A win is a win is a win and Tech won. Considering how the second half of October had gone, it was nice to win again, finally. Style points don’t show up in the record.
Virginia Tech ventured into the land of the scrub pine and Strawgrasper last Thursday night, traveling to Greenville and beating East Carolina. While there is always humor to be found in pointing out the strawgrasping done by the Strawgraspers [“we are too a real football program”], there was enough of the usual vandalism, in the form of the rear window of a Hokie SUV parked at our hotel being smashed out [not ours- prior trips to that little bit of West Virginia in eastern North Carolina had convinced us of the necessity of removing all VT insignia] to remind one exactly where Tech was playing. This was my fifth trip to ECU in the last two decades; all have now involved the observation of broken glass. It seems to be an ECU tradition.
I am not the biggest fan of Tech continuing to play the Strawgraspers. I am aware of the argument that there but for the grace of the deity and John Casteen goes Virginia Tech, but don’t much care. Tech was indeed chosen for the Big East over ECU back in 1990 and has since moved on to bigger and better things and conference neighborhoods while the Strawgraspers continue to grasp at the ever-elusive Li’l E straw for going on twenty years now. There were very good reasons for the choice, just as there are very good reasons why, whenever the Li’l E finds itself looking to expand, ECU is always the first wannabe marked off the list. Too bad. The Strawgraspers seem to have great difficulty in understanding the words ‘no interest.’
Left out of anything remotely resembling a regional conference and forced into that amalgamation of directions and hyphens known as CUSA, the Strawgraspers find themselves in a very tough situation. Quite frankly, that is their problem, not Virginia Tech’s. Playing them does little but provide yet another straw, this one at program legitimacy, for the Strawgraspers to grasp. But, jimmy did not seem to request my opinion on the matter before scheduling a long-term series.
With nobody approaching a rival in CUSA, ECU grasps at the rivalry straws wherever they can find them. That includes Virginia Tech. Last Thursday morning, the Clubhouse Tailgate had barely mixed my first Bloody Mary when a crew from a local television station pulled up to provide the Clubhouse Tailgate with more of the media coverage to which we have become quite accustomed. The very first words out of the mouth of the WITN info-babe were regarding the great rivalry between Tech and the Strawgraspers. She did not seem overly impressed with my response of ‘what rivalry?’ Tech has 11 conference rivals plus enough games against schools named Nebraska and Alabama and LSU and Texas A&M and Southern Cal to place any against ECU at the bottom of the interest meter. The Strawgraspers don’t see it that way. When you are in a conference with Southern Miss and UAB, games against Tech and the NC legislature-coerced ones against Carolina and State must seem like pretty big deals.
When entering dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, one is immediately reminded that these are the people left behind in any conference formation or expansion. The stadium is not only small, but they have managed the Kenan-ish trick of using a very low stadium rake to place fans as far away from the playing field as humanly possible. Travel around to the stadiums in North Carolina enough and you really come to appreciate the steepness of the grandstands at Lane that place most everybody on top of the field. Throw in the Erector Set look of the place and what appears to be a double-wide trailer posing as a press box and it is not hard to imagine officials of even the Li’l E doubling over in laughter every time the subject of ECU joining is broached.
Then there is the game atmosphere, or lack thereof. Compared to Wallace Wade [when the place isn’t full of Tech fans], I guess it could be considered ‘raucous,’ but when even Carolina has a better game environment, perhaps the Strawgraspers should give the weauxfing about their ‘game experience’ a rest. Humor was provided by the PA announcer constantly punctuating his First Down calls with a goofy ‘aargh,’ but that ended by the Fourth Quarter, perhaps because of all of the laughter it was eliciting from the Tech sections. A soon-to-be-former Russian described dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen as a ‘high school’ atmosphere, which pretty much nailed it.
As for the game, well, Tech won. The Hokies won because they are the better team with the better athletes. They also won despite their continuing to look a lot like a team that is still thinking about the Georgia Tech game and playing against an opponent involved in what ECU AD Terry Holland described as their ‘Super Bowl.’ That this was essentially for Tech a meaningless OOC game stuck by ESPN into the middle of the ACC schedule certainly showed up in the generally-lackluster play by the Hokies, but, nevertheless, they still won by 13. A win is a win is a win, especially in the small-time environment in which Tech found itself last Thursday.
Tech now moves into the ‘playing out the string’ last quarter of its schedule. The games will be against what are, this year, anyway, the three worst teams in the ACC, although NC State does manage to keep things interesting, even when they lose. At least they will be ACC games. This Saturday, the game against Maryland will find Tech garbed in Nike’s latest creation, the whiz-bang ‘uniform of the future.’ Perhaps one day Tech fans will have an offense that displays the creative thought obviously given by Nike into coming up with a new uniform for Tech to wear each and every week.
Through most of this column, I might have given the impression that I do not have the highest regard for the East Carolina Strawgraspers. That is because I don’t. It might have made sense a few decades ago to schedule them, but not anymore, especially if games against them are to be played in the middle of the ACC season in dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Tech received opportunities that were not available to ECU and still aren’t. The Hokies took advantage of them and moved on. Having moved on should not involve playing at ECU, period and most definitely not playing them in November.