As Hokie fans we've come to expect certain things out of our teams: Dominating D, Beamerball, a conservative in-game philosophy, sub-par offenses and last but certainly the most memorable...the COULD HAVE BEENS! The earth-shattering, mind-numbing, life-altering losses. They define our existence just as much as our wins.
I waited until after the four non-conference games to publish this as a precaution, but now that we're beyond that hurdle I feel a lot more comfortable. I think I would've bailed on this post if I had put it out before App. St. and then we had lost.
I've compiled a list of the games we wish we had back and ranked them based on the criteria of how much it hurt, how much it meant, and last but not least WHO it was we lost to and how. This is the first part of the series Games We Wish We Had Back. Come join me in reliving some of the worst moments in Tech football history...just don't forget to bring the tissues (or hard liquor).
25. 2004 NC State: NC State 17-16 VT- Although the Hokies had already suffered a loss to USC, they had recovered well (albeit against vastly inferior competition), to move to 2-1. The Hokies got on the ACC board with a win against the Dookies, but when NC State came to town, we got our first real ACC test. I only remember this game being painful because, even though the 2004 team was one of the least talented teams we have fielded since the turn of the century, we were still LOADS better than NC State.
The Wolfpack relied on a tenacious defense/pass rush and rode "the next big thing" that never materialized in RB T.A. McClendon (too many initials for me there too). At QB they had below average signal-caller Jay Davis who was tasked with replacing Philip Rivers. The result was...it showed. The Wolfpack finished 5-6 on the year and 8th in the ACC.
The Hokies as we all know ended up winning the conference despite losing this game. There aren't many moments to recap in this game. Neither team moved the ball much. The offenses were stagnant and it was a game that you felt the team with the ball last would win. The Hokies had that honor, but as had been the case all day long, the Pack were able to sack Bryan Randall to push the Hokies out of comfortable field goal range. First-year starting kicker Brandon Pace pushed the ball wide (trying to compensate for the angle) past the upright as time expired and the Pack escaped Blacksburg with a win.
This game belongs on this list for several reasons. 1. We allowed 10 sacks to the NC State defense. That's just plain ugly, no matter how inhuman that group was. Despite rushing for 54 yards on 9 carries, Randall lost 82 yards in sacks and finished with -28 yards rushing. 2. We rushed for an average of 0.8 yards per carry and lost 108 yards rushing on the day from our gained total. We finished with 192 total yards, averaging 2.8 yards per play. Typical Stiney. 3. The way that we lost at the last second was pretty crappy. But there's also a reason that this game is LAST on this list. It didn't end up affecting us as we won the automatic BCS bid for the ACC, and most of the reason this sucked is who we lost to and how we lost.
Hurt Factor: 4
Impact Factor: 4
Combined Suck Factor: 15
24. 2006 BC: BC 22-3 VT- Yes, this one is in here. You didn't think I'd forget the Brenden Hill dancing game did you? He danced the hell outta that stadium timeout mix! Alas, Hill was dancing while we were losing. No, strike that, getting our tails kicked. When an ESPN camera caught Hill's shenanigans the broadcast crew ate him and the Hokies up and questioned their attitude. They were completely within their rights to do so, but the Hokies got their act together and won the next 6 games, including 2 wins over Top-15 teams, before their debacle in Georgia.
First of all, BC employed a brilliant gameplan to beat the Hokies: Make Sean Glennon beat us. It worked. The Eagles stuffed the box and neutralized the Hokies entire offense in 2006: A.K.A. Branden Ore. Then Stiney fell in love with the bubble screen play to the wideout and ran it at least 10 times that night with limited effectiveness. I remember the Eagles just giving us that play because we were getting 4 and 5 yards whenever we did it, but as they correctly surmised, we might move the ball a little doing that, but we weren't going to score that way. The Hokies did score one touchdown right before halftime on a pass from Sean Glennon to Justin Harper if I remember correctly, but it was called back on a hold and we had to settle on a FG. That score would have tied it at 7, but after that it was all downhill. The Hokies offense just got more and more inept as the night moved on and Matt Ryan was efficient.
The real worst part of this game though was ESPN's fascination with BC walk-on kicker Steve Aponavicius who hit two extra points and two field goals from 20 and 36. Apona-who-cares joined the team a few days or weeks before (blah, blah, blah) when he thought he could help the team. He came in and did exactly what he SHOULD do, not miss two extra points and two FG's from 36 yards and in (One of them looked like an R.A. Dickey knuckleball). It was the who cares story of the year and ESPN made it seem like the Heisman trophy was being renamed for the guy. Yes, it's nice that the guy walked on and did what he should've been able to do, but they acted like he was the first guy to ever do so. If ever there were a less superlative performance that garnered such praise, I've yet to hear it. ESPN's chubby for this guy was annoying, plain and simple.
As for Hill's dance, hey, maybe he's like Ron Artest (or Metta World Peace). A friend once told me that while at a gym in Wytheville playing a game of pickup, there was a guy who continued to brag well beyond the game he was having. So my friend asked a guy what he was doing, and the guy responded "I'm just like Ron Artest! If I make the shot I get in your face, and if I miss it, I get in your face just the same, because I'm Ron Artest."
