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.
In this post you will find some of these unbearable losses, as 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 third part of the series Games We Wish We Had Back (Here are also the first and second installments). 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).
15. 2002 WVU: WVU 21-18 VT- This is a particularly memorable game for me. Lee Suggs broke a 32-year old NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD, Brandon Manning had a costly penalty for hitting a "defenseless receiver" (which on the field I believe was just called pass interference) AFTER the ball had been tipped by another Virginia Tech defender and I had the sincere privilege of sitting next to a middle-aged woman so blitzed out of her mind that she was cheering for Virginia. That's right, you read correctly.
But more memorable was that in the first game where Bryan Randall really looked like he was coming out of his shell, he ultimately fell flat on his face. While Randall's pedestrian statistics were likely equally due to his inexperience, lack of viable options at the receiver positions AND the offensive scheme he was under, until around this game, he was merely there. Even though he aired it out for over 500 yards the week prior, he still threw 3 picks, had a negative rushing total and it was, after all, only Syracuse. Oh, and the Hokies lost that game despite his gaudy statistics (see Game #18 on this list)
Against West Virginia Randall looked completely different as the game wore on. For the first time, he was decisive when he decided to run or pass. We didn't see the deer in the headlights Randall when the pocket broke down. As a result, Randall was only sacked twice and ran for 125 yards while averaging almost 7 yards a carry. But on Tech's last play from scrimmage on offense the sophomore signal caller would, as the saying goes, "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
With just over four minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Quincy Wilson put the Mountaineers up 21-10 on a 42-yard run. The new Randall led the Hokies down the field in just under three minutes for an immediate response, accounting for 68 of the Hokies 69 yards on the drive, which culminated in a 6-yard pass from Randall to Keith Willis. On the 2-point conversion attempt Randall's pass was intercepted, so the score stayed 21-16 in favor of WVU. The 4th quarter started out as many of these Hokie losses have. West Virginia stalled and punted twice while the Hokies failed to convert two 4th downs, including one on the West Virginia 1-yard line. On that drive the Hokies had a 2nd and Goal from the 1 and never got any closer. Stiney's imaginative play-calling: It's almost too comical to write, so I'll just show you here:
At least one thing went right for the Hokies, as they ended up stuffing WVU on three straight plays before causing a safety on the punt. Tech got another bounce when on the ensuing safety kickoff the WVU kicker put it out of bounds, placing the ball on the 50. On the last drive, Randall drove the Hokies down the field efficiently, monitoring time, down and yardage. On 2nd and 10 from the WVU 24, Randall took off and got to the 11 before going out of bounds, conserving time despite perhaps having more room. On the very next (and last) play on offense, Randall dropped back deep in the pocket, looked right where he had Lee Suggs coming out of the backfield on a fly route before being picked up by a WVU linebacker. It looks like he thought about running right momentarily, but all the WVU defenders followed him to the right. Randall made a long roll back to the left and threw to a receiver (Ernest Wilford, WHO ELSE!?) cutting to the back corner of the endzone. Wilford had come open after selling a cut to his defender on a double-move much like Dyrell Roberts against Nebraska in 2009. Randall however didn't appear to see Wilford when he was initially open and waving his arm while running across the back of the endzone. Unfortunately Randall waited too long, and in his read, he did not see Brian King who was merely two or three yards short of where the throw went. King had been covering Shawn Witten at the front corner pylon and simply cut back across Wilford to make the easy pick. Here's some video where you can see the Hokies' red-zone futility starting at 3:40 and the last two Randall plays on Tech's last drive starting at 6:35. There's also a helpful replay that has an opposite endzone camera to give you more perspective on what Randall saw on the last play at 7:32. West Virginia then simply ran the clock out.
The game also featured THIS play on the first drive of the 4th quarter which should've been a sign of things to come:
As for the final stats, the Hokies actually eclipsed the 400-yard mark in a loss! That's rare. They also out-gained their opponent 411-387, were penalized less, were dead equal in the turnover battle, converted a higher percentage of their 3rd downs and won the time of possession! Yet they lost. Let's face it, unfortunately this one came down to Beamer's decision to go for it on 4th and Randall's decision to try to thread triple coverage and prove that he could pass. In both situations with Tech in field goal range (18 and 28-yard attempts) if they had opted for and made those field goals the Hokies would have been a one-point victor (yes, I did account for the safety), 22-21. Sigh...
