A Season of Smack
by Bill Glose, 12/31/02

Most Hokies will admit this seasonís results were a pleasant surpriseÖespecially if you discount November. But even counting those late season losses, the team has a chance to finish with double-digit wins for the fifth time in eight years―an amazing feat by any standard. Techís rise to number three in both major polls was an unforgettable ride. Only BigDave predicted something like that happening, but everyone had something to say about it along the way.

Talking smack is part of every season. Opposing fans flap their gums and fill the air with nonsensical chatter, thumping their chests and blowing raspberries at the other team. But after the game is played, the losing fans disappear, shifting their focus to the next game, and dumping their garbage on that teamís message board. But bluster is expected of fans, and for the most part, itís ignored.

Itís the quotes from players and sportswriters that finds its way to locker room walls, and fills players with thoughts of payback. At the end of last season, The Sporting News predicted that defensive end Nathaniel Adibi had more chance of becoming the next Mary Tyler Moore than the next Corey Moore. Adibi brushed off the comments, saying, "Everyone has an opinion," and then put in a killer performance, finishing the year with stellar statistics (15 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 blocked kick).

So now, as the team prepares for the bowl game, lets walk down memory lane and relive the season through some of this seasonís smack, and some if its more memorable quotes in general. Here is what players, coaches, reporters, and fans all had to say about the 2002 version of VT football:

Pre-ASU:

BigDave (on TSLMB): "Weíre going to win the MNC!"

Post ASU:

"Iím not sure we gave them enough opposition out there to really tell how good theyíre going to be," said ASU coach Steve Roberts. "[But] we donít have to play Virginia Tech every week. Weíre going to have opportunities to win."

"It just felt like everything I worked for, I finally got something out of it," Lee Suggs said. "Itís been a year since Iíve been in the end zone and itís just an unbelievable feeling."

"Iím just getting started," said DeAngelo Hall. "Iíve got a lot more to show here."

"I know the offense, they didnít show much," Hall said. "Because what they show us in practice, whew, itís hard to cover that. . . . Theyíve still got a lot left in that offensive arsenal. We didnít show too much on defense either. We just kept it simple."

Pre-LSU:

"We want to play the big schools," said Grant Noel. "To be the best you have to play the best. We feel this Sunday weíre playing one of the best."

"I can say, without a doubt, this is the best team other than the Miami teams to come into Lane Stadium lately," Frank Beamer said.

"It doesnít really matter as far as going out and playing," LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais said when asked about Suggs and Noelís knee injuries. "But maybe we can injure them again, and knock them out of the game."

Post LSU:

"We hit Ďem in the mouth from the first snap," Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Kind of sent them a little message."

"Theyíve been a surprise," Beamer said of his defense. "They heard about the problems they were supposed to have, but so far, theyíve been better than advertised. Theyíre fast people and now they play fast and thereís a difference. They know what theyíre doing now. Theyíve got some experience, they donít have to think about things, theyíre just playing."

"Weíre still a young group with three or four guys getting only their second start," Willie Pile said. "But this was a great stepping stone. Every game is a threat to our season, and Marshall is the only thing on our minds right now."

Pre-Marshall:

"Weíre getting ready to get the supreme test," Beamer says. "The best quarterback in the country is coming in here, and heís got a great group of receivers, so weíre really going to get tested. Heís a big guy whoís very accurate on his throws and can see the whole field."

"No oneís worked harder to be a part of this football team than Grant Noel," Beamerís statement said. "We hope heíll be back for the Marshall game, but there is no guarantee of that. Bryan Randall will be our quarterback for the Marshall game."

"I coached in the SEC," said Marshall coach Bobby Pruett, "and anytime you can humble the defending SEC champions, you certainly have a great football team."

"That gobble," said Marshallís starting whip linebacker Charlie Tynes, "it will get on your nerves. Itís loud. They put that thing on those big speakers and everybody gets behind it doing their little thing. And I said, ĎWhat in the world is going on?í "

Josh Davis, one of Marshallís three 1,000-yard receivers in 2001, said, "I see a lot of opportunities, because (LSU) dropped a lot of balls. Weíve been watching film and there are a lot of open spaces during the game. Weíll take advantage of that."

Post Marshall:

"The linemen were getting mad at us because we hadnít gone over 100 yards yet, so we finally got it for them," Suggs said.

