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Winning Again

Winning Again 09/22/08

Act 2, a win is a win is a win. For the second straight week, the Virginia Tech football team garnered few style points. For the second straight week, they looked downright ugly at times. For the second straight week, they still managed to win. For the second straight week, they won 20-17. Repeat again, a win is a win is a win.

For forty minutes last Saturday in ‘beautiful’ Kenan Stadium, the North Carolina team totally dominated Tech is most every facet of the game. Tech’s offense appeared to be its usual inept bunch, with the o-line bumbling around the line of scrimmage and Tyrod continuing to demonstrate a strong resistance to quarterback development. Tech seemed in big trouble.

Just when things appeared their bleakest, at least for those clad in the same color shirt as I [I can’t believe that curmudgeon Atlee again trashed the Clubhouse Tailgate by wearing that hideous orange], with the Tar Heels poised to finally notch a win over what since expansion has been the ACC’s dominant program, something happened. Butch glanced across the field and noticed exactly who was on the opposite sideline. That would be Frank Beamer, Butch’s longtime nemesis. The Heels promptly fell apart.

I’m guessing most reading this are aware by now that Tech staged an improbable comeback to win. The offense suddenly was transformed into a unit that could actually gain yardage and score points. The defense took over. One can hope that this might be looked back on as the time when a very young football team began growing up and coming together.

The Tech-Carolina game bore a remarkable resemblance to five of the six Tech- Miami games played when Butch was in South Florida alternating between claiming maximum Backness and vowing, “Next year.”

An integral part of Tech game plans during that time was to keep the score close for three quarters, then wait for 1] Tech’s superior S&C to kick in during the fourth and 2] for Butch to screw up. Both happened Saturday, although it sure didn’t seem at the time that 17-3 constituted ‘keeping the score close.’

A fresher Tech team steadily began dominating both lines of scrimmage; that would include the oft-maligned offensive one. During crunch time they began blowing huge holes in a Carolina defensive front that was clearly wearing down in the face of the Gentry Factor. The Tech defensive line that had experienced all sorts of trouble bringing a consistent pass rush this year simply overpowered the Heels and descended on backup Carolina QB Mike Paulus in lines generally taken by bees. Then there was Carolina committing personal fouls in droves, another hallmark of Butch’s Miami teams. Get used to refs stepping off 15 yards against your team, Tar Heels. It is Butch’s way.

Then we got to observe the high comedy of Butch Butching up the final two minutes, throwing away two times out for no good reason, thus ensuring that Tech would be able to run out the clock with minimum interference from Carolina stopping it. In the end, Butch was wearing the mystified expression so often seen during Tech- Canes games and Carolina fans were joining Miami ones of a decade ago in pondering whether Butch’s recruiting would be able to overcome Butch’s coaching.

It took a while, but, by game’s end, Frank was able to extend his dominance of Butch, treating him as hardened prison lifers treat cell block newbies. And, for all the problems this wet-behind-the-ears Tech team has experienced this year, they find themselves where they usually are, at the top of the Coastal standings at 2-0, with the important plus of holding tie-breakers over two division opponents. Things could be a heck of a lot worse and almost were.

Frank continues to dominate ACC football, particularly those ACC teams located one state to the south. Since entering the ACC, Tech is now 12-1 against conference rivals hailing from the Old North State. The road record against Carolina, State, Duke and Wake is now 8-0. Tech is doing a bit more than filling up Kenan, Carter-Findley, Wade [especially] and Groves, providing nice little boosts to the balance sheets of DickieB, Uncle Jed, [formerly] Lackey Joe and Ron. They are beating their teams on a very consistent basis.

Once again, I found my Carolina trip to be an enjoyable one and not just because Tech keeps winning. Traveling to Blue Heaven has become my favorite away destination in the ACC. A large part of that has to do with my being able to spend quality tailgate time with my good buddy, the incomparable BobLee. BobLee says that he enjoys his annual Clubhouse outings and we sure enjoy having him around.

I tend to get along with opposing fans, even Hoos, but I continue to find the Tar Heels among the best of the bunch. They are a friendly lot and were so postgame, even following a very bitter defeat. I have seen Tech fans in similar circumstances behaving much more badly.

I only encountered one problem and it wasn’t really one. It came immediately following the game when I made a pit stop in the nearest Kenan men’s room. A very drunken Tar Heel was loudly demanding that UNC rescind Little Johnny’s Carolina degree, since it was perfectly obvious that he hated his alma mater to the point of ordering his game officials to rob the Heels of hard-earned victories. He was delivering his harangue while pitching empty Dickel mini-bottles into a urinal. Other Carolina fans were ignoring him, which certainly seemed to me to be the sensible thing to do. He certainly was a very small minority, decidedly outnumbered by all the friendly Heels I met.

Last Saturday had been described by the good old N&O, in between all of its Heels hype, as the Greatest Football Saturday Ever around the RTP. The Greatest Football Saturday Ever ended with only one of the Triangle teams winning.

That would be NC State, which earlier in the day had knocked off the East Carolina Strawgraspers. Adios, Orange Bowl, along with that imminent Li’l E invitation. And just when Mikey was on hand [or so said the Strawgraspers] to finally deliver the invitation, the straw at which the Strawgraspers have been grasping for 18 years now. Drat the luck!

One thing that can be said about Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien as he continues to struggle with the wreckage left behind by Chuckie is that he has a very good handle on whom he needs to beat to keep the Wolves at bay.

Captain Tom is now 3-0 against in-state rivals with ‘Carolina’ in their name. That can go a long way towards keeping them happy in West Raleigh until such time as TO’B can get a decent foundation laid, which he will.

The ACC nightcap saw Jim Grobe and the Deacs continue to treat Bobby and the Noles the same as Frank treats Butch. This is three in a row over FSU for Jim and Wake, the second straight in Bobby Doak Campbell Stadium. Jim Grobe keeps hanging around Winston and he keeps winning at a place previously judged to be virtually impossible to compile the win totals Grobe is amassing. Who knows, maybe he will elect to stick around the BB&T tower when his alma mater in Hooville comes calling in a few months.

2/3 through September we find ourselves 1/3 of the way through the schedule. Through its ability to find ways to beat ACC opponents, Tech finds itself, at least so far, atop the Coastal standings. As the prime time Nebraska game looms, it ain’t a bad place to be.

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