After the Fall
by Jim Alderson, 10/30/01
Iím told there are some confirmed hotel packages in the Pasadena area for the first of next year that can be picked up fairly inexpensively. Anyone with time on their hands around then and looking to extend that December trip to Jacksonville, Nashville or Orlando to the Left Coast can probably get a very good deal. It should be a relaxing trip, what with all of that worry not expended fretting about Techís chances in the Rose Bowl. Just kick back and enjoy.
So much for Techís run at another undefeated season. The sneaking suspicion held by many Hokies and virtually all of our rivals that the 2001 Tech team was not all THAT good, but achieving an inflated ranking due primarily to a ridiculously easy schedule, was proven true just as soon as a high-quality opponent lined up against them. I really hate to use the Ďoí-word, but Tech sure exhibited some serious characteristics. Oh, well, it is not the end of the world. As we scanned the Sunday sports pages noting how many other unbeaten teams were burning like Taliban supply depots, we are again reminded as to what a remarkable achievement an undefeated season really is. They donít come around often. Everybody loses, Tech just not as much as most.
The concept of defeat was not one that seemed to sit particularly well with elements of the TSLMB. Scanning it Sunday I got the distinct impression I was reading this yearís WVU, Pitt or Hoo boards, or the Miami one of the last several years. Geez, that was ugly. Some of the invective hurled at a twenty-one year old kid and a coaching staff that has served us quite well was startling. I daresay Grant Noel was trying his best, and Rickey Bustle did not arise Saturday morning thinking, ĎWell, Iím tired of winning.í The scoreboard may have been lacking, but the team and coaching staff did not make a conscious effort to lose. Sometimes it happens. Those who havenít flung themselves from the bandwagon will see it again. Trust me on that one.
It should also be noted, again, that these various ventings of spleen provided yet another solid example of why TechSideline.com experiences so much difficulty in obtaining press box access. Will incurs no small expense providing this outlet for Tech fans, and pays for it in more ways than one.
Irritating losses and message board goofiness aside, a tip of the hat has to go to Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni and his staff, specifically Defensive Coordinator Chris Rippon. I often counted ten SU defensive players in the box; they were bent on stopping the run and daring Tech to beat them through the air, which obviously did not happen. In the second half, they went to changing defensives that kept Techís offense off balance. It was a sterling effort.
Paul Pasqualoni has been the brunt of many jokes about his coaching abilities, much of it from me, but you have to give credit where it is due. General consensus had him fired last August, but he got his team ready, took a couple of early losses against tough competition that steeled them for the rest of the season, and the Orangemen are now rolling, in one case beating a team with far more talent. That is good coaching. Miami coach Larry Coker seems a lock for Big East coaching honors, but at this point my vote, if I had one, would be for Pasqualoni, who is accomplishing more with less.
As for Tech, it is gut check time against a Pittsburgh team that always plays the Hokies very tough. It is no easy assignment awaiting Tech at the Ketchup Bowl Saturday. Frank Beamer always seems to have his team ready following tough losses [the Hokies havenít lost consecutive games since 1997], and they had best be clicking on all cylinders against the Panthers, who obviously noticed that Tech was coming up, so it was time to get their season in gear by blasting Temple. Life is going to get tough. But a third straight season of double-digit victories is still very much within reach, which would be quite an accomplishment. All is not lost by a long shot.
I spent Saturday evening after the game kicked back in an RV sipping the product of a sponsor of Frankís web site [attention beer companies: purchase a comparable deal on TSL and my tailgating group will make it worth your while] and discussing the Afghanistan military situation with someone whose career spent in the service of our nationís armed forces made him much more knowledgeable on such matters than I. I learned a lot, and also got reinforcement for something I already knew: losing a football game is not the end of the world.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.