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   Tech Sports News

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Looking Back on Cold, Cruel Novembers
by Chris James,

Well Hokie fans, its November. At least it might as well be. The Virginia Tech Hokies have concluded the first two full months of the season, plus the August BCA Classic, and they now stare at a portion of the schedule that hasnít exactly been friendly to them in recent years.

From the year 2001 through the end of the 2003 season, Virginia Techís record in November stands at 6-11. Going into November during those seasons, the Hokies were a combined 20-2. Each seasonís collapse was unique; they happened for different reasons and in different ways. Letís break down each season.


In 2001, Techís late season slide began on October 27, with a 22-14 loss to Syracuse. The Hokies were ranked #4 in the country going into the game, but hadnít yet been tested during the season. Syracuse came into the game 6-2, including a 31-14 win over Auburn. Syracuse had also played Georgia Tech and Tennessee, so they were battle tested, while the Hokies were not. Techís defense played great. Syracuse took a 17-0 lead into halftime off of a handful of Tech special teams mistakes. The Hokies tried to rally in the second half, but they just didnít have enough fire power.

The next week, (officially November now) the Hokies went up to Pittsburgh and got absolutely mauled. Pittsburgh dominated Tech from the start of the game to the final whistle and won 38-7. Tech could do nothing right in the game, as the only touchdown came from Ronyell Whitaker on a blocked field goal return. The next week, the Hokies were happy to see Temple on the schedule, and returned to the win column with a 35-0 victory. Tech went on to beat rival Virginia as well, 31-17 in Charlottesville.

Tech ended the season with two losses to two of the top programs in the country. On December 1, they lost to #1 Miami by the final score of 26-24, and they were a dropped two point conversion from taking the Canes into overtime. In the Gator Bowl, the Hokies fell to Florida St. 30-17 in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

I donít think ďcollapseĒ is the right word for the 2001 season. The Hokies started the season as a good team, and they were a good team at the end of the season. There were a couple of factors for the late season decline it 2001.

First of all, the running game was inconsistent with the loss of Lee Suggs in the season opener against UConn. The offensive line was breaking in 4 new starters, and with the loss of Suggs, two new running backs in Keith Burnell and Kevin Jones. Neither one of those guys was a between the tackles running back in 2001. Burnell never was, and Jones was only a true freshman. Jones showed flashes of brilliance, but he couldnít generate the pounding, between the tackles running game that the Hokies needed to win. That was evident in the Syracuse game.

Second, the Hokies just didnít play anybody at the beginning of the year. Even with problems on offense, there is just no way to tell how good a team is when they start off the season against UConn, Western Michigan and Rutgers as the Hokies did in 2001. Because of this factor, I hesitate to call the 2001 season a collapse. Tech kept playing hard until the very end of the year. They played great defense all year. But with the limitations on offense, if the Hokies had played as tough a first half schedule as they did a second half, it could have been a long season.

Last, and certainly not least, Tech was breaking in a new quarterback who had very little experience, and who was physically limited. Grant Noel was a smart quarterback who knew what to do, but at times he just couldnít do it. Thatís not his fault, thatís just what he was given in life. But when you watch the Miami game and see Noelís 5 turnovers, you canít help but think that the Hokies were a Jim Druckenmiller or a Michael Vick away from having a very special season in 2001. The defense had a stellar year, finishing 2nd in the nation in total defense, but the offense was missing some key ingredients that were needed to make 2001 a special year.


2002 is a little tougher to explain than 2001. Tech has been known throughout the college football world for playing less than stellar competition to begin the season. In 2002 however, the Hokies played LSU, Texas A&M and Marshall in their out of conference schedule. And they played all three in a row. And they beat all three teams. So what happened? A few things.

First of all, the Hokies probably played slightly above their heads during the first part of the season. The defense was replacing a lot of starters, and a lot of backups as well, but they were holding up very well. Bryan Randall was in his first year as Virginia Techís starting quarterback, and he wasnít turning the ball over. To top it off, the Hokies were a very healthy team in the first half of the season.

