Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Virginia Tech Football: Welcome To 1998?

Six days, two Hokie losses.

If your brain can’t fully wrap itself around that, fear not, you aren’t alone.

In less than a week, the Hokies went from being a team many saw as a legitimate national championship contender to not receiving any votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll after heartbreaking 33-30 loss to Boise State last Monday, and a head-scratching upset loss at home to James Madison 21-16 Saturday.

An elaborate ploy to ruin Boise State’s strength of schedule? Perhaps.

More likely, this Hokie team is young on defense and left searching for answers.

Tech now sits at 0-2 for the first time since 1995, a season that ended in a Sugar Bowl victory over Texas.

While few saw that turnaround coming, it’s hard to find any optimism in Blacksburg these days.

The Hokies have played roughly three quarters of good offense through two games and a whole bunch of mediocre defense.

Tech fans knew this defense had to replace seven of the starters. They would be a young unit, but Bud Foster always gets the most out of his group right?

The Hokies were thin up the middle to start, with depth issues at linebacker and all along the defensive line. Add a season-ending injury to defensive tackle Kwamaine Battle and things get even thinner.

An inexperienced defense is one thing, but Tech can’t even tackle consistently right now as evidenced on a 77-yard touchdown pass Saturday.

“What adjective you want me to use? Pathetic? Unacceptable?” Foster said Monday.

To me, it’s inexcusable. And we’re going to get that correct. If not, we’re going to find guys that want to get out here and play, and play the way we’ve done it.”

Tying this back to the title, the loss to JMU marks almost certainly the worst loss in Tech history. The only comparable game was No. 10 Virginia Tech’s 1998 loss to the lowly Temple Owls 28-24 in Lane Stadium.

Up until this weekend, any mention of that game brought blank stares and pure denial about the existence of such a game.

That Tech team vaulted high in the rankings after starting 5-0 but they struggled to finish games down the stretch, losing heartbreakers to Syracuse and Virginia following the Temple debacle.
1998 was a largely forgettable season, especially in light of the following year’s run to the national championship game.

So will 2010 be like ’95 or ’98?

The ACC doesn’t appear to be particularly strong this season so a BCS bowl berth is still amazingly a possibility.

At this point however, it’s fair to say Tech could win or lose every game remaining on the schedule starting with East Carolina Saturday.

The Pirates are 2-0 under new coach Ruffin McNeill who brought Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense with him from Texas Tech. ECU has averaged 50 points per game in their two outings and rank 18th in the nation in total offense.

Needless to say, 2010 is going to be an interesting year.

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