Man, these are so much more fun to write coming off a win, but isn’t everything really? The grass is greener, the skies more blue, the food taste better, heck even the crappy Halloween candy is fittin’ to get eaten this year. Speaking of Halloween, we have a ‘new’ monster coming to Cardinal Stadium this season in the form of Virginia Tech. I spoke with a couple guys from our sister site ‘Gobbler Country’ this week who not only have an awesome site name but know a thing or two about Va Tech athletics. Lets get all up in it.
Not that long ago I was introduced to someone who quite literally knew about twenty of the same people I did, hung out at the same spots, had similar interests, and were around the same age… How could we have so many of the same close personal contacts and share so many similarities but yet have never met? Exhibit A, Louisville vs. Virginia Tech. Although we’ve been in the same conference for going into the sixth season the two have never graced the field as ACC foes. You were avoiding us like West Virginia fans avoid knowledge and hygiene. So while it seems a bit ridiculous at this point, I never shy away from ridiculousness. Tell us what’s been going on with Va Tech football since we last met up in 2006.
Bryan: Well, from 2007-12, the Hokies were still winning the ACC with frequency and competing in major bowls. After that time, in the later part of Frank Beamer’s tenure, things started to trend more toward mediocrity. We’ve seen glimpses of the old Hokies, like Justin Fuente’s first year in 2016, but a lot of seven and eight-win seasons mixed in there. It has frustrated Hokie Nation. Tech’s downfall also coincides with Clemson’s dominance. The Tigers routinely get some of the top players from the state of Virginia.
Hopes were high this season and Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest. The Hokies do have a good team this season, but just can’t quite get out of their own way when it comes to losing to at least one team it should handle.
As for Louisville, I think these two teams should meet on an annual basis. I think the two schools are comparable programs, play in neighboring states and battle for the same recruits. It is a natural rivalry — or should be.
You all had a bit of a rocky start to the season. In fact, two weeks in your program was looking about as polished as that lunch pail you guys tote around. COVID hit Blacksburg hard and even once the program was able to finally take the field you still had some notable omissions from the roster. Even so, the offense came out hot and dropped 38+ in four of the five first contests. What’s driving the Hokies offense this year?
John: That Lunch Pail of which you speak is all about bringing a blue-collar work ethic to the field, and turning that effort into wins. It’s old and beat up because old lunchboxes on work sites tend to get bashed around and beaten up, but still do the job. It’s a Bud Foster kind of thing, and it stays because a huge chunk of the coaching staff learned from Bud. The rocky start was and is purely a COVID related thing, but not program related, it’s Virginia Commonwealth rules that have to do with exposure, quarantine, and contact tracing. The first four games the Hokies were missing serious chunks of their starting roster, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Both the Duke and UNC games were played with backups and practice squad players in the secondary. We even had several critical coaches left at home. It’s a miracle that things have worked out this well. Last week’s loss is the only real weird effort/result hit. The defense responded in typical #LPD fashion, but the offense never did. The offensive drivers Khalil Herbert, Hendon Hooker (on the ground), and the Offensive Line, were just never really put to use in the game. We haven’t a clue as to why.
While folks in their thirties or forties often correlate ‘Beamer Ball’ with Virginia Tech from their defense and special teams focus during the 90’s and early 2000’s this years team isn’t exactly forcing defensive battles each week (insert Beamer 0-0 picture here). Currently Virginia Tech is 10th in the ACC in yards/game allowed (442.2) and 9th in the ACC in points allowed (29.6). What exactly is going on with that side of the ball?
Bryan: Well, as you know legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster retired at the end of last season. The new defensive coordinator, Justin Hamilton, is a former Hokie who played running back, wide receiver and safety at Virginia Tech. Hamilton is young and was only on this staff two years before Fuente tapped him to replace Foster. We still have yet to see what his defense is supposed to look like. While there are a lot of similarities to Foster’s schemes, Hamilton seems to prefer bigger defensive linemen, whereas Foster likes the smaller, quicker linemen.
