Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Wackiness should end today for Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies can't lose this one. ... Can they?

Not after all we've seen this week. Not after their coach delivered a passionate defense of his embattled offensive staff. Not after the practice turf became the campus' second drillfield, with the sergeants clearly motivated by the outside heat. Not after Frank Beamer produced the most quotable call-in show line of the year -- rivaling "You're done, Clyde" from 2007 -- when he told Jason from Arlington he thought Jason's opinion was "out of whack."

(Coincidentally, there's a movie currently in theaters called "The Wackness." Got two stars in the paper. Judging by my e-mail inbox this week, that's about two more stars than most fans are willing to give this Tech offense.)

Yes, it's gridiron crisis time in Blacksburg again, folks! People are mad. The coaches are sweating. The players are speaking humbly about "improvement" and "little things" and "getting on the same page."

And you know what that means, don't you?

Georgia Tech is about to become lunch meat.

Recent history tells us the Hokies do not lose games like this one. Oh, they'll toss away bowl chances, flounder in national matchups, see things fall apart after reaching dizzying highs. But when the furor really builds, when an ugly crash looks inevitable, Virginia Tech typically makes a last-second veer toward normalcy.

The Yellow Jackets know this quite well. It was merely last season that the Hokies limped all the way to Atlanta, dodging tomatoes the entire trip. Virginia Tech had just fallen in historic fashion to Boston College on national TV, and nobody was spared the criticism. Beamer. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. Even normally untouchable defensive coordinator Bud Foster took some hits after making his "That's why they're fans and we coach, OK?" remark in support of his "Devil" defense used in the closing minutes.

(Hmm ... implying that fans don't know football ... sound familiar?)

So the stage was definitely set. The Hokies were on life support. The Yellow Jackets were rolling. As the crowd filed into Bobby Dodd Stadium on a Thursday evening, doom approached in the Georgia twilight. ...

And then the Hokies knocked the snot out of the Jackets. Quarterback Sean Glennon produced a career game (296 passing yards and three touchdowns, including a rushing score), the much-maligned offense churned out 481 total yards and the defense came up with five interceptions.

Final score: Hokies 27, Jackets 3.

All was forgiven.

This was no isolated occurrence. Think of some of the other Hokie resuscitations we've seen in recent years.

In 2006, it was the homefield drilling of nationally ranked Clemson shortly after back-to-back losses, including the infamous "Sweet Caroline" fiasco.

In '05, it was the 52-14 slaughter of Virginia one game after Miami ruined the Hokies' 8-0 start.

In '04, just one week after being sacked 10 times in a loss to N.C. State, quarterback Bryan Randall led the unranked Hokies to a win over No. 6 West Virginia.

The linesmakers weren't fooled this week. Vegas installed the Hokies as a touchdown favorite. The public bet it down slightly midweek, but whom are you going to trust, Vegas or the public?

OK, so I wouldn't let Vegas borrow the keys to my truck. But Vegas makes its living on knowing these types of things. And Vegas knows what you know: When Virginia Tech fans show up angry, they typically leave appeased.

And if they don't this time? Well, then you'll know for sure that things are out of whack.

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