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Virginia Tech fans are capable of wonderful things sometimes. Saturday night was one of those times.
As their beloved Hokies battled Miami to the bitter end of a 38-35 classic, Lane Stadium reached decibel levels that made the hair on my arms stand straight up. From the field, I watched as the Terror Dome came alive once again.
With less than three minutes remaining and the Hurricanes facing a 2nd and goal from the 30-yard line trailing 31-28, Tech fans were going bonkers trying to make it impossible for their foe to execute its offense. Lamar Miller silenced the crowd with an easy touchdown dash that gave Miami a 35-31 lead.
Did that deter Hokie Nation? Not at all. At the urging of David Wilson, the fans were louder than ever as Miami lined up to kick the ball back to the Hokies. There was an emotional charge in Blacksburg that was impossible to put into words.
This wasn’t Nebraska in 2009, when many fans headed for the exits in the final minutes before Tyrod Taylor worked his magic to save the Hokies. No, this time, everyone stayed. Everyone believed. They believed in an offense that just one week earlier had failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 16 years at home. They believed in a quarterback who until Saturday had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. For whatever reason, it just seemed like there was no chance Miami would walk out of Lane Stadium as the victors. There were 66,000 maniacal orange and maroon-clad folks who wouldn’t allow it.
Naturally, Logan Thomas led the Hokies on an unforgettable march, 77 yards down the field in less than two minutes, capped by a heart-stopping 19-yard touchdown run on fourth and two. If Thomas plays quarterback for three more years at Tech, he may never have a signature moment that tops that one. Like Taylor vs. Nebraska, or Michael Vick against West Virginia in 1999, Thomas’ legacy will long be marked by that drive – specifically, the final play.
As Miami tried to mount a hapless comeback in the final minute, Enter Sandman came blasting over the loudspeakers right on cue. What ensued was one of the most electric moments in Lane Stadium history. Mike Patrick had the call on ESPN:
“Look at this…this is just spectacular,” Patrick said. “These people are losing their minds. This is beautiful.”
If there was ever a moment that makes it easy to love college football, this was it. There was an air of magic inside Lane Stadium Saturday night. It wasn’t the first time.
Here’s a look at the most electric moments I’ve ever experienced at Lane (since 1997).
The Blocked Punt: Miami 2001
Facing one of the greatest teams in the history of college football, Eric Green’s blocked punt was scooped up by Brandon Manning and returned for a touchdown. That brought the Hokies within two at 26-24 with six minutes to go. That play was followed with the most forgettable moment in Ernest Wilford’s life, as he dropped a surefire two-point conversion that would have tied the game. Regardless, the (pre-south end zone expansion) crowd exploded as Manning raced into the end zone. I retain that, even at a 50,000-person capacity, it was the loudest I’ve ever heard Lane Stadium mid-game.
Welcome to Blacksburg: LSU 2002
The build-up to this game was incredible. The Prices’ Fork tailgate lot was full of RV’s from Cajun Country by Wednesday. The defending SEC champions invaded Blacksburg, bringing their impassioned fan base with them. Hokie Nation answered the call, creating a raucous environment for Tiger quarterback Matt Mauck and company. The Hokies slammed the Tigers 26-8. The game helped put Lane Stadium on the map as a venue where nobody wanted to come play.
Enter Sandman: Miami 2005
If football games were decided by pre-game atmosphere, Virginia Tech won this game in a blowout. The game pitted No. 5 Miami against the third-ranked Hokies in a battle of unbeatens. It was the loudest rendition Enter Sandman I’ve ever heard. College Gameday was in town, and the fans were dying for a win that would have given the Hokies ultimate control of their own destiny in the national title race. Instead, the Hurricanes silenced Tech 31-7, and the Hokies faded out of the national spotlight. But for one tension-filled minute before kickoff, it was as charged of an atmosphere as there’s ever been in Blacksburg.
Taylor-to-Coale: Nebraska 2009
I’m splitting hairs here, but I’m saying that as Danny Coale went racing down the sideline, Lane Stadium was more alive even than when Dyrell Roberts caught the game-winning touchdown pass three plays later. The improbability of Coale’s catch and run was unlike any other moment the stadium has seen. Between that game and this Saturday, you can probably say they were the two most exciting endings of games in at least the last 15 years at Lane.
Perfect: Boston College 1999
With a birth in the national championship game hanging in the balance, Hokie fans were out in force as Tech tried to cap off an unbeaten season against the Eagles. Towards the conclusion of the game (with the Hokies ahead 38-14), sugar cubes rained down on the field, signifying a birth in the Sugar Bowl. The emotions of a perfect season were too much to contain, and it would be foolish not to include that moment on this list.
The Return: Georgia Tech 2010
The Yellow Jackets were trying to knock the Hokies out of the Coastal Division race, led by backup quarterback Tevin Washington. Georgia Tech tied the score at 21 with 2:30 to go, before David Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Exit Light, Enter Night. Enter Sandman made a late-game appearance that might as well have sealed the Yellow Jackets’ fate. It did not top Saturday’s edition, however. Only 30 seconds of the intro was played, compared to the full 1:20-plus in the Miami game. It served as more than a worthy precursor to the most recent game, no doubt.
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