"When Lee makes a good play, it makes me want to make a good play," Kevin Jones said. "I think itís the other way around, too."

"Youíre fresh. You donít have to run 10 plays in a row," Suggs said. "Youíre fresh and when you go in there, the defense is tired from chasing Kevin around."

Frank Beamer said of Suggs and Jones, "Thatís two guys that can carry the mail. Theyíve got 10 guys around the ball and weíre still getting first downs."

"If people believe that fans do not help out, they didnít see that game," Marshall quarterback, Byron Leftwich said. "It was so loud down there at certain points, that it was kind of unreal. There wasnít any use to try to change a play. It was just that loud."

CNNSI sportswriter, Ivan Maisel commented after the game, "Is there a tougher place to play [than Blacksburg]?"

"The hillbillies from Huntington," wrote Randy King, "rolled in here hoping to have their own Hokie hoedown. ... This thing was over before Granny could get the vittles fixed. The hog jowls were still cooking, the possum livers still a tad on the short side."

Pre-Texas A&M:

"Everybody talks about ĎThe Untouchables,í or whatever they call themselves," said A&M safety Terrence Kiel. "Well, weíre going to do a lot of touching. Theyíre going to try to run on us, and that wonít happen. Theyíre not going to pass on us, either. Theyíre not going to do much of anything."

A&M inside linebacker Jared Morris added, "Theyíre going to try to pound on us, and theyíre going to bring those two running backs straight at us. But weíre going to show them what the Wrecking Crew is all about."

Post Texas A&M:

"It was a combination of us not doing well and them playing well," A&M coach R. C. Slocum said. "Thereís been a lot of teams that have had trouble moving the ball against Virginia Tech this season."

"Bryan Randall was very steady," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I think his throwingís very much improved, and his feet are going to make a difference in our offensive football team before this year is up."

"I donít think the noise really affected us," Grove said. "I think we really came together and I think we really played better because of the noise. It was loud. But this was no louder than Miami or Syracuse."

"Itís OK," said Vegas Robinson. "But itís no Lane Stadium."

"Thereís no better noise," Ernest Wilford said, "than Hokie noise."

"Ernest Wilfordís made a big play in the last two ballgames," Beamer said. "That guyís 6-4, 6-5, and if he gets cranking every week, he can make us a lot better football team."

Pre-WMU:

"This Western Michigan thing is a trap for us," Beamer said.

"You donít want to underestimate anybody," said Suggs. "You lose that way."

"Weíre excited about this. You can feel it in the locker room," said WMU defensive end Chris Browning. "Weíll be ready to play. This is a big opportunity for us and we have to be ready to take advantage of it."

Post WMU:

"They were playing harder than we were in the first half, really," Suggs said.

"Thank goodness for that two-minute span [at the end of the first half]," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "Things just turned around. There for almost a whole half, points were tough to come by."

"All of a sudden, itís 16-0," WMU center Jake Gasaway said. "That hurt pretty bad."

"Those doughnuts look sweet on the board," Vegas Robinson said. "Love those doughnuts."

Pre-Boston College:

BC Coach Tom OíBrien said, "Itís the same Virginia Tech you play every year. The names and numbers and faces change, but itís the same football team."

"Boston College is an outstanding team, especially on the offensive line," Jim Davis said. "Weíre going to have our hands full."

"[Boston College] is the team I thought could give us the most trouble," Lallis said. "Weíll really have to be ready for those guys."

Post Boston College:

"Tough night," said Eagles coach Tom OíBrien. "We had many, many opportunities and just didnít make plays."

"We feel fortunate to get out of here with a win," Frank Beamer said. "Despite all the mistakes we made, I think we did find a way to win. We know we need to throw it more. Weíre going to. But tonight we did what we had to do. The strength of this football team is those two tailbacks."

Willie Pile said, "[Suggsí] stiff arm going into the end zone on our final touchdown shows you right there that heís an All-American player, the best running back in the country."

Pre-Rutgers:

"This team probably gets along better, works together better than any team Iíve ever been on here," said Jake Grove. "Not that weíve had problems in the past, thereís just something special about this team. I donít really know how to explain it. I think we play together and we just play hard everyday. I hope that translates into a bunch more wins."

Post Rutgers:

"We donít worry about our backs, we know what theyíre going to do," Anthony Davis said. "For us, itís the quarterbacks. With Grantís situation, we canít afford to get Randall knocked out of there. Some of those shots he took against Rutgers we just canít have. Weíve got to step up and play better than that. Weíve got to protect him all the way. With him being young and everything, heís got to count on us to watch his back."