The problem is recruiting, specifically along the defensive line, has been an issue for several years now. The Hokies hired former star Darryl Tapp and Bill Teerlinck, who was the DL coach for Buffalo Bills last season, to be co-defensive line coaches. They bring a lot of energy to the recruiting trail, but this is only their first season.
Another issue with this year’s defense has been COVID-19. Until last week, the Hokies were hit hard with positive tests and contract tracing through the first month of play.
In closing, lots of issues here. This group is a work in progress now that the legendary Foster is enjoying fall evenings at his lake house.
Because I have (what feels like) 37 kids it’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that this game is taking place on Halloween. Which of course means you are getting a Halloween focus questioned. Virginia Tech is known for the 12th Man at Lane Stadium (lawsuits pending) meaning they aren’t “real players” but equally as important at times. Outside of the obvious answer (ghosts) what is an equally important Halloween monster that often gets overlooked?
John: For the uninitiated there doesn’t seem to be too much to be intimidated by in Lane Stadium – when it’s quiet and nothing much is going on. It’s small compared to other programs, and is a hodge-podge of upgrades and modifications. It’s a different animal on Game Day. The sound is deafening. The concussion of the “Enter Sandman” entrance is actually painful (my teeth hurt on the sidelines). We’ve actually induced small earthquakes during the jumping, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard 65,000 Hokies singing the refrain to Sandman a cappella to wrap up the show. And that thunder can go on during the game. The field edging is small, and the stands are right up on the sidelines. Opposing signal callers often have serious difficulty hearing their own thoughts let alone call a play. We have two full bands, The Marching Virginians, and the Corps of Cadets Regimental Band (Highty Tighties), and no one forgets the “Skipper” which is our 6-pound field piece operated by the Corps. It makes the entire student body part of the show, part of the game, and the team feeds on that energy. The ghosts are merely dearly departed Fighting Gobblers and Hokies showing up at Lane for Game Day.
Bonus Question: Why is Marcus Vick such an a**clown?
John: Marcus who? If you mean some guy between Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor then the often-sacked Sean Glennon is the only one that Hokies care to remember.
At the time I’m writing this Virginia Tech, who just lost their second game of the season last week to Wake Forest, is a 3.5pt favorite over the Cards who are coming off an impressive beatdown of Florida State after struggling against Georgia Tech and Pitt in weeks prior. When the clock hits zeros (Hopefully no OT because I got to take my kids trick or treating) what do we see on the scoreboard and how did we get there?
Bryan: I am still not sure of what I am seeing from this Louisville game. I do know I was impressed with Cunningham last year and I feel he is just now hitting his stride. Virginia Tech has struggled in the past with athletic, dual-threat passers. I do think Cunningham and Javian Hawkins have huge days against VT’s defense. I can see Hawkins going for over 175. He is the type of back that gives Tech trouble.
I do believe the Hokies get it back together on offense. Lots of talent on this offense, especially along the OL, TE and at running back. The Hokies starting receivers, Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson are very good, too. They just haven’t had that breakout game this season. Tight end James Mitchell is the best tight end in college football not named Kyle Pitts, in our opinion. Hendon Hooker is a very efficient passer who is equally adept at running the ball as he is in the passing game. He had the worst game of his career last week, uncharacteristically making bad reads and forcing the ball. That’s not Hooker.
I see the winner getting to 40 points, I can see something like 42-34.
Thanks to the ‘Gobbler Brothers’ Bryan and John for their time and responses. No one actually calls them that but I’m often known as a trend setter so we’ll see if it sticks. Be sure to check out ‘Gobbler Country’ on twitter as well as their site linked above all your VT athletics information, including my Q&A with them that will get posted later this week. We can all get together and share our deep rooted distain for both the West Virginia and Virginia basketball programs. Good times will be had.
UPDATE: My Q&A is up over there so feel free to go check it out here. Jokes were made, stats were thrown about.