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"You'll Start All 11 Games Unless You Break A Leg"

Bruce Arians had a place in Virginia Tech football history even before he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over Kansas City this past weekend.

From 1983-88, Arians, a former Tech quarterback, was the head coach at Temple, where his 1986 team finished 6-5.

That included a 29-13 victory over the Hokies in the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk.

At the same time, Tech was looking for a successor to head football coach Bill Dooley, who also had served as Tech's athletic director. Reports of possible recruiting violations had led Tech president William Lavery to replace Dooley.

Dooley was succeeded as AD by Dutch Baughman, whose first choice to succeed Dooley as coach was Bobby Ross, who had resigned as head coach at Maryland.  

Frank Beamer and Ross were the two finalists. Arians had interviewed Dec. 18 and removed his name from consideration three days later.

He had a 21-39 record in six seasons at Temple and later served as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and Mississippi State. He was an assistant for six different NFL teams, including Kansas City, the team his Tampa Bay squad team defeated Sunday in the Super Bowl.

Arians had a checkered career as a Virginia Tech player, where he passed for a total of 1,270 yards and six touchdowns from 1972-74 and only led the Hokies in passing once, when he passed for 952 yards and three touchdowns in 1974.

That was the Hokies' first season under head coach Jimmy Sharpe, a protégé of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

After losing their first four games, the Hokies travelled to South Carolina, where they won 31-17. The next week, they headed to Virginia.

Arians, who was in his fifth year at Tech, had never played in a Tech-UVa game until Sharpe took over as coach.

Arians referred to it as "the biggest game of my life."

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World Now Finding Out What Hokies Have Known For Years

The first real newspaper I worked for was a twice-a-week newspaper called the Blacksburg Sun. Being the low man on the totem pole back in 1976, I got the assignments nobody wanted, so my first story was about a high school football game between Christiansburg and Floyd.

The game was at Floyd, in fog and rain. If you’ve never driven uber-curvy Route 8 in those kinds of conditions at night in Southwest Virginia, you just don’t appreciate what gripping the steering wheel tight really means. Plus if on the way back home you misread the signs and ended up on 221 instead of 8, you got the bonus experience of driving some of the most deserted backwoods stretches of pavement in the region before arriving at Bent Mountain and eventually Roanoke an hour later.

If you were a 20-year-old kid like me, this meant instead of getting home at 10 to write that story, you instead arrived home at 1 AM. The story got finished at 3 AM. Then you had to get up at 7 to turn the story in and get ready to cover your first Virginia Tech game.

Access was different back then for media, as if you wanted to write a story on someone, you made a phone call and were usually told “when can you be here?” An interview was set up by the paper for me to sit in the coach’s box instead of the press box, and I was to watch a graduate assistant handle his duties from there. Then I’d write a story about it.

The GA was friendly and helpful. He pointed out things that were being done and explained them fully. He also pointed out things I should avoid, as they were taking black and white polaroids of formations of both teams, marking them, and sending them down to the field in an envelope attached to a string that ran down to the bench. Some, he said, were OK. Some, he admitted, were not.

The game ended and I wrote a very forgettable story. I was new to all this, so I just regurgitated every quote I had written down, then forgot about it all. I had survived the weekend, filed my story, and was well on my way to earning the $1.90 an hour I was being paid that would come to me in a check that Friday.

I never thought much about that story until coming across it in an old box of worn, yellowed newsprint from 40 years ago. I read the story, thought it sucked even worse than when I wrote it, but saw the name of the GA.

His name was Bruce Arians.

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Here's A Video You Weren't Expecting To See

There are some things you see in scrolling through bulletin boards and the internet that you find yourself asking out loud things like "why did they do that?"

Such was the case this morning when I checked out what was going on in "The Lounge" on the board. Someone posted this video, which is a mashup of Huey Lewis' "Hip To Be Square" and Metallica's "Enter Sandman", which has long enjoyed anthem status at all Virginia Tech sporting events.

My mind is still wrestling with all this. I have questions, starting with why, then moving on to who's idea this was.

Plus if you look closely when a bunch of people come onstage to be backup singers, you will see Joe Montana and Dwight Clark of San Francisco 49ers fame among them.  

All I know is, hearing Enter Sandman at a Virginia Tech football game is never going to be the same again 😊

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Super Bowl Wasn't Great, But It Had Its Moments

Sunday’s Super Bowl wasn’t one that kept you on the edge of your seat, so when I look back at the evening of viewing that went from 6:30PM until a little after 10, I judge it the way I judge my golf game: There were enjoyable moments, even if the sum total of everything wasn’t that great.

I mean, you knew Tampa was going to win after Tom Brady threw his second touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. Patrick Mahomes made some incredible throws that his receivers must have been in such awe of that they dropped them, but after the first quarter, there was never a doubt in my mind the Bucs were going to win. It was just a matter of how much.