It hurt because, C'mon, it's WVU, and we had to deal with them burning couches IN BLACKSBURG. We love our couches and are on good terms with La-Z-Boy. The impact was we dropped our third straight and were out of contention for a Big East title. The Who/How is both about who and about the sequence of failures that led to the loss. All in all, a pretty tough one to handle.
Hurt Factor: 6
Impact Factor: 6
Combined Suck Factor: 19
14. 2007 LSU: LSU 48-VT 7- What can you say about this one that the score doesn't? I made a bet with a colleague who told me he though LSU would ROLL Tech by 40! 1. In my mind, I had to step up to the plate because he was an idiot and unsurprisingly a Tennessee fan, and 2. WE WEREN'T GONNA LOSE BY 40!!! I MEAN COME ON! THAT'S A STUPID BET! HE'S CLEARLY JUST SAYING THAT TO JUST BE ANOTHER PAIN IN MY ASS TENNESSEE FAN!
As we all know, I lost that bet as Zach Luckett dropped a touchdown on Tech's last play from scrimmage. I didn't pay up. But he also didn't pay up when Tech beat Tennessee into the ground in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. That's fair I guess, especially since the second bet involved his team being smashed into the ground by my team. At least our station's sportscaster laughed in his face when he made the first prediction. Wrong or right that was a complete joke of a bet.
The only good things I remember from this game are Tyrod Taylor and the play/talk of Sergio Render.
The most memorable Sergio moment came in a severe beating at the hands of LSU. When ESPN asked the sophomore how he felt about going up against the nation's best defensive tackle, Glenn Dorsey, Sergio replied "No, I'm not scared. The way I look at it, he puts his pants on the same way I do...one leg at a time." I really appreciated that, because that along with Render's performance against Dorsey placed him back into the realm of humans and out of the "Impossible to stop so don't even try" club that ESPN and co. had placed him in. True to his word Sergio handled his business against Dorsey, winning the individual matchup (probably the only one on the team to do that that night!). And if he had heard what Render had said before the game, maybe Dorsey would be the one shaking in his boots.
I actually felt kind of hurt during/after this one, because it felt like LSU was trying to run up the score. On one hand, I've always been the one in favor of the Spurrier-esque run up the score tactics. As I was once told by a college football offensive coordinator, "People got mad that we scored 50 points against them and I threw a pass on our last offensive play. The way I look at it, if you can't stop a quarterback who's never thrown a collegiate pass throwing to a fullback who I've never seen catch a single pass in practice, tough shit, get better." But on the other hand, this team and the University were hurting after the April 16th tragedy, and I felt at the time that Les Miles should've understood those circumstances a little better.
Looking back at it, Les was trying to prove a point as USC had a commanding lead in the top spot of the rankings. LSU's 1st-place votes more than doubled in both polls the next week. Really, this is something Beamer has lost touch with. Back when the Hokies went undefeated in the regular season in 1999, Beamer ran it up on several teams (even if unintentionally), and it benefited the Hokies who needed the BCS points to secure a spot in the title game. Les Miles was just trying to do the same thing. Les did insert backups, but he didn't stop running his stuff. It's not his job to stop his team from being good. It was ours. As the same offensive coordinator also told me, "The day I start worrying about how the guy on the other sideline is going to feed his family is the day I stop being able to feed mine." Could Les Miles have handled the situation better? Possibly. But could/should the Hokies have stopped the Tigers themselves? YES.
The stats on this one are just ugly. Tech got down early and started drinking the punch. The funny thing is, if these two teams had played for the title (which they very nearly did) I would've taken the Hokies. I know LSU was dominant that year, but the Hokies were the hottest team in America going into the bowl season and if you look at the way Tech played in the first matchup, you can see how many players cowered and let LSU walk all over them. Seriously, look at these highlights and tell me the Hokies wouldn't have played completely differently at the end of the year.
The Tigers out-gained the Hokies 598-149 and took their first two drives 87 and 85 yards respectively, scoring touchdowns on both. Sean Glennon responded by throwing a ball into the ground (I have no idea who he was targeting and I don't think he does either, he just didn't want to get hit) and an interception early in the 2nd quarter. Here is a Tech fan reacting to the interception (since I couldn't find video of the actual interception). Strangely, this is the first of TWO times a bad Glennon performance will lead to Tyrod Taylor's redshirt being pulled in the second game of the season. The Hokies lone score came midway through the 3rd quarter on a Taylor plunge from 1-yard out.
