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For last week's article on the Clemson/VT football rivalry, we had gobs of material, because the Hokies played the Tigers six times in the 80's and three more times in the late 90's and 2000. I have readily available sources (Hokie Huddlers, media guides, and good ole TSL) for info on those games.
But there are three ACC schools with whom the Hokies don't have much of a recent history: Duke, Wake, and Georgia Tech. The Hokies have played Wake Forest 32 times and Duke just 11 times, and the last time the Hokies played either one was back in 1984, 20 years ago (more on that later).
As for Georgia Tech, the two teams -- incredibly -- have played just once, a 1990 nail biter that ended in a 6-3 Yellow Jacket win.
Duke (Duke leads series 4-7-0): Yes, you read that right. Duke leads the series with VT, taking 7 out of 11 games. Once the Hokies enter the ACC next fall and start playing the Blue Devils regularly, the series figures to even out quickly, but for now, Duke's got the lead.
Even more interesting than that -- to me, anyway -- is that Duke once led the series 7-1-0, before the Hokies won three in a row from 1982-1984 to make things a little more respectable.
The two teams played in 1937 and 1938 -- both VT losses -- and again from 1948 through 1951, again all VT losses. They played a game in 1969, and the Hokies broke through for a win, then lost again to a Ben Bennett-led Duke team in 1981, 14-7, to make it 7-1-0, Duke.
The Tide finally turned in 1982, when the Hokies traveled to Duke for a regionally-televised matchup. I have no documentation of this game, because my Hokie Huddler collection doesn't go back that far (the Huddler didn't launch until 1984), but I do have a faint memory of being 17 years old and watching it on TV.
Duke schooled VT in the first half and took a 21-0 lead into half time, but in one of the more remarkable comebacks in VT history -- especially when you consider that this was Bill Dooley's offense operating -- the Hokies scored 22 second-half points to win on a 2-point conversion late in the game.
The next game, in 1983, was a good one too, because it featured Duke's outstanding quarterback, Ben Bennett, who passed for over 3,000 yards in 1983 and ended up his career as the NCAA's career passing yardage leader, with 9,671 yards passing. (That record has since fallen.)
Bennett was going up against a Hokie defense led by junior Bruce Smith, who was in the middle of a 22-sack season, still a Hokie record. 1983 was my freshman year at VT, and if memory serves correctly, Smith laid a whipping on Bennett, sacking him four times in a 27-14 win in Lane Stadium.
"Smith and I talked about my family, his family, world affairs, just about everything," Bennett joked after the game, in a quote included in the VT football media guide. "We had plenty of time to get to know each other. He spent the afternoon with me."
Durham Herald-Sun columnist Frank Dascenzo wrote in June of 2003, twenty years later, "Bruce Smith once sacked Duke quarterback Ben Bennett. When the Blue Devils quarterback, wobbly and wounded, got up and headed for the wrong bench, Smith turned him around and pointed him in the right direction and said, 'Hey man, I've hit you enough. You're all right with me.'"
The following season, without Bennett, the Blue Devils were just cannon fodder for the Hokies, and Tech won again in Lane Stadium, this time by the score of 27-0. Smith had two sacks, Duke only spent four plays on Tech's side of the field, and the Blue Devils had (-4) yards rushing and 72 yards passing. Duke's 68 yards of offense was a Tech defensive record until UAB only got 65 yards in 1997. (UAB later broke that record, too, gaining just 63 yards in 1999).
This fall, on September 18th, in Lane Stadium, this long-dormant rivalry renews. The Hokies figure to have the upper hand for a while.
Wake Forest (Hokies lead series 20-11-1): This used to be a pretty good series. The teams first played in 1916, and from 1954 to 1984, they played every season but 1967, 1973, and 1974.
From 1978-1984, Bill Dooley went 4-3 against Wake Forest, and the last one was a thriller. Tech won a seesaw 21-20 game in Winston-Salem to open the 1984 season, the senior campaign of Bruce Smith's career. Midway through the fourth quarter, Wake was leading 20-14 and had penetrated to Tech's three yard line, where they faced a second and goal.