So my attention veered toward other things, from the commercials, to the halftime show, to wondering if Tony Romo was ever going to shut up. I’ll save you the any further thought on that one: No, he never did.

But these are the things I’ll remember if you ask me about the game a few months from now:

  • Bruce Arians, accepting the Super Bowl trophy and making a point of giving a shoutout to his 95-year-old mother, who was there in the stadium. “Love you Mom,” Arians said before the down-to-earth coach uttered another Arianism, saying the trophy really belonged to the players and assistant coaches. “I didn’t do a damn thing,” he said.

  • Tom Brady, being similarly humble and refusing to get trapped in a question about comparing how this title felt versus the six others he won in New England. He just credited Arians, his coaches and his fellow players, but that’s not what caught my eye. It was how cool, calm and collected he was while his daughter – who looked like an exact mini-me of his wife Gisele – was jumping up and down trying to play with the Lombardi Trophy. If you've ever been a parent,  you know that takes pretty incredible focus and patience.
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Stop Me If You've Heard This One: I Can't Believe It. Again.

I’ve watched Virginia Tech football and basketball for close to 50 years, and never have I been so convinced that the Hokies had lost the game I was watching as I was around 1:45 PM today.

Shows you what I know, as for the second time in the last seven days, I had to admit it: I could not believe what I just saw.

After leading by 11 with 8 minutes to go, the Hokies started making silly mistakes, which led to Miami going on a 10-0 run to put the Canes back in the game. As that familiar uneasy feeling of blowing a game down the stretch started getting bigger and bigger to Hokie faithful, the teams traded baskets until Justyn Mutts hit a free throw to tie the game at 71-71 with 11 seconds left.

Long-time Hokie watchers knew what was coming next, and Miami’s Isaiah Wong did not disappoint. He launched a 3-pointer in the final seconds that was dead-center perfect, ripping through the nets as Miami players danced and celebrated. I immediately thought “well, that’s two losses in a row, goodbye top 25 rankings, this one is really going to hurt.” Probably the toughest loss of the Mike Young era.

Or was it?

With 2.4 second left, the odds of tying the game were right up there with winning the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots in the same weekend. Technically there was a chance, but realistically there was none. A pass to halfcourt was batted away by Miami, giving the Hokies the ball with 1.7 seconds.

Then Al Michaels was back in my ear asking “do you believe in miracles? YES.”

Wabissa Bede threw a perfect pass to Hunter Cattoor as he came around a screen in the corner. Cattoor calmly took one dribble, turned, went straight up and drilled a 3-pointer crisply through the nets. Pandemonium ensued. The game was tied, and the game went to overtime.

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Recent Comments
Bonnie Sumner

You weren’t alone

As regulation neared the end, one of the girls I grew up next door to who has lived in Suffolk for years texted me a broken heart ... Read More
Saturday, 06 February 2021 22:53
Dave Scarangella

Only downside was my dog Maggi...

She's been looking at me warily the rest of the day as if to say "you're not going to yell like that again, are you?" ... Read More
Saturday, 06 February 2021 23:17

After Beating UVA, Tonight's Loss To Pitt Makes No Sense

On paper, tonight’s 83-72 loss to Pitt makes no sense.

A week ago, Virginia Tech beat Notre Dame handily on the road. Saturday, that same Notre Dame team went to Pittsburgh and beat Pitt by 26 while the Hokies upset No. 8 Virginia. On paper, the game shouldn’t have been close.

On the court, however, Pitt executed a strategy that beat the Hokies like a drum in the second half, and it showed that when Virginia Tech is having a tough night from outside the 3-point arc, you can disrupt their offense and frustrate the heck out of them.

I know they certainly frustrated the heck out of me.

Usually, teams try to beat up on Keve Aluma and try to get him out of his game, and given his superlative 29-point game against Virginia Saturday, I expected the paint at Pitt to be more like Octagon. Aluma didn’t seem bothered, in part thanks to the play of Justyn Mutts, as he proved to be a strong additional presence under the rim so when Pitt doubled Aluma, Mutts picked up the scoring.

It was 31-31 at halftime, but the scoresheet showed a glaring problem that would be even more evident in the second half: Only 3 players scored for the Hokies, with Mutts and Aluma combining for 22 of the 31 points. The other 9 were from Jalen Cone on 3 3-pointers, and while nice, they were a bit of a mixed bag.

The first Cone 3-pointer was so far off the mark, it bounced off the square and banked in, while the other two were where Cone needs to consistently get to. He went straight up, launched a shot where there was enough spacing that he had a clear look at the basket, and the result looked like the Jalen Cone of old. Unfortunately, he shot several more that looked like the more recent Cone, hurrying his shot, firing them up on the move, and shooting even with heavy defensive pressure on him. He missed those other six shots and didn’t score in the second half.