As for the rest of the scoring/statistics, I'll direct you to the box score. It's just too painful to write about. We got our tails kicked, plain and simple. It hurt our pride a lot, but losing to the #2 team in one of the toughest stadiums in the country doesn't really hurt you too badly from a rankings standpoint. The impact seemed big at the time, as it virtually eliminated us from National Championship contention (remember I said AT THE TIME. Remember this is 2007, the absolutely batty year. This loss didn't cost us a shot at the title, the BC game did). The Who is not a big deal, it was LSU and they were pretty nasty, but the How was shameful. I experienced one of the most numb feelings I've ever had after watching Tech "play" in this one. And Keith, if you're reading this, I'll pay up when you do. Also Richard, you still owe me for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl too! Jeez...Tennessee fans...
Hurt Factor: 6
Impact Factor: 6
Combined Suck Factor: 20
13. 2002 Pitt: Pitt 28-21 VT- This is the game we learned who Larry Fitzgerald was. The Pitt freshman receiver had a breakout game with 105 yards and 3 touchdowns. Future 7th Round draft pick Brandon Miree ran roughshod over the Hokies defense, to the tune of 161 yards and 7 ypc. Miree also scored the game's decisive touchdown with four minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.
The start of the game was absolutely wild. Pitt marched the ball down the Hokies' throats on the first drive before stalling out at the Tech 11-yard line, resulting in a missed field goal. Tech then turned the ball back over to Pitt two plays later on a sack/fumble. Pitt then perhaps feeling guilty about Tech trying to hand them the game, turned the ball right back over to the Hokies on another sack/fumble two plays later.
After both teams' drives stalled out, Tech blocked a Pitt punt and recovered it at the Pitt 3-yard line, resulting in a Kevin Jones touchdown on the very next play. Unfortunately Kevin Jones was lost for the game (and was ineffective for most of the rest of the season while carrying the injury) on the next drive after trying to make something out of nothing on a 1-yard loss. The team was never the same.
The Hokies jumped out to a 21-7 lead a minute into the 3rd quarter on a Lee Suggs 59-yard touchdown rush. But after that, it was ALL Pitt as they scored three unanswered touchdowns to win 28-21. So bad was Tech's offense in the second half that after the Suggs touchdown they accumulated a TOTAL of 95 yards on their remaining seven possessions! Pitt by comparison racked up 317 of their 483 total yards in the second half. Tech was 3-13 on 3rd down and 0-2 on 4th down conversions.
Bryan Randall was sacked four times on 3rd or 4th down and seven times total. He also took off on 3rd down three times and did not make the marker, twice late, and I am using the phrase "took off" very liberally. A better description would be that Randall danced around like a frightened rabbit, bouncing back and forth until he was either sacked, fell to the ground under pressure or found a small hole with which he made very little. This game was the pinnacle of his indecisiveness that made him a scapegoat and a fan punching bag early on.
An odd note from the game: Lee Suggs, one of the surest-handed running backs ever to play at Tech fumbled in this game, leading to a strange trend that saw him fumble four times over the last eight games after previously not fumbling for a stretch of almost 300 carries.
The hurt factor and impact factors are high for several reasons: 1. The Hokies lost their first game of the season and fell from 3rd in the rankings to 8th. 2. They lost Kevin Jones for the game and he was hampered for the rest of the season with the injury. 3. This loss started a streak of three consecutive losses against unranked teams, dropping the Hokies to 22nd in the rankings. This is big because it set them up for a losing conference record for the first time in 10 years. They were certainly capable of better as they defeated three straight ranked teams early in the year. It also marked another late season collapse which would culminate the following season by losing five of their last seven games. The Who/How factor was just based on how unbelievably incomplete a game the Hokies played. They dominated in the first half and didn't show up in the second. Pitt was also unranked as mentioned above and very beatable.
Hurt Factor: 7
Impact Factor: 7
Combined Suck Factor: 20
12. 2008 ECU: ECU 27-22 VT- This game will be remembered for a lot of things, but chiefly, it will be remembered as the final Sean Glennon suck-fest and potentially the second game that cost us an extra year of Tyrod Taylor. The plan was for Taylor to redshirt, as allegedly, Taylor's parents were fed up with the dual quarterback system and Tyrod splitting time with Glennon and asked Beamer to either name him the starter or redshirt him. Beamer picked the latter and named Glennon the starter, but after only one game (ECU), Beamer yanked Taylor's shirt and after sharing duties against Furman, Taylor became the full-time guy.