This game hurt because it was a costly loss, as it ended up handing GT one of the Hokies two Coastal Division non-championship seasons to this point. The hurt was mostly on how bad we looked and the dancing not helping out our program's image. The Who/How...well Boston College was pretty good, and Matt Ryan was REALLY good. But again, we just looked like poop. That's right people, the P-word.
Hurt Factor: 5
Impact Factor: 5
Combined Suck Factor: 15
23. 2008 BC: BC 28-23 VT- Boston College appears on this list more than any other team (a total of 3...to your knowledge!) This one sucked because we had seemingly recovered from our early season debacle to ECU, racking up 5-straight wins, two of which were against our biggest two competitors in our division, and had vaulted back into the rankings. Then this one happened.
This one was a real stinker by both teams. As the game progressed, it was clear that neither team wanted nor deserved to win. BC QB and Matt Ryan replacement Chris Crane threw 3 picks and Tyrod was 12-of-27 for 90 yards passing and an interception himself. The Hokies had a punt blocked, allowed ANOTHER punt return touchdown (special teams was the Hokies Achilles heel in '08 (much like this year so far). They finished in the bottom 10 teams in the nation in punt return avg. against). Darren Evans was still finding his footing, averaging 1.6 YPC and the Hokies did not score an offensive touchdown. They did however return two picks for TD's. But as is the theme in many of these games we wish we had back, the real damage was done by our offense...against themselves.
This game hurt because it continued a disturbing trend of offensive ineptitude that led to us finishing 101st in the nation in total offense and had the fire Stiney cries grow the loudest and most plentiful. However, somehow, SOME WAY, the Hokies managed to turn a 5-3 conference record into a Coastal Division crown. It came down to the last day of the regular season when the Hokies beat UVA and had to have a litany of help from opponents, but it worked out. So the impact wasn't huge, it just made us sweat a lot more at the end. And as for the Who/How, this BC team was just run of the mill, and the way we lost was just so sorry.
Hurt Factor: 4
Impact Factor: 4
Combined Suck Factor: 15
22. 2008 Miami: Miami 16-14 VT- In another stinker from the '08 offensive stinkfest, the Hokies piled up a grand total of 250 yards offensively, made costly mistakes and allowed a Hurricanes team that finished 7-6 to control both lines of scrimmage. Given ample opportunities to win this game, the Hokies squandered a FG opportunity, opted to punt from the Miami 31 and Dyrell Roberts dropped a potential game-winning catch.
Tyrod, as was the case often early in his career, pulled the ball down way too often en route to having one of his most pedestrian games as a starter, though he produced both Hokie scores by running, including the infamous other "P" word symbol Taylor showed in celebration to the Miami student section that drew him a talking to by Beamer.
Sloppy play (which was characteristic of the 2008 team) and mistakes doomed the Hokies in this one and pretty much cemented our destiny of not going back to the ACC Championship (although if you read above, Hokie magic happened)). The Dyrell drop still lives in my mind more than anything else in this one. It was one of many very forgettable games from the 2008 season. The Hurt was there because it was the U, and not even a very good U team. The impact seemed more serious than it actually ended up, and the Who/How was pretty equally centered around the bad team and the bad game we played. This was not one for the scrapbooks.
Hurt Factor: 5
Impact Factor: 5
Combined Suck Factor: 16
21. 2001 Syracuse, Pitt and FSU- These games get looped into one because I decided not to let these posts get too out of hand and limited the field to 25. At first I leaned toward Syracuse because the impact was the greatest. We came in undefeated, we left with a loss to an underwhelming Orange team. But then I balked on that idea because I looked at the Pittsburgh box score to see the most embarrassing offensive performance I can remember. The Hokies amounted only 151 total yards and 15 rushing yards! That's not a mis-type. It really was 15! The only touchdown we scored on the day was on a blocked kick. So without that, we would've gotten shut out...to a decidedly average Pitt team. But they smelled blood in the water and took advantage.
Then there was the FSU bowl loss, an embarrassing display riddled with mistakes. The team wasted what was quite possibly Grant Noel's best performance in a Hokie uniform (though that's not saying much). Noel threw for 269 yards, a TD (and another one called back on a LATE holding call on Jacob Gibson) with no picks. The Hokies got on the board first with a FG and then fell behind 10-3. After surging back to a 17-10 lead at half, the Hokies didn't score again. Relying too heavily on Kevin Jones and allowing Chris Rix and Javon Walker to play keep away with the Hokies secondary, the 'Noles racked up passing yards in bunches.
So, after reading those three game summaries, I hope you guys came to the same quandary that I did. And when you see what is the Game We Wish We Had Back #20, I bet you will. These games all sucked, for different reasons. But they were all in the same season and I couldn't choose one over the other. The Hurt was obvious. These were 3 very avoidable losses to 3 teams we were better than. The Impact was obvious, because without these 3 losses we were a 1-loss team (with the one loss coming to #1 Miami by 2 pts. at home. And no I didn't consider that one because of the Who and How great our comeback was. Plus there was no real negative impact, as I think we only dropped one spot in the polls). The Who/How is pretty clear too. We were better and we played like the other word for poop.
Hurt Factor: 6
Impact Factor: 6
Combined Suck Factor: 18