Stand Here, Look Back
by Nathaniel Bishton, 11/17/03
On Saturday, November 15 in the year 2003, it took the Virginia Tech Hokies a missed extra point by the Temple Owls in overtime to come away with a victory in Philadelphia. Thatís right, the Temple University Owls. Let it be noted that this day will be a turning point in the future of the Virginia Tech football program. Not an embarrassing loss at West Virginia, or a dominating win against Miami. No, November 15, 2003 and the following week of practice will show where this program is going.
In the last four weeks, we have experienced some extreme tumult in the Virginia Tech family. The Hokies played one of the worst games Iíve witnessed in my 18 years as a Hokie fan, in Morgantown, West Virginia. This was only to be trumped by an incredible experience in thrashing Miami the next week in Lane Stadium. The next week, the Hokies traveled to Pittsburgh and came up short, despite 241 rushing yards by Kevin Jones. And then Temple came. Those scary, scary Owls.
I didnít believe I could feel any lower than that Wednesday night against West Virginia in October, but the Temple game proved me wrong. But my feeling was not pain, or sadness, or agony. It was one of disappointment and disgust. I have no doubt in my mind that this year, the Hokies assembled one of the most talented teams in the country. But that wasnít the problem in this game. Up until the 2000 season, I never thought Iíd say that the coaches werenít what I expected, but following that 11-1 season, it has become all too much the norm in Blacksburg.
We have the talent on the Hokies; I strongly believe this to be true. And so believing this, how is it possible that a team of this caliber go in to Temple and play so woefully poor? We must look deeper to find out. And when I look, sadly, I find the troubles to be within the coaching staff.
I am in no way insinuating that changes need to be made with the staff, though that could be the case. But it is truly depressing to watch such a talented group of players come out and perform as they did. How can this coaching staff not get this group motivated? Can they not just play for themselves? Play for the pride of the game, to be better than your opponent. Coach Beamer will go on the post game show, and the press conferences and say how this Temple team came out to fight, and were motivated, and just played their tails off. Thatís not it, Frank.
Itís time to stop making excuses at Virginia Tech. We have too good a team to be making excuses for poor play. Yes, youíre not going to come out every week with the same intensity, but this is inexcusable. Itís time to start taking responsibility, not placing blame. Tell your players, and yourselves, that you didnít do your job well this week. Because you didnít. True, sometimes, the other team is just the better team one week, but thatís not always the case, and that shouldnít always be the answer to the questions. Sometimes you just have to have the gall to step up for what you did and just say it wasnít there. Sometimes itís not, but letís not hear the excuses when we know that some of these teams arenít better than us.
Iím not a coach, and I donít call the plays. But sometimes I just donít understand the calls. Why are we having this quarterback controversy? (And yes, it now is one). Itís throwing off the team chemistry, even if they are both great talents. Why arenít we running the ball in the fourth quarter after KJ has put up 135 yards? I donít know, but as I said, Iím not the coach, and Iíll try not to judge.
We, as fans, deserve more. 10,000 travel to Pittsburgh. 15,000 to Philadelphia. 10,000 come out, two hours before the Miami game, to pump up these players before the biggest game of their lives, and most of ours too. These fans love this team. Do we deserve an apology? Maybe. I know Iíll never give up on this team for the remainder of my living days. It should be the same in the locker room. If you canít show up to do your job against an inferior opponent, I just say donít show up. The fans always show up, no matter the weather, opponent, record. Whatever the circumstance, we as Hokie fans are a mainstay for Virginia Tech football.
After all of this, I offer a suggestion. Take the empty trophy case out of the Merryman Center until we can put something in there. Perhaps weíre thinking about it too much. Yes, if we finish out, 10-2 is a good year. But that shouldnít be a way out of playing poor football. The Hokies made mistakes, letís talk about them and work on them. Not settle for 10-2. If 10-2 is a good year (and I believe it is), then we donít deserve a trophy case reserved a National Championship trophy. If thatís our goal, then make it the goal, donít settle for less.
Take note of Saturday, November 15, 2003 and what falls out in the week following. And when you witness that future successes or failures of Virginia Tech football, stand here, look back.