The rest of the backcourt had an even rougher night. The shots weren’t dropping, they didn’t compensate by driving to the basket and trying to draw fouls, and at times looked lost. Wabissa Bede was 0-5. Nahlem Alleyne was 1-8. Hunter Cattoor was 4 of 10. The entire team was 9 for 30 from the 3-point arc.

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I'm Still Stunned And Can't Believe What I Just Saw

We’ve all been hearing it for months about Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

You know what I mean. That sentence that says “yeah, Virginia Tech is good. But wait until they play someone really good.” When the Hokies beat No. 3 Villanova, that was supposedly because Villanova was playing it’s third game in 4 days. When they beat Duke, it was because Duke was having an off year.

Even when they beat Notre Dame Wednesday on the road, it was “Mike Brey has retired and just hasn’t told anyone.” Wait, they said, until you play someone good like Virginia.

I guess we can now stop waiting.

The Hokies clobbered the Cavaliers 65-51, who are still in first place in the ACC and hadn’t lost a league game in so long, it came back when you could walk into a grocery store and buy toilet paper and paper towels, all you wanted, with no limits. With plenty of inventory to choose from.

Even playing without their leading scorer for the second game in a row, the Hokies sent UVA packing with an L for the first time since the Cavaliers lost to Louisville on Feb. 8, 2020. The Cavaliers also beat Virginia Tech twice in 2020 with a combination of tough defense, slow tempo, and completely suffocating the Hokie offense, holding them to 39 points in one game, 53 in the other.

Which kind of seemed to be UVA’s plans for the evening tonight too.

It certainly seemed like the same was going to happen when Virginia held a 42-34 lead with 13 minutes left in the game after Sam Hauser hit yet another of the circus 3-pointers UVA had launched all night that looked more like desperation passes, yet went right through the net.

Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma, conversely, was apparently having a game so good, his teammates seemed to be standing around and just watching. Other than Aluma, ball movement wasn’t great, outside shots weren’t falling, and the only thing standing between the Hokies and a trip to the woodshed of biblical proportions was Aluma.

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Recent Comments
LT Banks

I know!

A Great Change, for a change - way to come through and finish, Hokies! Ut Prosim, is what the Hokie B-ball team did for the VT com... Read More
Saturday, 30 January 2021 22:06
Dave Scarangella

I believe that's VT's 4th win ...

And the team has only played 16 games so far...
Sunday, 31 January 2021 09:30
Doug Johnson

Eating Crow (so far) Gladly

With the loss of Radford, I predicted that VT would go .500 the remainder of the season. I would never have anticipated the compl... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2021 00:10

He Uttered 105 Words, But All I Heard Was "I Care"

One of the great things about technology these days is you don’t have to sit around for an hour or more to listen to radio shows, particularly if all you want to hear is an interview of a particular player or coach. All you have to do is wait a day, and someone, somewhere will transcribe it.

Such is the case for a radio program called Tech Talk Live, and I was particularly interested in Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young’s reaction to the indefinite suspension of Tyrece Radford.’s Jake Lyman did not disappoint, posting this transcription of the entire show.

Young’s answer when asked about Radford did not disappoint either. It was pretty close to what I expected he would say, and the reason I earlier this season wrote a story saying I would run through a wall for Young if I was one of his players.

(NARRATOR: It was also the story I texted a link for to Cindy Farmer about, with the words “I really am impressed with your prom date." That led to me writing this story, and it’s been the most read story on the site this year. But I digress….)

“The first thing you want to see is that he’s contrite,” Young said on the show. “He recognizes it, and he’s a good man. He made a poor decision, needless to say. We’re working through some things. There are a lot of things that I can’t talk about here. I love that man, and I will not turn my back on him. I believe in him. I feel awful and Tyrece Radford feels awful. We will support him and hang in there with him. Time will tell how it all plays out. His best interests are at heart as we try to work through this.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had one late night after a high school football game with a very successful coach who I think the world of. Having come from the corporate world, he and I were talking about the art of managing people, and how it compared to coaching young athletes.

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Hokies' 2021 Football Schedule Could Be A Tough Row To Hoe

One thing that has always amused me is the reaction of a fan base when a new football schedule has been released. They treat it like the old days when Microsoft would release a new version of its operating system, immediately dropping everything to grab it, analyze it, find all its strengths and find all its flaws.

Virginia Tech’s 2021 schedule was released today, and no doubt that’s now happening. In fact, that clicking you hear in the background is the legions of scribes who cover the Hokies, pounding out 800 words to give the proper perspective.

