Whether college football likes it or not, Frank Beamer's Hokies are heading to the Sugar Bowl. Virginia Tech's selection to the game over the likes of Kansas State and Boise State has inspired a lot of outrage from the folks in the media. Even my own network has skewered the Hokies leading up to the game.
How's that sitting with the team? About as well as you'd expect, according to this story from Nathan "Tommie Frazier" Warters of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Lynchburg News and Advance:
"I hope our kids are a little ticked off by this," Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "Hopefully, we can use it to our advantage from a standpoint of we are the underdog, we don't belong."
Motivation is always a factor in bowl games because of their nature as glorified exhibitions. Some teams show up for them, some teams don't. That's especially true for the Hokies during the Beamer Bowl Era.
In the early days of the bowl streak that began in 1993, when the program still had a lot to prove, you saw mostly good efforts from the Hokies in bowls. That seemed to change after Michael Vick left following the 2001 Gator Bowl against Clemson. After that, my opinion is that you saw the bowl games get treated as a reward for the players.
We saw lackluster efforts against the likes of Air Force and Cal following the 2002 and 2003 regular seasons, you saw an undisciplined group against Louisville following the 2005 season and you saw a complete collapse in the second half against Georgia after the 2006 season.
I think there was another change after the 2008 Orange Bowl loss to Kansas. Fans were embarrassed and tired of the way Tech was playing in bowls and you saw a change in the way the Hokies prepared for them. The result was two wins against lesser opponents in Cincinnati and Tennessee.
In the case of the Cincy game, Tech was motivated to win its first BCS game. Against Tennessee, Beamer talked a lot about maintaining the 10-win streak, giving the ACC a win over the SEC and winning bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. In both cases, Tech had something to play for and Tech played well.
Last year? Complete regression. In the Orange Bowl against Stanford, the Hokies looked like a team on vacation. Players were sent home from Miami for violating team rules prior to the game. On the field, the team got blown out of the water by a much better and much more motivated Stanford team.
Now, going into this year's Sugar Bowl, it's fair to wonder if Tech is going to be motivated to play this game. Will Beamer use criticism of the team's selection to motivate them against Michigan? Or will they be a victim of Bourbon Street? It will be interesting to see what kind of storylines emerge when the team gets to New Orleans.
If the feedback fans gave The Roanoke Times and Norfolk Virginian-Pilot's Andy Bitter is any indication, the fans are tired of Tech's performance in big games like this against stiff competition like Michigan and it's a reason a few fans are using to avoid making the trip. Maybe that's more kindling for the Hokies' motivational fire.
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