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The Second Act

I should have asked you guys [and girls] first. In the Second Chance column, I confessed that I had been unable to discover who first uttered the ‘no second chances’ line. A-Line reader Kevin Crosby informed me that attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald were the words, ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ Next time I will decline to waste time on Google and simply ask the readership.

The literate Kevin [obviously more so than I] also pointed out another line that came from Fitzgerald: ‘Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.’ It seems that while F. Scott was hanging out with the New York glitterati that formed the basis for ‘The Great Gatsby,’ he was also thinking about Virginia Tech football.

Given a second act in the ACC Coastal Division drama, Tech responded with what turned out to be a convincing 30-3 mauling of North Carolina. In terms of the division championship, the single defeat to Miami was not the final one for Tech’s chances. As none other than Larry Coker pointed out a few days before his Canes lost to Georgia Tech, you have to play all the games. When they had all been played late Saturday night, Tech had once again finished ahead of the Canes and is on their way to Jacksonville.

As Alltel Stadium officials staring at mountains of unsold tickets breathed a sigh of relief, Tech cast itself on the championship game playbill with a dominating Second Half manhandling of the Tar Heels. The key words are ‘Second Half.’

The lethargic Hokies had spent the First Half giving every indication they intended to hand the Coastal Division right back to Miami. At least one Tech fan [this one] pondered, “Again?” At halftime an exasperated Frank Beamer decided it was time to quit screwing around and find out exactly what the inspired Carolina team had up front. The answer was found in three straight touchdowns.

For all of the glamour attached to the passing game, football remains basically a game of blocking and tackling [okay, somebody tell me who first said that]. A basic football truism remains that the team that does the best job of running the ball while also preventing its opponent from doing the same will usually win. Tech did.

Big John Bunting must have experienced a strong sense of déjà vu, flashing back to his college days playing under Bill Dooley. The Old Trench Fighter no doubt was watching as Tech reverted to a Dooley-esque ground game, pounding the Heels into the Lane turf and submission. MVToo has suddenly become a bit player in the Tech offense.

Of course, Bunting would have felt even more déjà vu as he watched his team get rolled in the Third Quarter yet again. Halftime adjustments do not appear to be among Big John’s strong points. Neither does reacting to the other guy’s halftime adjustments.

Big John has been preaching toughness, both of the mental and physical varieties, since he arrived at Blue Heaven five years ago. His players certainly got an object lesson in the advantages of being tougher than the other guy.

Tech was tougher and stronger on both lines of scrimmage, manhandling the Heels in as good a display of power football as one is likely to see. The Tech offensive line tossed aside the Carolina defensive one like rag dolls. At times, Carolina stacked nine men in the box in a desperate attempt at slowing the devastating ground game that was grinding them down. Tech still ran the ball, easily.

On the other side, Custer fared better at Little Big Horn than did Carolina quarterback Matt Baker. He must have had thoughts similar to Custer’s about the Indians as the Tech defensive line blew past the Heels’ o-line, stopped the Carolina running game cold and swallowed him whole. His parents certainly received better treatment from Tech fans out in the RV lot than Baker got from the Tech defense.

Tech heads to Jacksonville to determine the ACC championship and its bowl destination while Carolina calls it a season. Frank Beamer awaits what is likely to be a second straight ACC Coach of the Year trophy while Big John continues to attempt to build something substantial at Carolina. Bunting has the tougher job.

It was telling that there was a guy at the Clubhouse Tailgate’s afternoon festivities from my Danville neck of the woods. He had attended neither school but professed to being a fan of Tech football and Carolina basketball. While that says much about the tough job Seth Greenberg has ahead of him, it also says a lot about the Herculean task still ahead of Big John. In both cases, the coach is attempting to construct a solid program where large amounts of the fan base simply don’t care. It ain’t easy.

It doesn’t make Bunting’s job any easier when his local paper displays the same attitude of indifference as much of what should be his fan base. The good old N&O utterly ignored what was a very big game for Carolina, one in which a victory would have gained them bowl eligibility and done much for Big John’s attempts to gain recruiting traction.

