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Second Chance

It is said you get no second chances at life. I’m not sure who originally uttered those words- Google isn’t clear- but whoever, they obviously did not have the Coastal Division championship in mind.

Virginia Tech’s chances of winning their division were given up for dead following the pummeling the Hokies received from Miami. But, that was before the Canes’ unlikely loss last Saturday night to Georgia Tech. After that astounding upset, the Hokie Bird shoved the phoenix out of the way and Tech’s chances rose from the ashes. This sure makes the biblical account of Lazarus seem like small potatoes.

Tech gets its second chance at the Coastal championship and, by consequence, the opportunity to perhaps defend its ACC championship. It will be same time, same place, same station- Saturday night, Lane, ESPN. We shall see if the team will take better advantage of this chance than they did the first.

The opponent this time will be Carolina rather than the Canes. The Tar Heels, or Car Loan Heels, as they now seem to be known thanks to Wachovia, have their own stakes on the table. The 5-5 Heels are playing for bowl eligibility and the chance to play in whatever eighth ACC bowl Little Johnny Swofford can scrounge up. While Every Northstater, or at least those in baby blue, might like the idea of Emerald Nuts in a bowl, I’d just as soon be playing for what Tech has on the table.

Tech seems to be taking great pains to take great advantage of this second opportunity at Jacksonville next week. Tuesday’s media conference saw a number of players swearing on a stack of their fans’ hotel reservations that THIS GAME would be different.

It was rather interesting hearing Darryl Tapp claim that the team might have taken Miami lightly. What? I’m sure the Canes found that amusing as they took time out this week from penning what are likely to now be some stirring rap lyrics. Or, the Canes may be creating some new musical genre, a combination of rap and blues. Whatever.

One thing is for sure: the Miami players and their handful of fans will be watching Saturday night. They will also be just as huge Wachovia supporters as the Hokies were last weekend of that ‘other’ Tech. Provided they take care of the Hoos of course, but, then again, hoo doesn’t?

Tapp led the chorus of Tech players claiming that the lessons learned from getting caught up in the enormous hype surrounding the Miami game week would be put to good use in this week’s latest HUGE GAME. Of course, we really didn’t expect the players to announce to the cameras, “This game is in the bag. We’re gonna pound these stiffs by thirty. Start snapping up those Jax tickets now.”

Hokie fans are hoping that the Tech team that ripped the cape from the back of Wally Wahoo and had algroh snarling at his radio callers will be the same bunch that shows up Saturday night. Those of us who trifled with the Weauxf Gods by buying ACC Championship tickets and making Jacksonville hotel reservations this week REALLY hope so.

It can be expected that Carolina will show up ready to play. This is the same UNC team, mind you, that gave the Canes a much better game in the Orange Bowl than Tech gave Miami in Lane. For the benefit of those three hundred or so Tar Pit readers who have wandered by I will reiterate that if I had a vote for ACC Coach of the Year, it would go to Big John Bunting. That is not just sucking up to new readers; well, some of it is. Most of it, however, is my belief that no other ACC coach this year has accomplished more with less than Big John. We used to say that about Frank Beamer back when Tech was in the Big East and before Frank was able to recruit the kind of talent he gets now. Chances are Tech will get an eyeful of Big John’s prowess Saturday night.

Unless the Car Loan Heels knock off Tech and advance to a bowl, this game will mark the last for retiring Carolina Offensive Coordinator Gary ‘Yoda’ Tranquill. Yoda spent a year calling Frank ‘boss’ and is widely ridiculed and blamed for botching the senior year of former Tech QB Maurice DeShazo back in 1994. That an 8-4 Gator Bowl year could be considered ‘botched’ gives you the idea that perhaps today’s Great Expectations for Tech football is not an entirely new state of affairs.

Saturday’s game will be the eleventh time out of the eleven games this season that Tech has played on television. Nine of them will have been contested on one of the ESPN family of networks. There were three television slots available for this weekend’s games. Only one was national, the prime-time ESPN one. Guess who got that one. Gee, it’s hard to believe Miami is stuck with a regional audience, what with that huge television market and all. The next time Little Johnny Swofford is thinking expansion he really should check with the people actually televising the games rather than some Denver consultant. Once again, we are witnessing ESPN’s expansion vote. Enjoy the exposure, Carolina. Tech is certainly used to it.

The Car Loan Heels will come into Lane Saturday night without their Swagger. That is because BobLee elected to spend the holiday weekend with his in-laws rather than his new Tech buddies. This is yet another reason for the relative football mediocrity in the state of North Carolina compared to that of the commonwealth due north, or at least the maroon part. Putting family before football is not how the Tech fans do it, or at least the ones I know.

This will be Carolina’s first football visit to Tech since 1930. Anybody who made that 1930 trip and is coming back will find that things have changed a bit around town and campus in the intervening seventy-five years. Lane will be a little livelier than Miles likely was back then. Younger Heels just might find this Tech team a bit more competitive than the one they saw back on the first of January 1998, too.

Judging by the numbers of tickets Carolina sent back, there will not be a lot of folks wearing light blue in Lane Saturday night. Those that do make the journey would be advised to layer up. They will be treated to the bracing Southwest Virginia air that the weather folks never seem to be able to conjure up for Miami visits. Big John will likely be exclaiming “just my luck” as he chats with his former Carolina teammate and good buddy Billy Hite before kickoff. Maybe Billy will give Big John a spare cigarette lighter to keep warm.

Certainly this Tech fan hopes that the Carolina team has trouble adjusting to the brisk Blacksburg weather. Since this version of the A-Line saw the light of a computer monitor, I have corresponded with a number of Heels and even met a couple. Contrary to the stereotypes, I have found most to be reasonable and enjoyable people, just as amicable as all of the great Wolfpack fans with which the A-Line has allowed me to do the same. I wish both nothing but the best except, of course, when they happen to be playing Tech. And this is one of those times.

Speaking of the Pack, they will be hosting Maryland come Saturday. I suspect the atmosphere in Carter-Finley will be somewhat subdued from what it was back on the night of the first Sunday in September. It shouldn’t be. The winner of this game qualifies for a bowl, probably the Music City. Considering how dead State’s season appeared after the Wake game back in October, achieving a bowl would be quite a turnaround for Chuckie, although I’m not sure how high would be the appreciation level.

Down in Miami, the Canes and the Hoos play what will for both be the Game After. algroh’s gang could sure make things a lot easier on Tech were they to hang a losing streak on the Canes. I don’t often root for the Hoos, but it wouldn’t be bad to head into Lane Saturday night only having to worry about pneumonia instead of that and the possibility of having rung up unnecessary Jacksonville credit card charges.

The ACC tangles with the SEC in Atlanta and the Swamp. Nothing much is on the line other than conference bragging rights and whether the Noles will crawl or back into Jax next week. SOS is not quite the big deal for Tech that it was three weeks ago but it would be nice to see the ACC notch a couple of wins.

The action, however, will be at Virginia Tech. It is Second Chance Saturday for the Hokies. Once again, a win guarantees the Coastal Division title and a berth in the inaugural conference championship game. There will be no more chances this year, so it would behoove the Hokies to take advantage of this one.

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