Pre-Temple:

"Sharps is a great tailback. He breaks tackles and has great speed. Four wides and Sharps creates some problems for us," said Frank Beamer. "McGann is more mature and throwing the ball really well. This is a strong football team."

"[Klecko] is probably the best defensive tackle in the country," said Jake Grove. "He plays harder than anyone Iíve ever seen."

"One thing they like to do is get your offense in a panic mode when they blitzÖwe should be able to handle that," Temple coach Bobby Wallace said. "They give you certain looks and certain schemes, and weíve got to try our best to take advantage of that.

Post Temple:

"That interception, I wish I could put that on Willie Pileís list," Vincent Fuller said. "Heís like having an extra coach on the field. He told me they were going to run a corner route and thatís exactly what they did."

Pre-Pittsburgh:

"Weíve tried not to look ahead," said DeAngelo Hall. "But now weíre focused on Pittsburgh, and itís payback time."

"We havenít forgotten a thing about last yearís game with Pitt," Jim Davis said. "We take pride in being a great defense, a championship defense, and we didnít show that last year. You can bet that wonít happen again."

Post Pittsburgh:

"That changed everything," DeAngelo Hall said, referring to Ronyell Whitakerís personal foul. "We gave life back to them. But we still should have stopped them."

"Itís a real hard loss," Suggs said. "To lose it at home is real disappointing."

"We spent some extra time watching film this week and found a play that gave us some success," Panthers coach Walt Harris said. "Then, others became successful. Our defense played lights out and they kept us in the game. It was a tremendous performance by them. [Our defensive scheme] is the same one Virginia Tech plays, and our players believe in it."

Pre-Syracuse:

"Thereís no way [Kevin Jones] will be able to get back [for the Syracuse game]," said head athletic trainer Mike Goforth. "Heís so sore right now. Being a running back, youíve really got to get him back in there by Wednesdayís practice to get him ready for the game. I donít think it can be done."

When rover Michael Crawford was diagnosed with Lymphoma, Frank Beamer said, "When he spoke to the team, he made everybody else feel better because heís so positive. Quitting isnít in Mikeís vocabulary. Heís going to fight it with everything he has."

"For something like that to happen to somebody you know, it just shows that it can happen to anyone," said DeAngelo Hall. "We have to cherish every game even more because you never know when itís your last one."

"I donít know," said Randall. "Thereís so much more going on here than just football, but yet we still have to be able to focus. But the last few days have been hard on us all."

Post Syracuse:

"Itís the first time Iíve lost two straight games since I was in high school," said Suggs. "Iíve been in a lot of games in my life, but nothing like this one."

"You couldnít have ever told me that I would throw for 500 yards and weíd lose the ballgame," said Randall. "To put so much heart into a game and come up short, it just hurts."

"Itís tough," said Carter Warley. "Itís tough to walk back to the sideline saying we could be walking in the locker room right now."

"Itís a good feeling knowing they can get the ball to me, but that victory would make the feeling even better," said Wilford. "Those records donít mean anything to me if we donít win the game. It came down to the end and I didnít make a play."

Pre-West Virginia:

"West Virginia is playing with a lot of momentum right now and weíre not," said Beamer. "We need to get this thing straightened out and headed back in the right direction."

"I donít think [Virginia Tech] is the same team," WVU running back Avon Cobourne said. "They didnít lose close games like theyíre doing this year. They donít do that. They dominated teamsÖI really donít have to have a big game. All of our running backs are capable of having a big game. Any of us can get 100 yards."

Post West Virginia:

"I know I was in," Suggs said. "Thatís all I can say. But you canít hang a game on any one thing. A game is 60 minutes. Itís not one play or one drive or one anything."

"It just wasnít a well-thrown ball," said Randall of the interception that ended the game. "I would love to take that one back, but I canít."

"I donít want to say I was baiting him, but I really was," said the Mountaineerís Brian King. "I knew I could get there if he threw it. Fortunately for us, he was locked in and I was able to make the pick."

Pre-UVa:

"Both programs are young," said Beamer. "Both are going to get better. I think the future is bright for Virginia. I think the future is bright for us."

"A lot of guys talk about the UVa game," Defensive Tackle Jimmy Williams said. "Itís for bragging rights for the state. Weíve got to come out and execute, do what weíve got to do to come out with a win."

