Saturday, October 02, 2004
Staring down dilemma
The Hokies' season is on the brink against a No. 6 Mountaineers team they were clobbered by last year.
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- Hokies' athletic director requested 'night off'
- Virginia Tech fans need new tailgate tradition
Blog: Andy Bitter
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- Western Carolina kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. on ESPN3
- Hokies’ Russell Athletic Bowl trip cost $1.6 million
- Join the Hokie football conversation on Andy's blog
Twitter: Andy Bitter
Got to have it.
Coach Frank Beamer hasn't dared to speak such words, but his players say Virginia Tech is faced with a must-win situation when No.6 West Virginia comes calling at noon today in Lane Stadium.
"It is a must game," Tech quarterback Bryan Randall said. "I think everybody realizes we need this one to bounce back."
Big John Dunn seconded the motion.
"Oh, it's a definite must win," Tech's right offensive tackle said. "It's a big game. This can really turn our season around."
In an early season dilemma it hasn't faced since its 1995 Sugar Bowl champion team started 0-2, Tech finds itself at 2-2 and backed into a corner. The Hokies realize they must come off the ropes fighting and knock out the Mountaineers (4-0), or perhaps find themselves down for the count in their pursuit of a 12th consecutive bowl bid.
A victory would leave Tech 3-2 and still looking good to finish 7-5, at the worst. However, a loss would leave the Hokies in a precarious position to wind up 6-6, with a remaining schedule that includes four ACC road games, plus tough home assignments against Maryland and No.12 Virginia.
As if that possible predicament isn't enough to stoke their fires, the Hokies have additional motive to come out swinging against their bitter border rival - revenge. Tech desperately is looking for payback against a WVU club that has kicked its posterior two years in a row.
Two years ago, WVU came into Lane and stunned No.13 Tech, 21-18. Of course, that was nothing compared to last year in Morgantown, where a 2-4 WVU club thoroughly spanked 6-0 and No.3 Tech in a game that wasn't as close as the 28-7 final.
"West Virginia embarrassed us on those two [days]," Tech tailback Mike Imoh said. "That loss last year was probably one of the worst losses most everyone on this team has ever been a part of - high school, college, all that."
In front of ESPN's national television cameras last Oct.22, 14-point underdog WVU outgained Tech 426-211, including a 264-65 edge in rushing yards.
Tech tailback Justin Hamilton said he'll never forget how it felt walking off Mountaineer Field as the delirious WVU fans stormed from the stands and overpowered tear-gas firing police to rip down both goal posts. The celebration of the program's biggest win ever - No.3 Tech was the highest-ranked team WVU ever has beaten - lasted deep into the night as the crazed fans set fire to every loose couch in Morgantown.
"They physically beat us up, they out-executed us offensively and defensively, and they let us know about it," Hamilton recalled. "When we walked off the field that game we realized we had gotten beat. That's really the only time last year that I walked off the field and said we got beat. It's a feeling that nobody enjoys, especially when you're ranked third in the country."
Randall certainly hasn't forgotten the Morgantown massacre. He turned the ball over four times - three interceptions and a fumble - in the debacle that led to him sharing QB time with Marcus Vick in Tech's 2-5 slide to close an 8-5 season.
"I can't remember ever having a worse game than that ... I don't think it could get any worse," Randall said.
"I think basically we dug ourselves in a hole and we couldn't get out of it. Plus, they outplayed us, plain and simple. We're not going to to let that happen this year."
Today's game has a lot of storylines that mirror last year's contest. This time, however, it's WVU coming in unbeaten and highly ranked. In addition to rekindling their season with a rare win over a top-10 team, the Hokies would love nothing more than to ruin the Mountaineers' run for an unbeaten season and a possible shot at playing for the national title.
"They got us last year when we ranked in the top 10 and I think we can spoil them this year," Randall said. "It's a great opportunity for us. Last year, I think they took advantage of their opportunity when they played us. Now we're in the same position this year to do the same thing to them."
The Las Vegas oddsmakers like the Hokies' chances. Tech remained a 3-point favorite late Friday afternoon despite the fact it is 3-21 vs. teams ranked in the Associated Press' top 10 in Beamer's 17-plus seasons. Tech's win over No.2 Miami last November marked the first time it had beaten a team ranked higher than ninth under Beamer.
"We've got a chance to face a top-10 team, which you don't get many opportunities to do, and we're at home," Hamilton said. "So you get a chance to make a statement for your program, your teammates, and your coaching staff. It doesn't come along very often and we need to take advantage of the opportunity."
Got to have it. That's what you call it.