Harrison: Virginia Tech being Virginia Tech

Posted Sep 17, 2012

Monday Thought: Harrison on Virginia Tech losing a game it shouldn't have

By Phil Harrison
Virginia Tech's Struggles
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

The term Beamer ball used to have a sense of inspiration to it. The phrase used to conjure up ultra-aggressive play on special teams, and hard-nosed defense. Now however, Beamer ball has taken on a whole new definition, one in which getting the program defining win seems to be a mirage. A mirage accompanied far too often with an unexplainable loss to a team that has no business wrecking the flight plan.

Again on Saturday night, the Hokies failed to land the plane against Pittsburgh, a team that had struggled mightily so far this season. It's back to the drawing board, and back to the beginning of the runway.

And so it goes.

Make no mistake about it, Virginia Tech is up there with some of the most well-respected programs over the last decade or so. In fact, since 2001, only four teams (Boise State, Oklahoma, Texas, and LSU) have won more games during that span. The Hokies have gone to a bowl game in eighteen (yes eighteen) consecutive seasons, with only Florida State and Florida enjoying longer streaks.

Want more?

Virginia Tech's six BCS bowl-game appearances are tied for fourth among all schools, and the program has enjoyed eight straight ten-win seasons--the longest active streak of any team in FBS. Adding to the embarrassment of riches, Frank Beamer is now the active leader in FBS wins among all head coaches.

Impressed? You should be.

But glaringly missing among all of these impressive stats is the big win. Despite all the success, there still is not a single national-title to speak of. Zilch. That's hard to fathom for a team consistently rubbing elbows with the dignitaries of the sport.

And despite all of the BCS bowl-game appearances, the lone trophy in Blacksburg as a result is a product of the 2009 Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati. For those of you counting, that's one for six. There's some decent success in ACC Championship games, with VaTech going 3-2 in five appearances, but fans and coaches of the program will tell you they're shooting for more.

Perhaps the shortcomings on the big stage wouldn't be such a slap to the face if some of the losses weren't like old, peeling paint--off the wall. That's not to say there haven't been some losses against more superior teams. The single shot at a national-title wasn't happening against a very talented 1999 Florida State squad. And many ranked teams such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Boise State have gotten the best of the Hokies at times.

But those are understandable.

What's not, are the toe-stubbings that are more of a mystery than a cluster of bright-lights in the midnight sky. This Saturday is just one case in a few that have left many scratching their heads. Cases where losses to less talented opponents have left Virginia Tech out in the cold in seasons of great promise.

For the sake of recent memory, we'll start In 2007 where there was the loss to Boston College at home. The Hokies only other loss during the regular season that year was in Baton Rouge against LSU. They got revenge against BC in the ACC Championship, but the damage was done and the Hokies were out of the national championship team picture

In 2008, the team stumbled out of the gate with a bizarre loss to East Carolina in Blacksburg. The hits kept coming that season, as he Hokies were in every game--losing a combined four games by a total of seventeen points. Almost again.

Keeping things going in 2009, the Techies lost two semi-palatable games against Alabama and Georgia Tech, but things got seriously derailed further at home to the Tarheels, a team that finished 8-5 that season. The loss kept the Hokies out of the ACC Championship game.

Then there was 2010. Taking the cake in all of this craziness was the loss to FCS school James Madison that came one week after a hard fought loss to a very, very good Boise State team. The Hokies would go on to run the table in the regular season after that, but the loss at home kept them out of the national-title discussion once again.

Deja Vu.

And then the game this weekend. Virginia Tech is better than the Panthers. Much better. But once again, when things seemed to be lining up for a huge tilt--this time against Clemson on October 20--Frank Beamer's team forgot to take care of the front-lines so that the flag could be captured beyond. The game means nothing in the race for the ACC with Clemson and Florida State still looming large, but that's likely all that the Hokies have to play for now.

If history is any indication, Virginia Tech will go on to win ten or more games and have a great shot at playing in, and winning the ACC Championship game. Of course, that too would mean another BCS invite.

But the ending to the story could have been much better in this choose-your-own-adventure tale. For once again, the Hokies have had to re-adjust their sightlines towards conference supremacy instead of the ultimate prize of national notoriety.

So back to the ACC it is. Let's just hope that Virginia Tech doesn't bang its toe on the corner of the wall trying to get out the door to the next opponent.

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