Once November rolled around however, those three factors took a turn for the worse. On November 2, the Pittsburgh Panthers showed the nation what it took to beat the Hokies: running it up the gut and airing it out deep. The Panthers beat Tech 28-21 that night. Tech went on to lose 3 consecutive games in 2002. Following the loss to Pittsburgh, Tech lost to Syracuse (50-42, 3 OT) in the Carrier Dome, and West Virginia (21-18) in Blacksburg. For the 2nd year in a row, the Hokies rallied to beat UVA (21-9), and then fell to Miami (56-45).

Injuries played a key role for the Hokies in 2002 as well. In the 3 overtime loss at Syracuse, Tech was without Kevin Jones, DeAngelo Hall and Vegas Robinson. Thatís two first round draft picks and a starting linebacker. It is very tough to replace that kind of talent on the field. Robinson missed the Pittsburgh game too, a game in which the Panthers were able to run right up the gut on Tech. Jones got hurt very early in the Pittsburgh game, and the Hokies missed his big play ability. However, all three players returned for the West Virginia game, and the Hokies lost that one as well.

Another key part of the late season fade was the play of Bryan Randall. Overall, Randall was a better quarterback at the end of 2002 than he was at the beginning in that he got a whole year of experience, and was a much more effective passer by the end of the season. However, against LSU, Texas A&M and Marshall, Randall didnít turn the ball over. By the end of the season, he was turning it over quite a bit. Interceptions in the end zone ended both the Syracuse and West Virginia games. Randall went from a guy that didnít make critical mistakes at the beginning of the year to a guy who made quite a few by the end.


Unlike 2001 and 2002, it is difficult to come up with excuses for Techís late season swoon in 2003. The Hokies were talented at some key positions, and they were very, very experienced.

It all started on October 22, when the Hokies played West Virginia on the road. The Mountaineers thrashed Tech that night 28-7, and it appeared that the season might just be over. However, the Hokies rallied to stomp #2 Miami 31-7 the very next week, giving Tech fans hope that the season could still be salvaged. Unfortunately, instead of salvaging the season the Hokies lost at Pittsburgh 28-21 a week after they beat Miami, in a close, hard fought game in which the Hokies play their hearts out, but fell just short.

After that game, the team fell apart. They went on to slip by Temple 24-23 in overtime, and then lost their next three games to Boston College, Virginia and Cal.

The Tech defense, which was expected to be a good unit coming into the season, did not turn out to be that way. They were repeatedly dominated at the end of the season. They couldnít stop the run, they couldnít stop the pass, and most importantly they couldnít stop the opposing team from scoring.

Even more than bad play, chemistry problems plagued the Tech team in 2003. Nobody can point to a specific incident, but it was pretty obvious just watching the team play that they didnít have that togetherness that Frank Beamer coached teams have had in the past. Itís a tough thing to say a team quit, but itís possible to use that term when discussing the 2003 Hokies.

So how will 2004 turn out? Itís still too early to tell, but the Hokies have certainly shown some things this year that they havenít in the past, and theyíve got some things going in their favor, such as:

1) A good defense. The 2004 defense is just so much better than the 2003 version, itís not even funny.

2) Momentum. The Hokies came back to win in dramatic fashion last night, and that could help immensely down the stretch.

3) Chemistry. You can just watch this team play and tell that they play together and for each other. This might be the most ďtogetherĒ group that Frank Beamer has ever had in Blacksburg.