Instead, readers were treated to how Tyler Hansborough and the rest of Ol’ Roy’s freshmen were adjusting to college life and yapping about crass advertising despoiling Dean’s Dome. This during the same week that Frank Beamer’s recruiting machine plucked another top prospect from Big John’s Eastern North Carolina back yard. There are reasons why so many of that state’s elite high school players receive Tripmaker CDs along with their diplomas with the routes to Blacksburg and Knoxville already mapped.

Another thing that needs to be addressed at Carolina is their scheduling philosophy. North Carolina finished 4-4 in ACC play compared to the 3-5 rung up by NC State. The Heels also beat the Pack and accomplished their .500 record in the tougher Coastal Division. Yet, State is headed to a bowl while Carolina stays home. The Wolfpack will get the advantages of the extra practice and the status that goes along with playing in any bowl.

State is Boise-eligible mainly because Ohio State was replaced on the Pack’s schedule first by Woeful Temple University, then some Locational Tennessee when the Owls backed out. Fans might clamor for tough OOC schedules, but they don’t seem to be doing Carolina much good. The series against both Utah and Louisville did not bring Carolina any national television exposure- October 8 the Marshall-Tech game was nationally televised while Carolina at Louisville was not- or full houses at Kenan.

It is senseless to continue that scheduling philosophy until a program can be developed to handle it. If Louisville had been tossed and replaced with a more manageable game Carolina would now be planning on sampling the steamed crabs along Fisherman’s Wharf.

DickieB does not appear to be the brightest of ADs- hanging a ‘For Sale’ sign on the inside of Dean’s Dome certainly testifies to his abilities to manage his large budget. Even he should be able to grasp that continuing to schedule like he was Southern Cal isn’t making Big John’s already tough job any easier.

Around the rest of the ACC, State rode its tough defense to a win over Maryland and a bowl trip. The Pack fans may gripe but they will buy up Charlotte tickets by the tens of thousands if given the opportunity. Chuckie still has serious issues with staff continuity, but bowl trips can smooth a lot of rough program edges.

Ralph Friedgen now stares at his second straight 5-6 season. The Fridge may be an offensive mastermind and is, but he is most definitely not a recruiting one. His top target taking a red-shirt year at Tech certainly didn’t help his shaky quarterback situation.

Florida State completed an impressive end-of-season collapse by getting hammered by Florida in the Swamp. Things have gone downhill for the Noles ever since they clinched the Atlantic Division by losing at home to NC State. Bobby does get one more game to try to get the ship righted and tear down all of those ‘Fire Jeff’ signs across from his office.

A dispirited Miami team did manage to get its collective heads in the game long enough to beat the Hoos. All of those comments last week by Kyle Wright and other Canes about not caring about playing in any ‘second rate’ bowl were certainly heard in Jacksonville.

Gator Bowl Executive Director Rick Catlett took note of the lousy Orange Bowl crowd for the Hoos and the fact that the last time the Canes graced the Gator Bowl, back in 1999, it was the smallest crowd in terms of percentage of the available stadium filled in the Gator’s history. He indicated that should Tech lose this Saturday, he just might spare Wright the pain of playing in his ‘second rate’ game and invite the Hokie Nation to return to the Landing in a month.

And then there is algroh. It was quite amusing to read the braggadocio with which the Great NFL Legend brought to Hooville reduced to crowing that the Canes didn’t rout his team. Yep, all of that talent held the margin of defeat to eight. That should be worth another big raise.

Virginia Tech took advantage of Coastal Division Championship, Act II and is headed to Jacksonville to defend their ACC championship in the inaugural Championship Game. Anybody on the Landing Friday night should look for the tall guy yelling ‘Hug a Hokie.’ That will be Larry and the rest of the Clubhouse crew should be with him. Say Hi, maybe take Larry up on his offer if you are an attractive young lady. More about Tech-FSU later in the week, provided I get through packing. See you in Jax.

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