Believe it or not, there was a time long ago when fans did not judge Virginia Tech football by the length of its bowl streak, the odds of it winning a championship, or where it was ranked in the top 25.
These were the days before cell phones, the internet…heck, even before disco and Star Wars movies. They were the golden days of the 70s, where you judged a season not on the entire year, but on certain special moments. Ones where you walked back to the dorm or your car and thought “that was nice.” Ones that were feel-good moments, even proud-to-be-a-Hokie moments. They made you feel positive about the program, and were the reasons you came back the next week to watch the team play again.
Saturday’s win over Virginia was such a badly needed moment. The team technically qualifies for a bowl, but it’s not anything that leads to anything else. It’s just one more opportunity to see a group of young men who have been through fire and rain this season, starting with a win over a supposedly top 10 team in North Carolina, then nose diving into the cruel reality of a season that was so bad, they couldn’t even wait until the end of the 12-game schedule to fire the head coach.
The experience has not only been tough for the players, but there are a lot of people I know who have gone from being fanatical about the program for decades to morphing into a certain “I’m not sure I really care” attitude. They’ve been spoiled by not only the winning, the bowls and the top 25 rankings of the past, they’ve particularly become accustomed to seeing Virginia Tech teams that no matter who the opponent was, were competitive enough to always have a chance.
That hasn’t been the case the last couple of years in certain games, and for the first time in a while, I think many of us were somewhat realistic to the distinct possibility the Hokies were going to get hammered in Charlottesville Saturday. The Cavaliers had a high-powered offense, the Hokie defense struggled against Miami, and at times the play calling has looked more like the Virginia Tech of 1921 instead of 2021, exhibiting tendencies more in tune with the single wing.
Given that Virginia’s offense was so effective early that their punter made as many appearances on the field in the first half as I did, things at times did not look good. Adding to the frustration was the decision by the offensive geniuses on the Hokie sideline to change QBs as often as I change the channel watching sports, which seemed to wreck any continuity the offense was building.
Yet despite all this, Virginia Tech only trailed 21-17 at halftime. Bonehead mistakes were made by both sides, and the feeling was whoever’s defense could make a few stops – and whichever side didn’t make the last bonehead play – would probably win the game.
This is where it helps that your interim head coach is a crusty old defensive madman like JC Price. The defense did adjust in the second half and made some stops and forced turnovers. They also made more questionable decisions, ignoring the incredible success of running back Raheem Blackshear (who had 169 yards rushing) at times and preferring to make somewhat less-than-durable backup quarterback Connor Blumrick the designated battering ram, which killed more than one drive and gave UVA extra opportunities.
In the end, however, it was the Cavaliers who made the last bonehead play, calling a throwback pass on a key third down to an offensive lineman, as if the game transformed from ACC football contest to a remake of the movie Varsity Blues. Imagine Billy Bob running out in the flat catching a pass, only this time without Tweeder out in front to block for him.
It didn’t work on third down, and one play later when UVA threw another incompletion, the game was over. Nobody deserved to win, but Virginia Tech finished with more points on the scoreboard.
Beating UVA in anything is cause for celebration among Hokie faithful, but it was the scene immediately after the final gun that provided that “moment.” There was Price, being asked about what the win meant, and he showed himself the Hokie through and through many of us also are. He said “This Is My School. This Is Home” with all the pride any man could possibly muster.
I’ll admit there was something in my eye watching him. He knew Hokies everywhere didn’t just want this win. They needed it. And even though he was an interim coach who probably won’t even be on staff next year, he got a chance to go after one for the school he has loved so deeply for 30 years.
He got it too. Not for himself. But for everyone. As they say about JC, the VT never comes off. You saw it in his words and his eyes during that interview.
So JC, I tip my hat to you. In the final days of a cyclonic regular season that has been one non-stop circus, you knew how important this game was, figured out a way to win it, and sent us off into the holidays with a smile on our faces. For at least one brief Saturday, you and your players brought back the fun to Hokie football.
You gave us a moment. One we needed.
And one we’ll never forget.
That was a nice postgame moment to see the 2 girls (daughters?) with arms draped around his huge neck, loving on an emotional Coach Price.