Wake false-started, sending the ball back to the eight yard line, then Bruce Smith flushed Wake's QB out of the pocket into a Cornell Urquhart sack at the 15. The Demon Deacons lost three more yards on the next play, and kicker Doug Illing, who had kicked two field goals and two extra points on the day, came on for what was probably a game-clinching 34-yard field goal ... but he missed.
VT then did something unusual for a Bill Dooley offense: they strung together a long, methodical game-winning drive. The VT offense had just 128 yards and seven first downs to that point, but they went on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that picked up five first downs and netted a five-yard Eddie Hunter run to put the Hokies up 21-20 with 2:08 to go.
Down the field Wake Forest charged. They very nearly scored on a long pass that was knocked down by Derek Carter and Ashley Lee. Undeterred, Wake threw a 22-yard pass to Tech's 48 with less than 20 seconds to go, then completed a 25-yarder to put the ball at the Tech 23. Illing rushed on to try a 40-yard game winning field goal, but he pushed it to the right, and the Hokies had the win.
After the game, Wake's head coach said, "Those of you who think it's that much coaches' talk or get bored when coaches talk about the kicking game and penalties ... tonight's game reinforces why these things are so important to us."
The coach's name? Al Groh.
VT and Wake will play October 9th in Winston-Salem.
Georgia Tech (GT leads the series 1-0): These two teams have only played once, but it was a memorable one. In 1990, the Hokies went to #7 Georgia Tech hoping to derail the national championship dreams of the Yellow Jackets. GT had just dropped #1 UVa from the ranks of the unbeaten the week before.
Virginia Tech was 5-4, with bowl dreams still in place. They had lost three games in the fourth quarter, to Maryland (20-13), South Carolina (35-24), and Temple (31-28), and had fallen to #2 FSU in Tallahassee 39-28 after being up 21-3 in the second quarter.
This GT game would be more of the same heartbreak.
The Hokies rolled up 340 yards of offense and threatened many times, but fumbles and missed field goals kept them from scoring. Likewise Georgia Tech, hung over from their big win over UVa, struggled to score. The game was 0-0 in the fourth quarter, when the Hokies found themselves with a second and goal from the GT 4-yard line.
Tech tried two straight alley-oop passes to basketball-player-turned-goal-line specialist John Rivers, but both were incomplete. Tech settled for a 22-yard Mickey Thomas field goal to go up 3-0 with 8:16 left.
GT quickly penetrated deep into Tech territory but also had to settle for a field goal, tying the game 3-3 with 5:09 left.
The Hokies couldn't get over midfield with their next drive, but punter Chris Baucia pinned GT at their own 16-yard line with 1:10 to go. No problem, right? Wrong. A few Shawn Jones passes and a gift from the ACC referees -- they ruled William Bell was inbounds on a 15-yard reception, though he was bobbling the ball as he ran out of bounds -- moved the ball to the VT 23. Jones threw two incompletions, and Bell ran two yards, setting up a 38-yard field goal for GT's Scott Sisson, who was having a Chris-Kinzer-1986 kind of season.
The Hokies called their last two timeouts to ice Sisson, who was as un-iceable as Kinzer was in his heyday. The second timeout backfired, as the swirling wind in Bobby Dodd stadium died down, allowing Sisson to kick the field goal in calm air. He hit it with 8 seconds to go, and VT's goose was cooked, 6-3. That dropped VT to 5-5 overall, and although the Hokies would maul Virginia 38-13 to finish the season, there was no bowl game for the Hokies. (But a nice invitation to the Big East Football Conference did follow.)
The two teams were scheduled to play again to open the 2000 season in the BCA Classic in Lane Stadium. It was the beginning of Michael Vick's sophomore season, and ESPN was in town for the highly-anticipated game. But as you know, a thunderstorm broke out right before kickoff, and for an hour, Lane was drenched in a torrential downpour, amid dangerous lightning (including one lightning bolt that nailed Lee Corso's rental car and led him to utter his famous quote, "I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them!").
The game was cancelled, and the two teams are still waiting on the
rematch, which will come this October 28th, on a Thursday in Atlanta.
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