I'll be doing a series of posts this summer to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Virginia Tech's 11-0 regular season and trip to the national championship game. I can think of no better way to kick off this series than a Q&A with Virginia Tech play-by-play man Bill Roth. Roth has been with the Hokies for over two decades and took us through that wild '99 season. Thanks to Roth for being nice enough to do another Q&A for the blog.
GC: What were your expectations for the 1999 team? Did you envision the team could possibly go 11-0?
BR: The Hokies were ranked 13th in the pre-season poll, which was at the time, VT's highest-ever pre-season rank. We knew it could be a special season but Tech had started the 1998 season 5-0 and then lost that game to Temple and thus I don't recall anyone thinking 11-0 back in the pre-season.
GC: If you didn't envision the team going 11-0, when during the season did you think the team could do it?
BR: After the win at WVU. Tech didn't play its best, but still found a way to win in M'Town. Minnesota beat Penn State that day too, you'll recall, so things seemed to be falling into place in early November of '99.
GC: At what point did you realize you were watching a special player in Michael Vick?
BR: I saw him play in the VHSL all-star game in Hampton in the summer of '98 and was really impressed. That fall, when he was redshirting, he QB'd the scout team and I mentioned to someone during the week of the Syracuse game that he played Donovan McNabb better than Don McNabb. It was clear we had a very special player back in '98.
GC: What was your experience during the West Virginia game? Was there a point during the game where you thought that could be the end of the run or did that not hit you until after the game?
BR: WVU's kids played great that day. Maybe their best game of the season and their defense did an amazing job against Mike and the VT offense. Plus they came back to take the lead with their 2nd QB on the field. Still, when Stith scored in the fourth quarter, I thought the game was over. Tech was up 19-7 and there were less than 5:00 to go in the game. I thought we had it, and then WVU fumbled the kickoff which, incredibly, helped them get a big kickoff return. When WVU scored to take the lead, it was the 1st time the Hokies had trailed all season and it was interesting to see how they'd react. Vick's run down the right sideline remains one of the most remarkable and meaningful plays in VT history.
GC: What was the national championship experience like for you, the players and the coaches? Was it surreal going through the process? How agonizing was the wait between the time the game was announced to kickoff?
BR: Can't answer for the players, but it was exciting for our broadcast crew. I hope we can go back. It was not agonizing. Great exposure for VT and for our players. It was a big month for Corey Moore who won lots of awards in December.
GC: Did you expect Tech to get back to a title game in short order after the 1999 season? Or did you savor the experience thinking it might not happen again?
BR: Both. I think we recognized that Tech could have great teams and never get the shot to play in that game again. But at the same time, I'm confident we'll get back and finish the job next time.
GC: How quickly did it take for the disappointment of the FSU loss to wear off? Did it take long to get over it and appreciate the season as a whole?
BR: Interesting question. That's still the toughest loss. Having the lead in the 4th quarter of the BCS Championship game. VT did so many uncharacteristic things in that game. FSU deserved to win though. They made the plays in the final quarter to win. It was still a magical season and those players on that team continue to be a very special group of athletes and people.
GC: Who were your favorite members of the program to deal with during that season? Who did you enjoy being around on a week-in, week-out basis?
BR: Oh I love em all.
GC: Whats your favorite memory or couple of memories from the 1999 season?
BR: Beating syracuse 62-0...the win at WVU...the lead-up and the win over Miami. Coach Beamer on the field after the BC game. Even the Vick Flip vs JMU. It all seems like yesterday.