Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
The boo birds were out early at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with Virginia Tech falling behind Duke 20-0 with 3:12 still left to play in the first quarter.
The Blue Devils, who were looking to get bowl eligible at the expense of the Hokies, had outgained the Hokies 144-11 at that point, having scored two touchdowns, including an interception return for a score, along with a pair of field goals.
“The mood was bad for a little bit, but things haven’t gone our way all year so it was just something we had to fight through, “ said Virginia Tech wide receiver Marcus Davis, whose Hokies scored 41 straight points to win 41-20. “I am glad to see we pulled together on offense, defense and special teams and we started clicking.
“It was just another stepping stone that we had to get over.”
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer claimed to not hear the boos with the headsets on, but he understands how the Hokie faithful feels. After all, who would have expected that Virginia Tech needed to beat Duke to avoid a 3-4 start to the season, and the first three-game losing streak since the Hokies were 2-8-1 in 1992.
“I was too involved with just saying keep playing, something good has to happen in a minute,” Beamer said. “I can’t fault our fans, it is disappointing. On the way here today I could see they were trying to urge us on coming through the parking area there, they wanted us to play better.
“Then it is disappointing with the way we started the way we did, I understand that, but they were there for us at the end and they were loud and good like they normally are. I am glad we could give our fans something to cheer about.”
How bad did Virginia Tech need something good to happen? How about a win over Duke being described as Beamer did, with the Hokies having come off losses to Cincinnati and North Carolina.
“I just told our football team that was a great win for our football program,” Beamer said. “The circumstances, coming off two losses and getting down 20 to zip. I appreciate our players and their poise, our coaches’ poise and no one panicked and things worked out for us.”
While Duke entered with hopes of becoming bowl eligible, it’s the Hokies that still have work to do to reach a 20th straight bowl game. The Hokies are 4-3, but the next three games will be difficult, beginning next week at Clemson, followed by a pair of Thursday night games at Miami and at home with Lane Stadium.
“I think it is one home game in 46 days and that is a tough stretch,” Beamer said. “We are going to enjoy this one and then get ready for Clemson.”
There is also the current streak of eight straight seasons with at least 10 wins that could be in jeopardy.
One reporter asked Beamer if supporters of Virginia Tech needed to just understand that every team has to rebuild at times and this could be that year for the Hokies.
Beamer listed a slew of reasons for the current struggles, including the fact that Saturday’s game with Duke is the Hokies’ lone home game since Sept. 22, with the next date in Lane Stadium not being until Nov. 8.
He still thinks that Virginia Tech can meet some of its goals, such as claiming the ACC Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.
“We have had some tough injuries, we have had some freshmen jump in there and play, not to make any excuses, but there are circumstances,” Beamer said.
“I think our schedule has been tough, the one home game in 46 days, that is tough. Several teams have had open dates before they played us, I think that is tough, they get some people well and have a little extra time to prepare, but that is just the way it is.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am not moaning and groaning, I think there have been tough circumstances.”
Virginia Tech has won more often than not in recent seasons, and the Hokies will keep fighting for success, much like they did when they were 20 points behind against the Blue Devils.
“There is a thin line between winning and being OK and not being OK,” Beamer said. “I am so appreciative of our players and who they are and what they are and for how they handled themselves. It made a great, great statement right there how they came back.”
That defines what the Hokies must do over the next three games, two of which will be on the road.
“It is very important, it was important to get into a rhythm and getting back to tackling people,” said Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, whose Hokies had been gashed for 48 and 533 yards the previous week at North Carolina. “We get to watch film on Clemson and see how they do and we have got to get ready for them.”
Virginia Tech had numerous big plays offense against Duke on Saturday, including touchdowns of 42, 45, 47 and 86 yards. Beamer is hoping that will continue, as the Hokies scored 41 points and collected 525 yards on that side of the ball.
“We just talked about playing every play as hard as you could and that was important when you are down 20, and playing mentally alert,” Beamer said. “If you do those two things you are going to get consistency. We have got some playmakers, we just need to play consistent and I think if we do we will see some more long plays.”
Players like Davis never felt the Hokies couldn’t come back against Duke. After all, football is more than a one quarter game. The same goes for the season, there are still games left to be played. Virginia Tech is still thinking big.
“It is football, it happens, things don’t always go as planned,” Davis said. “We didn’t plan on starting the game being down 20-0, but it happened. It is football and you just have to shake that off and keep playing play by play, down by down and quarter by quarter.
“That is how it played out, we fought through and came out all right.”
That same attitude will be needed in the weeks ahead.
Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson @ bdtonline.com.