So how bad was Glennon against ECU? Well, considering it was ECU, BAD. But considering who he had around him, it was simply just bad (notice the difference in capitalization). Yes, Glennon threw two picks, one of which led to a return that set ECU up on the Tech 1-yard line and three plays later their first score. The other interception may have been a little high, but Greg Boone tipped it straight up in the air, letting it go right through his hands and giving the defender an easy pick. That one wasn't on Glennon, but it did create a somewhat comical (a tragic comedy for the Hokies) situation. Because the Hokies scheduled the Pirates as the first game two years in a row and because Sean Glennon was, well...Sean Glennon, he managed to throw interceptions to the same team on his first pass attempt of the year two years in a row. Yeah, I know. I'll let that sink in.
Glennon's final stat-line wasn't very good, but interceptions aside, it wasn't that he was terrible, just not productive. He completed over 60% of his passes that day while hitting the likes of 2008 Andre Smith, Ike Whitaker, Kenny Lewis and Xavier Boyce. Those receivers accounted for almost 65% of his completions that day (YIKES!), so again, he wasn't really working with an all-star cast. The turnovers hurt as they always do, but remember the Hokies scored on fumble return by Stephan Virgil as well. There were several other problems that were equally costly for the Hokies. Dustin Keys missed a field goal and an EXTRA POINT! The defense couldn't under ANY circumstance get off the field, especially in the second half where the Pirates dominated time of possession 18:52-11:08 and converted on 6-of-9 3rd downs (although it's really 6-of-8 as the last one was running up the middle to run out the clock). Under Beamer, the biggest determinant of whether the Hokies will win other than rushing yards vs. opponent rushing yards is the time of possession.
Kenny Lewis returned the opening kickoff 35 yards, tacked on a 15-yard penalty to the end of the run and then ran for 28 yards on his first two carries of the game. Unfortunately two plays later Sean Glennon threw his first pick at the ECU 10, and likewise, unfortunately Kenny Lewis only carried the ball 10 times the remainder of the game. At the time I was irate because the coaches were force-feeding carries to a redshirt-freshman who did not appear ready (Darren Evans). He was generally ineffective against ECU however, and the bulk of the work should've been going to Kenny Lewis who was en fuego.
After the initial turnover the Hokies got the ball back by way of a punt after a 3-and-out. Tech drove all the way down to the ECU 5-yard line, where the drive stalled and in classic Beamer "I have no idea when to go for it and when to just take 3" fashion, the Hokies went for it and failed. I swear he has no barometer for those situations. It's like he's throwing darts with a blindfold on.
The two teams then exchanged punts before Stephan Virgil picked up a dropped WR screen pass behind the line and took it the distance. The Pirates then fumbled the kickoff which the Hokies recovered at the ECU 27 and six plays later punched in for a 14-0 lead. Everything was going swimmingly. Then Glennon threw his second pick which one play later became an ECU touchdown and narrowed the margin to 14-7 right before half.
The Pirates took it to the house on their first drive of the second half, which would have tied it at 14 if not for the Hokies blocking the PAT and Stephan Virgil (man did it look like we had something special in him...) returning it all the way for 2 points to make it 16-13 in favor of the Hokies. Tech failed to respond as they missed a field goal on their next drive. The Pirates failed on a 4th down attempt on their next drive, and luckily Sean Glennon connected with Dyrell Roberts for 62 yards, setting Darren Evans up for 3-yard scoring plunge. Dustin Keys missed the PAT however and Tech led 22-14. The teams again exchanged punts before the Pirates went on an eight-minute scoring drive where they only faced third down ONCE. Of course the last part is legendary. The Hokies marched out their EPIC-FAIL "A 2-point cushion is plenty" offense and after a 3rd and 19 draw play, the Pirates blocked Brent Bowden's punt and took it to the house for a score. The Hokies responded by with a Sean Glennon scramble and three incomplete passes and the Pirates ran out the clock.
In the end the Hokies couldn't stop the Pirates' all-purpose man Dwayne Harris and the incredibly efficient Patrick Pinkney who only threw four incompletions on the day. The Hokies totaled only 243 yards (maybe there's a trend developing in these posts) and only 104 rushing while the Pirates racked up 369. The Pirates also finished with over 33 minutes of TOP, a distinct margin. To make matters worse this game was played at Bank of America Stadium (which now owns the distinction of our 2nd most unsuccessful pro venue of late) which was scorching that day. At noon it was 81 degrees but there was virtually no wind and it got much hotter as the game went along. It was certainly a sad day to be a Hokie.
