Friday, December 28, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies coach Beamer focuses on tree to avoid forest

Look out, Rutgers. You are being stalked.

Frank Beamer is staring through your soul with a single-minded focus not seen since that Dutch guy set a world record - and grossed out his loved ones - by stockpiling 5,568 airline barf bags.

(That's a true story, by the way. Somebody acquired that many. Don't believe me? Google "Niek Vermeulen." For even more precise search results, Google "Niek Vermeulen" and "barf bags.")

Niek wanted barf bags. Beamer wants to bag Rutgers. Hard to decide which is less significant.

Still, Beamer wants this so bad that he can't be bothered with questions about potential staff changes that are on the minds of the masses.

"We haven't talked about it," he said this week, in response to the 70,000th query about the No. 1 topic in Blacksburg right now. "All we've talked about is this bowl game and Rutgers."

This, of course, is exactly how fans should want it. Public declarations at this point serve little purpose. Besides, who can be troubled with the long-term viability of a program when they're staring into the piercing eyes of an angry Scarlet Knight?

That's why Beamer has to stay on point. Bowl game. Rutgers. Bowl game. Rutgers. You can almost picture him waking up in a cold sweat at his Orlando hotel room:

"... Rut... No... Off-tackle... Rut... No... Why... Curse you, Rutgers!!!!!"

[Stirs from sleep]

"Wha... what? Oh, thank God. 'Twas only a dream."

Oh, but reality comes at 5:30 p.m. today. And ... who are we kidding? Nobody's really that obsessed with what happens today.

This is a big-picture winter for Virginia Tech. The difference between 7-6 and 6-7 is not that significant, at least when compared with the usual stakes for Tech postseason games. It's all about setting the direction for the future.

But first, the Hokies find themselves in one of those matchups that has the nation asking a time-honored question: Do we really need so many bowl games?

The answer to that is simple: We haven't talked about it. All we've talked about is this bowl game and Rutgers.

OK, let's talk about Rutgers then. The Scarlet Knights are coached by Kyle Flood, who looks a little like Michael Scott from "The Office," at least according to the photos I've seen of him online.

They have a really good defense and a woeful offense, at least according to the stats I've seen online.

They're either going to beat Tech by one point in a defensive struggle or lose to Tech by one point in a defensive struggle, at least according to the predictions I've seen online.

Pumped up yet?

Still, here are a few things that could happen tonight that would make Tech fans smile:

  • A shutout by the defense. Although it's never something you would predict, it's a possibility. Rutgers averages 22 points per game and is ranked 100th in the nation in total offense. Pittsburgh held the Scarlet Knights to six points on Nov. 24. Cincinnati held them to 10 the week before that. Tech's defense has improved steadily and could make a run at a goose egg.
  • A mauling performance by the Tech rushing attack. Even less likely than a shutout given Rutgers' defensive strength, but man, would that be a welcome sight. Judging from the comments by offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, the Hokies are streamlining their playbook for this game and coming right after Rutgers.
  • A monster game by Bruce Taylor. The senior linebacker has been a good soldier for this program, even sacrificing bigger numbers by switching positions this season. He deserves a memorable swan song. Think 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a pick that sets up the winning score.
  • A postgame declaration from Logan Thomas that he's coming back for one more season.

The one thing you're guaranteed not to hear after this one is that the Hokies were anything less than focused.

Bowl game. Rutgers. Bowl game. Rutgers. At long last, it's finally here.

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