On Saturday morning, Sept. 11, I woke early, as I always do on days when the Virginia Tech team has a game I wasn’t too excited though, because the opponent would be poor little James Madison. My first thought was, Why couldn’t it be some team like William and Mary, or Liberty University? Why do they keep scheduling games with little old James Madison? It’s the last time I will be asking that question.
Virginia Tech Hokies were supposed to run all over the top of little James Madison, and I felt a little bit sorry for JMU, who was being paid almost a half million dollars for merely coming to Blacksburg to be slaughtered. I felt they deserved whatever sympathy I could afford. After all, JMU was the team that gave us Pulaski County’s Gary Clark, who thrilled us so many times when he was a wide receiver for the Redskins. And, having a head coach named Matthews, also gave them a little edge on my card.
As part of the pre-game hype, Coach Frank Beamer, as he always does before a game, let it be known that he was really concerned about this one, because his team had had such a short rest after being beaten by Boise State. I never knew Beamer not to be concerned about a football game. I always read past those bits of propaganda marking it down as “Beamer Talk”
After learning that rain was on the way, the future for the underdogs darkened.
James Madison arrived, and many thousands of Tech fans came also. There were even some JMU fans in the crowd. And you don’t need to be told that the rain came. In horrid torrents it came, and I wondered if it would ever let up enough for poor James Madison to find the football.
Tech jumped out for a lead very quickly. The players jumped all over one another, hugging, cheering, and riding their fellow players to the turf. I was afraid the referee would drop a flag on them for over celebrating, which he would have been justified in doing. After that demonstration I envisioned great things, so thinking back on the Charlie Coffee days, I poured myself a big cup of hot coffee, grabbed my big chair before the television, and sipped leisurely as I waited for more greatness to be shown by Tyrod and the Hokies. I sipped and waited, sipped and waited. I just kept waiting, and while I sipped cup after cup, sipping and waiting, little old JMU was moving the football. I hardly noticed. This didn’t bother me at all, because I was sure that any minute the Hokies would come alive and start doing away with the little pests.
I kept this false hope running through my coffee-addled mind. A lot of things happened, but by this time I was pretty well out of it. I’m afraid Virginia Tech was out of it too. Before I had downed that last cup of coffee, the Hokies were dragging each other off the field behind many happy and cheering James Madison players I was beginning to wonder if someone had put something in the Gatorade, particularly what the offensive and defensive coordinators were drinking. My mind wandered back to other years, when teams like Temple humiliated the Hokies, but I couldn’t think of them ever suffering such a surprising defeat. And thinking back just a week, I remembered Coach Beamer’s declaration that he planned to coach dream team after dream team through the season of 2016.Then I thought, “Many more games like the one just finished, he may not be around in 2016.”
Tyrod Taylor hasn’t said too much since the fiasco. But he did point out the fact that at one time the Hokies were running two different defensive patterns at the same time.
Friends, in spite of this great loss, I want to say this, All is not lost. The ACC is waiting to be played, and I look for the Hokies to breeze through that, and win it. We know one thing for certain, Tech is not BCS material, and we’ll just have to live with that. East Carolina waits in the wings, and it will be another home game for the Hokies to show that they can still play football. I sure hope they can. The U. Va. fans are driving me crazy. (By this time you’ll know.)
– Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.