Even with the positives, there still is no way to accurately predict how November of 2004 will turn out for the Hokies. But they sure do look like winners to me. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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-- Will Stewart Updates From the Past Week

Hokies Chasing the Rest of the ACC Pack in 2005 Hoops Recruiting
by Stefan Adams, 10/29/04, 1:15 pm
One of our favorite publications is the ACC Area Sports Journal, and one of the things they do best is cover ACC basketball recruiting, with noted basketball recruiting analyst Brick Oettinger. The latest issue of the ACC Area Sports Journal and the information it contains on hoops recruiting should give Hokie fans pause and illustrate what a mountain Seth Greenberg's team has to climb in their new league.
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Virginia Tech 34, Georgia Tech 20
Fourth-Quarter Explosion Vaults Hokies to Big Win

by Will Stewart,, 10/29/04, 3:00 am
Atlanta, GA -- Down 20-12 and hanging by a thread, Virginia Tech exploded for 22 points in the last 5:28 of the game to exit Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium with a huge 34-20 ACC win over the Yellow Jackets. The fourth-quarter outburst was keyed by freshmen, as Eddie Royal caught an 80-yard TD pass, Josh Morgan scored from 51 yards out, and Roland Minor ran an interception back 64 yards with less than a minute to go.
in Football Recruiting Report Archive, 10/27/04 (Audio)
by, 10/28/04, 1:45 pm
This week on the Recruiting Report, Mike Harris and Chris Horne talk about new basketball commitment Terrance Vinson from Valdosta, Georgia. The guys go over football recruiting as well, covering the recruiting status of in-state targets Victor Harris, Greg Boone, and Todd Nolen. Chris and Mike also give their thoughts on an early signing period for football, and the topic of one-time Hokie commitment and Florida dropout Mike Mangold comes up. (Time: 29:36).
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Defense is King in the ACC
by Stefan Adams,, 10/28/04, 10:15 am
With the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, the quality of football has risen across the board. The elevation of competitiveness amongst the conference foes is most obvious in the quality of defense that is on the field through the first eight Saturdays this fall.
in News and Notes

Tech Talk Tuesday (Audio) for 10/26/04
by, 10/27/04, 2:25 pm
Tech Talk Tuesday previews the Georgia Tech game with an old friend appearing on the show: former VT athletic director and current GT athletic director Dave Braine. Also included are interviews with Virginia Tech tailback Mike Imoh and Brian Murphy, beat writer for GT from the Macon Telegraph.
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Keys to the Game: Georgia Tech
by Raleigh Hokie, 10/27/04, 11:20 am
After a nice break, the Hokies get back to work with a Thursday night game on the road at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets started the season slowly, but they have begun to hit their stride behind the play of an outstanding defense. This will be just the second road game of the season for the Hokies and the first where the vast majority of the fans will be cheering against them.
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Georgia Tech Game Preview
by Jeff Ouellet, 10/26/04, 3:45 pm
After their first appearance this season in the top 25, the 22nd ranked Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, 2-1) travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2, 3-2) this Thursday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium in a key ACC game. A win would position VT well, as there are only three other conference teams with zero or one loss (UM, FSU, UVa) at this point in the season, and VT will be a strong favorite in its next two conference games. A loss would place VT squarely in the middle of the ACC bowl pecking order and make the postseason a dicey proposition.
in Football

Hokie Hotline Notes for 10/25/04
by Phil Noftsinger, 10/26/04, 10:45 am
Bill Roth asked about Xavier Adibiís status, noting that he has seen him flying around on the practice field. Bud Foster said that he has been recovering for 10 weeks, and the last couple of weeks they have been working him into non-contact drills. This week he has been making some contact, and yesterday he was involved in full contact.
in Hotline Notes

Rookie Diary #19: Jaguars Sign Adibi to Practice Squad
by, 10/22/04, 3:25 pm
It has been a while since we checked in with Nathaniel Adibi. In our last Rookie Diary, Adibi had been cut by the Steelers and picked up by the Tennessee Titans. He was looking forward to playing a Friday night preseason game with the Titans to try to impress them and make at least their practice squad. Adibi played in the game and was cut by Tennessee the following Monday.  The Steelers picked him up late that week, kept him on their practice squad for a week, and cut him. Here's what's been going on.
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