month of November makes or breaks VT’s (and a lot of other teams’) season. It’s where "great" teams are separated from "good" ones. The three VT teams generally acknowledged as having had the best seasons, and that went to BCS bowls (1995, 1996 and 1999) went 3-0, 5-0** and 4-0 in November.***
2.) Since 1997, VT has generally not played well in November, with the exception of the two seasons in which Michael Vick started at quarterback.
Land of Asterisks
** Yes, that’s 5-0 in November 1996. That’s how you finish a season, folks. The ‘96 Hokies started 3-0, lost at Syracuse, then won their last 7 games to finish 10-1, with the last 6 wins coming in 6 consecutive weeks (no open dates) over Pitt, SW Louisiana, ECU, Miami**, West Virginia and Virginia, and the smallest margin of victory was 21-7 over the Hurricanes on the road. I’m not sure any other Tech team has played so well for such an extended period.
*** Each of the three undefeated-in-November VT squads won a huge, close game that month as well: the 11-0 1999 team started November by trailing in Morgantown with a minute to go, no time outs, and 85 yards of putt-putt rug in front of them, only to be rescued by The Scramble™ and The Kick 2™. The aforementioned 21-7 win at the Orange Bowl in ‘96 was a 14-7 nailbiter in the waning minutes with Miami in the red zone, before Keion Carpenter returned The Interception™ to ice the win. And, of course, we all remember the ‘95 Hokies, dead to rights in Charlottesville before The Fourth-Down Conversion™ and The Pump Fake™. Big plays in big games by big-time players. Fun to watch, weren’t they?