Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 10, 2013

Rebound season?

Rebound season?

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The last time Virginia Tech finished with a record below .500, Frank Beamer was 46 years old, and senior quarterback Logan Thomas was 2.

It nearly happened again in 2012, with the Hokies having to win three straight to finish with a 7-6 record, and extend its consecutive bowl streak to 20 years in a row.

The Hokies weren’t happy with 7-6.

“We have got to play with a chip on our shoulders,” Virginia Tech senior offensive lineman Andrew Miller said. “We have been working all summer. That is unacceptable, what it means, and we have been working for it all summer to get better and not to let that happen again.”

Virginia Tech, which last had a losing record of 2-8-1 in 1992, was 4-6 with three games to go last year, but the Hokies defeated Boston College in overtime, slipped by Virginia on a late field goal, and then escaped Rutgers in the bowl game in another overtime decision.

While that wasn’t Virginia Tech-like — snapping an eight-year run of 10-win seasons — Beamer did see a positive sign from that late run as the Hokies didn’t give up, and showed the ability to handle adversity down the stretch.

“I think you learn from it from the standpoint that you have be ready to play each and every week and each and every play, there is a thin line between winning and losing,” Beamer said. “The other side of it is we were 4-6 and our kids didn’t quit.

“We went and played hard. We went to Boston College and we played hard against Virginia and we played hard in the bowl game and won the last three. There are some blessings there too, that they can keep giving great effort even though things don’t look very good.”

Virginia Tech players and coaches were answering plenty of questions about last season during the Hokies’ annual August media day on Saturday at Lane Stadium, just three weeks before the Hokies play top-ranked Alabama in Atlanta.

Beamer was pleased with the first week of practice in the books.

“I have been pleased with the leadership of our kids. I think you can tell how things go, not the first day in particular, but we got into the fifth day and you get into the sixth day and that is kind of when you find out if your kids serious are about being a good team,” Beamer said. “I really think so far we have really practiced well. I think that is a good start.”

No one is more excited than Thomas. Beamer said the Hokies are ‘his team’ in referring to the three-starter at quarterback.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, that is kind of what I expected, that is what everybody expects out of a quarterback,” Thomas said. “I am just thrilled I will have the opportunity to be able to do so and play along side these guys.

“It has been an honor in my first four years and I am thrilled and excited to see what happens once we start the season this year.”

It begins with Alabama. These clubs met in 2009 — when Thomas was a freshman in Blacksburg — and Virginia Tech led late before falling by 10 points. Beamer said the biggest difference in this meeting and that one is the Hokies are looking for answers at several positions after what was a  disappointing 7-6 campaign.

“We’re a different team too and probably a little bit younger than we would like to be and not enough experience in some positions, but that is what preseason is for and that is to improve,” Beamer said. “The kids are working hard, I think we have had good practices so if we keep it going this way we will be as good as we can be and we’ll see what the outcome is...

“They are the best team in the country,” he added.” I think you find out right away, ‘Do you measure up.’”

 Beamer has had remarkable success at Virginia Tech since arriving in 1982. After a 24-41-2 record over his first six seasons in Blacksburg, the Hokies have become proven winners in the last two decades.

That includes 20 straight bowl game appearances, including a 13-10 overtime win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season.

“I am proud of that too, the consistency of us being able to win each and every year and get to a bowl game,” said Beamer, who played at Virginia Tech from 1966-68. “I hope we make one more.”

Beamer is now the active leader in wins in Division I football, having compiled 258 in 32 years in the sidelines, including 26 in Blacksburg.

Prior to last year, Beamer had led the Hokies to eight straight 10-win seasons, four ACC championships, and six ACC title game appearances over the previous eight years.

No wonder Beamer — who led Virginia Tech to the national championship game in 1999 — speaks proudly of the mark his Hokies have made in the college football world, especially those eight years with at least 10 wins in a row.

“We are the only team in the country to do that and I am proud of that,” Beamer said. “Winning 10 games for eight straight years, it is not an easy thing to do and winning each Saturday gets tougher and tougher.

“You just keep things consistent and that is one of the things we really stress is be the same every day, the same every game, the same kind of effort and hopefully this football team will do that.”

Scot Loeffler has watched the Virginia Tech program from afar, at least until this season, having been hired away from Auburn to be the offensive coordinator for the Hokies.

After three seasons in the Southeastern Conference, two at Florida and one at Auburn, Loeffler doesn’t see Virginia Tech taking a back seat to anyone on the gridiron, even as the Hokies prepare to face Alabama.

“The way that I look at the Virginia Tech and the way that I will always look at Virginia Tech from an outsider looking in, it is one of the best programs in America,” Loeffler said. “What this place has done over the years is remarkable, anytime you win 10 ball games eight straight years, no one in the country has done that, Alabama hasn’t done that, Georgia hasn’t done that, Michigan and Ohio State, USC.

“Any time that you can see what has been done here, it is one of the best programs in the country, they graduate people, they care about people, they do things the right way and they win.”

No wonder Loeffler is excited to be in Blacksburg.

“For Coach Beamer and the rest of the staff to do what they have done for 20 some odd years that coach has been here is remarkable,” Loeffler said. “The way that I look at it is it is an absolute privilege and honor and I feel extremely responsible to help that continue.”  

Virginia Tech will enter the season out of the Top 25 for the first time in recent memory, and the Hokies are the preseason pick to finish as low as fourth in the ACC’s Coastal Division behind Miami, North Carolina and  Georgia Tech.

In fact, all the expectations in the ACC this season are coming from polls that list the Atlantic Division champion — either Clemson or Florida State — as the favorites to win the league title.

“They probably should be there, Clemson and Florida State, they are strong, they are talking about on our side with North Carolina and Miami and I think they are going to be strong, Beamer said. “That is why you play the games, usually the preseason predictions are not how they are at the beginning of the year so let’s go play.”

That is good news for the Hokies, although Beamer understands that the voters in those polls still remember that 7-6 record, and the slew of questions that must be answered in the next few weeks.

“The polls give fans something to talk about and writers something to write about, but I think the thing that is concerning probably for us and maybe the voters see this too is we are a little too young at some positions,” Beamer said. “I think we are talented too so let’s see what happens.

“I think just give it your best every day and be as good as you can be.”

—Contact Brian Woodson:

bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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