Furman and Virginia Tech have played three times. Virginia Tech is 5-0. The stories of the games in 1939, 1940, 1942, and 1947 don't really matter. That was over a half century ago- a different coach, a different time. As a note, though, I find doing this bit of research fun. Back then, we were a member of the Southern Conference. This included current ACC foes Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, and Wake Forest (after Georgia Tech and Virginia had bailed). It had formerly included teams in the SEC, as well- Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbuilt, Ole Miss, LSU, Florida, and South Carolina. It also included former ACC member Maryland. When we played Furman, they were in that same conference along with other small schools- VMI, Tulane (Who spent time in the SEC!), Washington and Lee, George Washington, Richmond, William and Mary, the Cidatel, and Davidson. It's just odd to see how the Southern Conference bred the ACC and the SEC as teams got history and went on their way. But there's only one historical date that matters in this cycle, it's 2008, the last time that Virginia Tech beat the Furman Paladins. I remember that day for two reasons. One, it was my first live Virginia Tech game where I sat in the stands...and two, because I must have banished the terrible thoughts into my subconscious- I don't remember much at all, just boredom and dread. Despite that hole in my memory where victory should be, this matchup gives me a wary feeling of déjà vu- and hopefully for the right reasons.
We as Hokie fans know sometimes we go through rather brutal performances. My freshman year was 2008, which was the season we won the Orange Bowl over Cincinnati, turning Tony Pike and Brian Kelly into pumpkins and ending their season. By all accounts, that's a good end to the year. Even if the record was mediocre in the end, we won the ACC and got some respect by finally winning a BCS bowl- especially after a brutal performance against Kansas(!?) the previous year. That was after another disappointing season starting loss- a terrible performance against East Carolina. That season saw a starter benched after the first game and replaced by someone else. So a missing quarterback and a cruddy start? We've done it before.
And both times? Our second game is/was against Furman.
Go figure. Let's hope that the result will be the same...if not the actual method of scoring.
For people telling me not to worry about Furman? Halfway through the game on that Saturday, I sure was worried. We led 3-0. At the half. After kicking a field goal maybe a half-minute before the half broke...It was painful, if not unacceptable. No quality FBS team should be struggling to put points up on an FCS team. I know that some FCS teams pull off upsets. It happens- JMU can attest to that, and the less we can ever say about that cloudy nasty Saturday after suffering a disastrous defeat at Boise State's hands? The better- but it really shouldn't. Theoretically, depth should win out and the quality of the players we recruit and the more experienced and better coaches should win. That's, however, not always the case.
This game smells suspiciously like rotten fish- and I remember being vaguely ill enough like I ate some while watching it. Tech played Sean Glennon in the game- he threw the game's only passing touchdown for the Hokies- and Tyrod Taylor. Taylor led a couple of drives late, but most of the momentum came from turnovers forced by an annoyed defense that held the Paladins to thirty one yards in the first half and didn't give up a touchdown until the second team was put in the game in the fourth quarter. But when your premier offensive weapon is Kenny Lewis, Jr.- and credit to Kenny, he was actually a solid back, if not eventually rightfully buried by Darren Evans- you know you were in for it.
Funny thing was that it was not that this team didn't have talent. It was one of the best defensive units I can remember. Cody Grimm, Brett Warren, Jason Worilds, Macho Harris, Kam Chancellor, Purnell Sturdivant, Orion and Cam Martin, Stephan Virgil, Cordarrow Thompson, and John Graves. They're at least names worth noting and we remember, if only on the fringes of our conscious minds. There was at least moderate talent across the board on defense. We took the fight right to Cincinnati at the end of the year and shut that high flying offense down HARD. Even after the story didn't begin so well, it ended well enough.
It was just...not so great on offense. That year we struggled against a lower-level team because frankly the offense was still thick in the Stinespring Mire and the offensive line was coached by the now deposed Jim Cavanaugh. This was the redshirt/freshman year of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale- they hadn't become NFL draftable/playable talent yet. The inimitable Greg Boone was the tight end. Dyrell Roberts was the slot guy. And Darren Evans was our main running back, which worked out okay...but some of those numbers were just brutal. We threw a total of six touchdowns and twelve interceptions. Tyrod ran for seven touchdowns, yes, but he was also mind numbingly inaccurate and made spotty decisions. But our defense forced a TON of turnovers (20 interceptions and 20 forced fumbles- only four recovered, though...) and 35 sacks...and we managed. That's how we're going to have to play again.
My point is, this team and that team almost have the same feel, the same smell. Furman could be the exact same land mine- only this time, it could blow our leg off a week after we had our hearts pulled out through our throats. The Paladins could be an FCS team that punches above its weight class because of bad luck and continuous errors on the Hokies part even after the defense was pitching a shutout. For our sake let's hope things get righted as they did back then. Even if it is déjà vu all over again, if it's 2008 déjà vu, it might honestly be worth it.