Thursday, November 08, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: A vision, or simply a dream?

BLACKSBURG - Midway through an interview focusing on all that's gone wrong - what else is new? - Virginia Tech receiver Corey Fuller perked up some ears with a momentary musing on what could go right.

"I see it in my head," Fuller said. "I can picture it in my head: an upset."

Woah. For real? An upset tonight against Florida State?

Do tell, Corey: What does this vision look like?

"I just see offense, we're finally clicking, moving the ball down the field, making big plays," Fuller said. "Defense, stopping big plays from happening. And really, I'm looking at the end of the game, I can just see when the clock hits zero, we're above. Virginia Tech has more points than FSU up on the scoreboard.

"It'd be great," he said, smiling. "I can just see fans rushing the field, and they're so excited after a semibad season."

OK, we'll give him a pass on the euphemism. It's not a semibad season. A 4-5 record at this point qualifies as a regular old bad season. But you have to admire his spirit. And his upset vision, while not particularly detailed, is about as close as any of us can get to seeing it.

After all, this is new around here. Home losses happen at Lane Stadium, but how many actually are expected? How many are anything other than an utter disappointment at best, total shock at worst?

Not tonight. Tonight, No. 8-ranked Florida State rolls in here with the nation's top-ranked defense and third-ranked scoring offense. And much of the Hokie Nation already has turned to humor to cope with what could be coming.

"Bud Foster suits up at guard," one blog poster wrote when I posed the question of how Tech could pull off the victory.

"Divine Intervention," another wrote. "God strikes FSU with plague or plague-like symptoms. VT wins."

But deep down, everybody knows it could happen. Why? Well, maybe they watched that Virginia-N.C. State game last week, when the Cavaliers rolled into Raleigh with little reason for optimism and left with a 33-6 victory that was every bit as one-sided as the score would indicate.

I know what you might be thinking: N.C. State is no Florida State. I'd agree. But then how did the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles?

Because weird things happen in this game, that's how. And for Tech tonight, the weirder the better. They need interceptions. They need fumbles. They need sacks. They need mishandled snaps, miscommunication, huge plays in the passing game. They need - "Hillbilly Hospitality," wrote a reader. "VT players get white lightning delivered from Floyd County. Have welcome toast Wednesday night with FSU team. FSU team can't handle it, forfeits."

Yes, or that.

In all seriousness, the Hokies have been saying they "just need to put it all together" for some time now. What better time than tonight? Take the big-play offense from the second quarter on in that Duke game (four touchdowns of 40-plus yards), the defense in the third quarter last week against Miami (Hurricanes averaged 9 inches per play on a dozen snaps) and the atmosphere of - well, let's go back a bit for this one.

Before tonight, the last time the Hokies were a double-digit home underdog was Dec. 1, 2001. You might remember that one. Miami came to Blacksburg needing a victory to make the Rose Bowl, which served as the national title game that year.

The Hurricanes got it, too, beating the Hokies 26-24. The difference was a dropped two-point conversion pass.

But immediately preceding that play, when the Hokies blocked a punt and ran it in for a score, Lane Stadium was as loud as I've ever heard it, before or since. Ear-splitting noise. Goose bumps-inducing noise. This team and this crowd were united, had absolutely nothing to lose, and everybody acted like it.

It was the stuff crazy visions are made of.

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