Me, I’m a little more practical in my assessment. You’ve got a coach on the hot seat who has to get off to a good start or we’re going to return to the good old days of bitching and moaning of 2020, when it seemed every day of autumn was an exercise in complaining.

A quick look at the schedule reveals that getting off to a good start may be a tall mountain to climb.

History, I'm afraid, may repeat itself.

The good news is it looks like a competitive schedule that would be enjoyable to watch from the stands, assuming things in the world get resolved and folks are actually allowed to leave the house by September. There are not four versions of a Southwestern Arkansas State in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and in addition to the ACC slate, Notre Dame and West Virginia are listed as opponents.

Notre Dame is part of the home schedule, along with Middle Tennessee, Richmond, Pitt, Syracuse and Duke. Without the Irish, it’s not a particularly sexy home slate, but with them, it’s not bad.

The road schedule is brutal. It starts at West Virginia, a place I thought Hokie administrators had said they would never play again, insisting only on neutral sites. But there they are in Morgantown, and a quick internet search reveals the latest agreement with the Mountaineers involves one neutral site, one game in Morgantown, and one game in Blacksburg.

The rest of the road schedule includes games at Georgia Tech, at Boston College, at Miami and at Virginia.

Two things immediately catch your eye: the schedule is front loaded with home games, when the weather is hot and the team is working through the kinks of a new season. Six of the first seven games are in Lane Stadium, while going down the stretch, 4 of the last 5 games are on the road. I mean, what ever happened to balanced scheduling where your season alternated reasonably between home and road games?

Oh, that’s right. The ACC made the schedule, meaning they put a lot of time and effort into their favorite teams, then just dumped what was left on its least favored programs.

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It Wasn't Perfect, But It Didn't Need To Be

I’ve heard many an old saying in all my years of watching basketball, and it sure looked like Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young put several to use tonight in a nice 62-51 road win over Notre Dame.

The first involves the belief that the mark of a good team is when that team can go out and beat someone when they’re not playing anywhere near their best. The Hokies only hit 25 of 62 shots from the floor (barely 40 percent), yet aside from Notre Dame hitting the first basket of the game, never trailed the rest of the way.

I’d say that should qualify Virginia Tech as a good team.

Even more impressive, the Hokies had a 9-point lead at halftime, then maintained a double-digit lead the entire second half. Tough defense overcame some ragged offensive play, and the team that looked so out of sorts Saturday against Syracuse tonight looked like a team that knew they were going to win from the opening tip.

I mean, how often in Hokie basketball history have you been able to say Virginia Tech won a ho-hum game by 11 points against Notre Dame on the road in South Bend?

Another old axiom involves what to do when a key player is out of the lineup, which the Hokies suffered when Tyrece Radford was suspended indefinitely earlier in the week. The answer, of course, is never let one person become that important to your lineup, instead fashioning a balanced attack the makes it easier for one player to step up and fill the void when another is gone.

Yeah, it’s easier said than done.

But the Hokies did that tonight. Four different starters were in double figures with Nahlem Alleyne scoring 15 (plus 5 really nice assists), Keve Aluma and Justin Mutts with 14, and Hunter Cattoor with 13. Jalen Cone was the starter to replace Radford, and he continued his shooting slump, but it didn’t really matter with Cattoor coming off the bench and nailing 4 three-pointers, grabbing 3 rebounds and coming up with 3 steals.

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What Happened With Darryl Tapp?

Exactly two weeks ago today, Virginia Tech co-defensive line coach Darryl Tapp tweeted something indicating he was serious about trying to repair relationships around the state, which had been the foundation of much of Frank Beamer’s success during the Hokie glory years.

I wrote about it in this story.

“To the former OG Hokies and my Hokie Brothers PLEASE HIT me up in my DMs,” Tapp tweeted. “VT will FOREVER be YOUR HOME. WE WANT YOU BACK AND NEED YOU BACK. Sincerely, Not A Random Guy. This is your brother.” Then he finished it with 17 turkey emojis.

Today I learned in addition to being “Not A Random Guy” he’s also “not a Virginia Tech assistant coach” any more. Last night it was reported Tapp has joined the San Francisco 49ers as their assistant defensive line coach.

That was quick.

Consider, if you will, the high probability executives from the 49ers did not wake up yesterday morning, decide they needed to look for an assistant DL coach in Blacksburg, VA, and by night time had worked out a deal to bring Tapp and his family 3,000 miles West.

Usually “the dance”, as I call it, involves about two weeks of contacting a person, talking through details of the new job, vetting the person, giving them a chance to come back with any other questions and comments and then securing a commitment to take the new job.

Which would mean “the dance” started at just about the same time Tapp sent out his tweet.

Which I find very curious.

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Best move

I left a dream job for several reasons. Public reason was $. Best move because my daughter had learning disabilities and my new lo... Read More
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 13:00


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