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Road Trip

Virginia Tech made it through its trap game while the Silver Chalice changed hands. The un-deification of Chuckie continued and football season officially ended at Duke. A hurricane screwed with the Hurricanes. It was another grand weekend of ACC football.

The weekend actually began on Wednesday with a lovely drive up I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley. Well, it would have been a lovely drive had it not been for the incessant whining from the Russian in the back seat of the SUV. Conversations conducted by the front seat occupants revolving around campaigning through the Valley during the Civil War were constantly interrupted with plaintive wails of “are we there yet?” and demands to “speed up.” I had not heard this kind of chatter since my son was a lot younger than he is now.

The Russian, obviously used to the high rates of speed that can be achieved by a Lada Niva as it hustles along those modern superhighways that traverse the taiga, was unimpressed by the importance given by the driver to arriving with skulls intact and all body parts attached. He was not happy when the adults in the vehicle determined that reaching College Park, MD, twenty-seven hours before kickoff was preferable to risking life and limb by trying for twenty-eight.

The Russian was even less impressed when we came to a screeching halt within sight of the Capitol Beltway. It would seem there is no Moscow equivalent to DC traffic. He sat in the back seat complaining loudly about the failure of the free market economy to provide for quick access around this nation’s capital. This continued until we had checked into our hotel and then dropped him at the Cherry Hill RV park accompanied with exclamations to Larry and Clota of, “he’s your problem now.” By that time, the Russian wasn’t the only one bellowing, “Where’s da whiskey?”

Following our diplomatic adventures, we did get to watch a football game. Two years ago, a Virginia Tech football team thought to be very good ventured into the hills of West Virginia at about the same time of the season. Those Hokies were exposed as the pretenders they were. For better than a half Thursday night, it looked a lot like the same thing was going to happen again. It did not.

Tech played badly against Maryland, making mistake after mistake. In the end, it didn’t matter. Tech won going away chiefly due to possessing a huge talent advantage over the Terps. With the exception of outstanding linebacker D’Quell Jackson, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen could not muster anywhere near the numbers of quality football players as could Frank Beamer. Much has been made about Friedgen winning with the players left behind by fired predecessor Ron Vanderlinden, but last Thursday it was on view for the entire football world to plainly see. The Fridge is not recruiting at a nearly high enough level to compete at the top of today’s ACC.

By the time Tech’s Gentry Factor kicked in during the Fourth Quarter and the Hokies steadily wore down the Terps, it had already been established that Tech’s defense could completely throttle Friedgen’s vaunted offensive scheme and MVToo could find the gaps in the Maryland defense. Frank Beamer might have had a fourteen-year head start over his good friend Ralph Friedgen in building a top-notch program, but he has also made good use of the time. The Tech team was superior in every aspect. As the Hoos and the Pack are finding out, there is a little more to this program-building thing than simply hiring an alumnus as coach and having him announce greatness.

The Tech team emerged from College Park with its unbeaten record and national ranking intact. Unless something very strange happens in Los Angeles or Austin, the Hokies will likely not have the opportunity to play for the MNC. With games looming against Fredo and Miami looming, they still have much work to do before they can play for the ACC one. Nevertheless, Tech continues to win and this time, unlike the 03 edition, went on the road and played badly but still won easily.

The same cannot be said for the Commonwealth’s other football outfit. Like Tech, the Hoos went on the road to tackle a physically-inferior opponent. The results were a bit different.

North Carolina defeated the Hoos last Saturday in the Chablis Bowl, wresting control of the coveted Silver Chalice. This was a huge game between the ACC’s two vaunted ‘University ofs.’ Fans from both schools mingled before the game for wine and cheese tastings and to good-naturedly argue about which of them possessed the better Philosophy department. Then the ACC’s contribution to arrogance and pretension played some football. Or at least Carolina did.

The Hoos really built on that dramatic win over Florida State. They came into the Chablis Bowl with visions of gators or peaches dancing in their head. They left contemplating Boise. So much for that season-ending run talked about by so many of the Jeffersons.

The Hoos went into Kenan to play a game they should have won. Talent-wise, the Heels cannot stack up with most of the teams in the ACC, including the Hoos. The only advantage Carolina could claim was the presence of algroh on the opposite sideline. It was enough.

This battle of wits between the ACC’s two career NFL assistants most definitely went to John Bunting. Big John entered Kenan, stuck algroh in his back pocket and kept him there for the duration. It was highly amusing to observe the perplexed look settle over algroh, the one that is becoming about as permanent a visage on the face of the Great NFL Legend as the smile is on that of Mona Lisa. Instead of having his agent milk millions out of AD Craig ‘Tubby, I keep getting your machine’ Littlepage, he should have him angling for the lead in a remake of ‘Clueless.’

The best the Chessmaster’s offense could muster against Carolina was three lousy points. This against the bunch last seen surrendering sixty-nine to Louisville. You’ve got to hand it to algroh; few NFL coaches, or even ones in college and high school, would come up with an offensive scheme that completely minimized the huge size advantage held by his offensive line by sending the not-so-fleet-of-foot Wally Lundy out on slow-developing sweep plays. It’s not every NFL genius that employs the defensive stratagem of blitzing its linebackers constantly, then having them turn and watch McGill running by them. It seems there was nothing wrong with the Carolina running attack that a game against algroh couldn’t cure.

As algroh gets to spend two weeks casting blame on anybody within finger-pointing range, John Bunting gets to prepare for Miami with knowledge that he is beating the teams he needs to beat. With the Victory Bell battle against Duke no longer much of one, the two games the Heeliban most want to win are those against State and the Hoos. This year Big John has won them both, which goes a long way in keeping the rams from his door.

The same can’t be said for Chuck Amato. NC State traveled to Wake Forest for a game the Pack and its beleaguered coach absolutely, positively had to win. They didn’t. The State fans that dominated Wake’s Groves Stadium once again exited an arena contemplating that things aren’t exactly working out as planned. Chuckie should go back to the garish outfits; at least then, people would be diverted from the confusing explanations he offers for the mounting losses. While it seems unlikely that Lee Fowler will write the check necessary to dislodge Chuckie from the Murphy Center, two words, Pack fans: Paul Johnson. Think about what he could accomplish with State’s facilities and commitment to winning football.

Around the rest of the ACC, Florida State toyed with Duke before that scoundrel Bobby Bowden called for RUTS in order to deny me a bonus point in the Experts pool. I won’t forget that, Bowden. The game held little interest for Duke fans buzzing about how good McRoberts looked and the emerging point guard battle between Dockery and Paulus. Coach K staging the Blue-White game on the same Saturday as a home football game is guaranteed to take the minds of the fans of Duke off of Roof’s lousy team. It worked again.

Hurricane Wilma caused the postponement of the Georgia Tech- Miami game. From the standpoint of Virginia Tech, that is one less game in which the rapidly-improving Kyle Wright will gain experience before being thrown to the Tech defense and Lane Stadium crowd. Good things can indeed come from hurricanes.

Tech will again get the jump on this football weekend when they host Boston College. Fredo will bring enough talent to match up with Tech very well, especially along both lines. One thing is for sure: the Hokies cannot screw around as they did against Maryland and hope to keep USC and Texas within sight. It will also give Tech’s beefed-up security presence another week to fine-tune their Public Lot operation before the Canes come calling. Considering the emotion that always surrounds Tech-Miami games, hopefully it will be time well spent.

Tech playing again on Thursday will again wreck productivity around the state of Virginia, including my own. Due to attending the game, there will be no other column this week. Blame ESPN. At least it will be at home. I’m not sure I could take the squawking from another road trip.

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