Cries for Beamer's/Stinespring's job were probably the highest at this point, but nevertheless the staff/team recovered to win another conference title and post yet another 10-win season despite having the most losses in a season since 2003. It hurt our pride, it impacted us nationally in the rankings and the Who/How is pretty obvious. It was 2008, and we shouldn't be losing to ECU.
Hurt Factor: 6
Impact Factor: 6
Combined Suck Factor: 20
11. 2006 Georgia: Georgia 31-24 VT- Oh boy. Well, while I said above for the ECU game that it would be remembered as "the final Sean Glennon suck-fest", I forgot to mention that this series is not chronological. So while technically that game came after this one, I'm sorry to say you're about to have to sit through another Sean Glennon gem. This was Glennon's "sucksterpiece."
The Hokies came into this game riding a wave of confidence. Their two-game mid-season losing streak appeared to be far behind them. They had won six-straight, crushing two ranked foes in the process by an average of almost 20 points and allowing only 29 points in that six-game winning streak. They knew going into the bowl game that they were facing a young but talented Georgia team who was as down as they had been in a long time. The 'Dawgs were 8-4 and unranked coming into the game. In 2006 they had lost to Vanderbilt and given up 51 points to Tennessee.
Tech's first possession (if you could call it that) was a 3-and-out and a punt. Georgia by comparison went 45 yards on seven plays before kicking a field goal. Then it was on like Donkey Kong. And by it was on, I mean for the rest of the 1st quarter, it was battle of the punters. Once they were persuaded to share the stage, Matt Stafford threw a pick to Brenden Hill (yes, the dancing one) and the Hokies took off. Hill's interception led to a 1-yard Branden Ore touchdown and a 54-yard Eddie Royal punt return to open up Tech's next possession led to another.
Then on the next possession, Tech fans were treated to perhaps the best call Bryan Stinespring ever made as an offensive coordinator: A WR pass off of a fake WR screen. It wasn't the first time Stiney had called that play (he has an annoying habit of repeating unsuccessful trick plays), but it was the first time that it worked to perfection. Eddie Royal hit Sam Wheeler for 53-yards and a touchdown, and after a Georgia 3-and-out, the Hokies took a 21-3 halftime lead. Then it all went wrong.
After the punters made their curtain call, Georgia kicker Brandon Coutu nailed a 51-yarder to make it 21-6. On the ensuing kickoff, Georgia successfully attempted an onside kick and then went 52 yards in six plays to cut the Tech lead to eight. Then came the 4th quarter. It was Sean Glennon implosion time. This may be the worst 4th quarter (or any quarter for that matter) a quarterback has ever had. Glennon was a spectacularly bad 6-14 for 27 yards with 3 INT, a fumble and was twice sacked.
Defensively, the Hokies could do nothing to stop the Bulldogs. Georgia dropped a 28-spot on the nation's #1 defense in a little more than 13 minutes. It was equally good playcalling/execution by the Bulldogs and bad coaching/execution by the Hokies. After being down big in the 1st half, Mark Richt came out and put on a coaching clinic for Frank Beamer. His staff out-coached the veteran Tech staff so completely that the players/coaches on the staff shrunk away from the challenge despite an 18-point lead and completely lost their composure.
Georgia gained 11 more total yards than the Hokies, but the main issue was the turnovers and poor execution. Blown coverages, poor awareness on the onside kick and giving away the ball like it was an Oprah Show prize extravaganza did the Hokies in. Again, the key stat rears its head. Not only did Georgia out-rush the Hokies, but they dominated 2nd half possession, flipping the script on the 1st half where Tech nearly doubled Georgia's TOP.
More than anything for me, this game helped to establish Tech's penchant for losing big games and choking away big leads in those games. Before this game, Tech had been very good for several years against ranked opponents, although they did lose some very winnable bowl games, they never lost like this. The Impact factor is due to this, although this is far from the only game we can say this about for the Hokies. The Hurt factor is due to the way the Hokies lost, as is the Who/How. Georgia was not overly impressive, but they knew how to take advantage of the Hokies' mistakes, and Tech made plenty in this one
Hurt Factor: 7
Impact Factor: 5
Combined Suck Factor: 20
We're now in uncharted waters: 15 down and 10 to go. I like to think going back and re-living these losses is cathartic and helps in the healing process, but it is a constant reminder of sleepless nights and could-have-beens. I guess the moral of this story is: Don't watch Tech football kids, it will only make you drink massive amounts of alcohol and cry profusely. Stay tuned to Gobbler Country for more embarrassing Virginia Tech sports moments as this series continues. Also, if you missed part 1 of this series, you can find it here. Part 2 can also be found here.