Post UVa:

"The wind was such a big factor we had to run the ball," UVa running back Wali Lundy said. "Every time weíd throw the ball the wind was just taking it away."

"Itís not easy coming back from three losses when you really know in your heart you could have won each and every one of them," Beamer said. "Thatís why this one was so important. And the fact that itís Virginia. Itís our in-state rival."

"I couldnít have found any better way to go out," said Suggs, "with a win, scoring that last touchdown."

"Itís a credit to Coach Beamer because he put the play in this week and it just worked out to perfection," Wide Receiver Justin Hamilton said. "Heís a special-teams genius; it really set in with me today because it played out exactly the way he had it drawn up."

"I just scooped and scored," said Freshman Defensive End Darryl Tapp. "That play seemed to gear everything back on track for us."

Pre-Miami:

"I think that play has shaped and molded me into the player that I am now," said Ernest Wilford, of last yearís drop in the VT-Miami game.

Hokies coach Frank Beamer said, "Ernest has developed as well as you could ever hope. "He makes tough catches. He runs great routes. He knows how to get off the line of scrimmage with a guy on him.  Itís been so great watching him come into his own. I just want to hug the guy sometimes."

"When you play the best team in the country - the most talented team in the country - that brings out the best in you. Hopefully, weíll go play a great football game," said coach Beamer.

Post Miami:

David Teel wrote in the Daily Press: "Miami knocked the snot out of Virginia Tech on Saturday. The blood, sweat and heaven knows what else, too. But ya know what? The Hokies kept going back for more."

"Iím proud of the effort," Beamer said. "We hung in there and made some plays. But we had missed tackles and turnovers and we gave up too many big plays. We didnít play the way it takes to beat the No. 1 team in the nation."

"I wanted to run it," Miami running back Jarrett Payton said of his intercepted pass. "I wanted to score. But I thought if I could throw it and give it to Dorsey it may make things a little more fun."

Linebacker Mikal Baaqee commented, "I think they were trying to get Dorsey a couple votes for the Heisman."

"It all kind of happened fast," said Grant Noel. "Just a simple, olí fade and Ernest went up and got it and made good play on the ball. You never know when something is going to happen, so your helmet is kind of always in your back pocket. It felt good for me personally. But if we would have won the game it would have even felt better."

Random quotes from throughout the season:

After losing to Colorado State, UVA coach Al Groh took a jab at the Hokies when he replied to a question about the benefits of playing a lesser opponent. "You mean like being ahead 56-0 at the half?" Groh said. "[In] college football, you can play anybody you want and they all count. But I still feel we were playing a really quality team, and I thought they would really give our players a sense of what weíre going to see this week."

In response to a message board post asking, "If VT were to switch itís name to Mountain Lions, what would you call UVa?" TSL poster bourbonstreet provided perhaps the best one-word response in TSL (and HC) history: "France."

Kirk Herbstreit, in response to Lee Corsoís prediction of LSU winning the national championship, said, "I thought he was kidding when he said it on the air. That has to be the first time ever that somebody picks somebody to go to the national title game that is an underdog in their first game. Donít get me wrong, I like LSUís team, but maybe to win their division, not the SEC championship or a shot at the national championship. I think VT beats them this weekend Blacksburg

After making an official visit to Tech for the LSU game, TE John Kinzer (#7 on RT top 50) said, "I love the coaching staff there, the players were great and I fell in love with the school."

"I was totally open when I came up for the spring game," said Tripp Carroll, a speedy 300-lb lineman from Carolina, "but I just fell in love with the place."

"I think Iím still learning," Defensive End Cols Colas said. "It just seems like the more I play, the better I get. I regret that I didnít play little league football. I think I would be much better."

In a Washington Post article, Angela Watts wrote: "With Noel resting his knee, Vick stepped into the second-team role in last weekís practices and took half of the teamís snaps. In one pass scale drill he deliberately picked apart the Virginia Tech defense, going 10 for 10 against the first-team unit."

"Obviously, Marcus needs to continue to learn the offense," Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. "Heís put on 18 to 20 pounds already and you can tell it. But Iíll be very honest, there have been times in our scrimmages that you either watch a throw or watch him run the option or pull down and run with it and you kind of do a double-take There are a lot of similarities [to Michael]. The acorn didnít fall very far from the tree on this one."

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