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Going Home Again

Virginia Tech fans have certainly had a reason to think that Thomas Wolfe was right. Their 2005 season so far has been confined to the Triangle area of North Carolina. All in all, this has not been a particularly bad situation, especially for the RTP Hokies or those who have purchased Lane luxury suites, or even live a short jaunt up Route 86 from State and Duke. It hasn’t been too bad for Tech’s record, either.

All good things must come to an end, however, including my short drives to Tech games. This Saturday the schedule finally shines on Tech and its portion of the fan base that does not live fairly close to Carter-Finley and/or Wallace Wade. It’s finally time to play a home game.

I must admit that it will feel a little different taking a right instead of a left out of my driveway and 58 West out of town instead of 86 South. The extra hour to ninety minutes behind the wheel it will take to get to Blacksburg after Raleigh and Durham will require extra conditioning- I am not yet in home game shape. I will work my way back into mid-season form gradually. As is usually the case for Tech’s first home game, I only have to make it as far as Roanoke, where I will spend Friday evening lounging around my brother’s deck sipping his adult beverages. The remainder of the drive will be made Saturday morning. I consider it an altogether civilized way to round into home game travel shape.

Frank Beamer more than likely took a little different view of the early-season schedule than I. He is probably glad that Tech’s entire 05 season has not been arranged to provide for my ease of travel arrangements. Frank and everyone else associated with the Tech program has probably grown much wearier of the weekly commutes to the RTP than I. While I am positive that he spent many hours during the summer knocking around with jimmy the idea of playing the entire season in North Carolina- heck, let’s play one at Kenan, too- in order to make it easier on me, it would appear they gave minimizing the mileage between my house and where Tech played something other than the highest priority. Oh, well.

I am sure the convenience market with the fast food joint attached just outside Rocky Mount is glad to finally see a Tech home game. That is where I always pay a Gameday morning visit for a steak biscuit and coffee. They can now hire back all of the personnel laid off at the conclusion of last season due to the loss of my business. Even as I type, employees of that Kroger on 419 in Roanoke, scene of another Saturday morning visit, are hard at work replenishing stock back to Tech football levels, particularly the cooler. My economic impact on the region will again be felt.

Yep, Tech is finally playing another home game. Most of the sixty-six thousand Tech fans holding tickets and a few employees of Turner Construction will get their first look at this edition of Hokie football. Considering how many have been moved around Lane Stadium due to re-seating, it will be a look from a different angle. It will be an unexpected view for some, such as those who paid $100k for the privilege of watching the game from the SEZ. No doubt they will offer words of encouragement to the Turner guys as they enter the stadium. There is a chance of showers; certainly a little rain would add emphasis to that encouragement.

Saturday’s opponent will be Ohio. This has all the makings of a classic rivalry, at least by Tech OOC standards. I noticed that at least a few fans of the Bobcats prepped for the Tech game by burning a couch last Friday night. Obviously they are looking to emulate and replace WVU as a principle rival of Tech, although they still might have a ways to go in the sister-marrying department. Although you have to admire the Ohio fans for trying, it is doubtful Tech fans will take the game with the Bobcats particularly seriously. The goal posts are probably safe.

Ohio comes into the game having established themselves as a power in the Li’l E. Beating Pitt was certainly something Tech found beyond their capabilities those last few BE seasons. Of course, Tech was never fortunate enough to play a Pitt team coached by Dave Wannstedt, either.

I’m sure Frank Solich has been on the phone this week to Tech’s Frank. Wannstedt junking the West Coast offense for which Walt Harris had recruited worked like a charm for Ohio. It’s not hard to figure how Wannstedt racked up that impressive 1-8 last year with the NFL’s Miami. No doubt Solich requested that Frank instruct Bryan Stinespring to trash a proven offense for something unfamiliar to the personnel this week, too. The answer was probably not to the liking of Ohio’s Frank.

Instead of trying to run against Ohio an offense that the players are obviously uncomfortable with and unsuited for, Stinespring will likely continue on Tech’s present offensive plan. Some more of Tech’s offense will be given to Marcus Vick and the Hokies will show a few more wrinkles, just as happened between the first and second games. Unlike Wannstedt, the Tech coaches prefer to attempt to match the offense with the skills and abilities of the players and Tech has some pretty good ones. Ohio’s defense just might the going a bit tougher than last Friday. The Bobcat’s offense looked positively Devilish against Pitt, something Bud Foster has probably noticed. Tech should win easily, although that was uttered more than a few times by many Tech fans prior to the game against Miami of Ohio back in 1997, too.

Tech’s game against Ohio occupies a low, ESPNU priority this week around the ACC. The real action will be taking place in stadiums not located on the Tech campus. The headliner is up in Boston, the home of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. Unfortunately, none of those teams have recently joined the ACC, so Fredo beginning conference play against league heavyweight Florida State will go unnoticed by most New Englanders. It’s a pity most of that huge media market will be paying more attention to Fenway than Alumni Stadium, or discussing the Patriot’s Sunday game at Carolina [at least somebody in Boston will be interested in something going on in traditional ACC country]. FSU-BC could be a pretty good game.

Miami has had a couple of weeks to stew about the loss to the ‘Noles and watch as Tech put some ground between them in the standings. They continue their own ACC season-opening road tour by traveling to Clemson. The Tigers have been the ACC’s surprise team so far, beating Texas A&M and Maryland. Things figure to be a little tougher for Clemson this weekend, although they did beat the Canes last year. If the Tigers do it again, there might actually be shots fired again from the Grassy Knoll, rather than that hilarious message board meltdown.

North Carolina opens its home season with Wisconsin. Look on the bright side, John: the schedule will get worse when Tennessee shows up. The Tar Heels still have defensive problems, but they are better than Temple. Somehow I doubt the Badgers will ring up 51 first half points this week.

The Hoos travel to Syracuse for their first visit to the Carrier Dome in a very long time. I’m sure the Orange will strive to make it a pleasant visit and only mention the role played by the Head Hoo in ACC expansion a few thousand times. That miserable dome is not the best place to play under the best of circumstances; something other than algroh’s favorite Van Halen lyrics will be sung to the Hoos. Just think, Orangepersons: if not for the Hoos, Wallace Wade Stadium could have been completely empty last Saturday.

Maryland will host Li’l E neighbor West Virginia in the battle of the two league’s worst fan bases. The over/under for the number of batteries, water bottles and f-bombs thrown must be astronomical. This will be an ACC warm-up for the Cousins before they get one last shot at the real traitors.

Wake Forest will be hosting East Carolina. It is a must win for the Deacs, not the worst time to have the Pirates show up on the schedule. NC State will take off their hats, wipe their feet, say “Yes sir, Mr. Amato,” then wipe up Carter-Finley with some Directional Kentucky. Duke hosts VMI. Plenty of good seats remain.
As for me, I will be making the unfamiliar trek back to Blacksburg. Well, unfamiliar so far this year, anyway. Despite the extra travel time, it will be good to again hold the home tailgating advantage and to once again watch a game in Lane. All things considered, it will be good to go home again.

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