What else can you say about Thursday evening that we haven’t already been over? We’ve been minimized and lionized in the same event. The ESPN crew did a special tribute to Hokie Nation and the ownership of the pageantry attached to Thursday Night college football. That was lionized, our record was touted, and the show was highlighted and experienced by two of the ESPN reporters working the game. The truth is that they were actually lionizing a show, and their analytical expectations were still skewed to the minimized Hokie presence on the Top 25 scene.
Miami was still “the team” on the tip of the tongues of all of the football analysts for the week leading up to the big game. Who could really blame them? Tech had lost to Syracuse only five short days before October 20th. Miami had lost two prior games, and were banged up, but the fuel for the emotional fire was considered to be a serious impulse for them. Both teams were wounded, but Tech seemed to be the one that was destined to struggle. The odds makers didn’t quite see it so negatively for us, but their 6.5 point spread in favor of the Hokies still wasn’t a heavy weight measure of any advantage.
So there were lots of folks on the sideline on October 20th who just didn’t have a good feeling for how the game would go. The warm-ups before the game weren’t hugely enthusiastic. The players weren’t jumping and waving in time to the music. There wasn’t the banter going back and forth between the squads, or the jumping butt bumps to go with the high fives. The Hokies just seemed serious, focused, and uninterested in wasting motion.
The crowd was sparse for quite a while. Even as the Marching Virginians were wrapping up their pregame show, the stands were ominously quiet. Several people on the sideline mentioned that it sure would be nice to have a bigger crowd.
Well the crowd density sure changed over the last 20 minutes or so because as the cheerleaders began the LET’S GO! HOKIES round across the stadium, and ‘Enter Sandman’s’ first cords began, the entire character of the show changed. The sound was concussive. At one point my teeth began to hurt, and I couldn’t even hear my camera clicking away.
What I do remember was the sight of Justin Fuente in the opening of the tunnel as he soaked it all in. He was trying to keep that “football” face, but you could see the gleam in his eyes, and you have to wonder what it was like to be the head coach of a team with a stadium full of fans going bonkers for their football team. Yes, there are others, but at that moment in time Coach Justin Fuente seemed to realize that it was the best and he was part of it.
Of course there are the times when the exciting entrance and the actual play on the field don’t exactly match up. ECU of 2014 will always be a reminder that the pageantry sometimes exceeds the actual product on the field. Of course on Thursday October 20th 2016, the Miami Hurricanes’ quarterback Brad Kaaya found out that maybe the all maroon Hokie football squad was fully intending on living up to the hype. Starting with the first of Joey Slye’s 100% touchback effort on the kickoff the Hokie defense seemed to absorb energy from the roaring crowd.
By the end of the three and out, Brad Kaaya was introduced to the first of his eight sacks.
The Hokies took the punt, and found a measure of footing. Even if the first drive stalled a bit, and relied on Joey Slye’s foot for three points, it was obvious that the game was going to be thrilling. It was also going to be a much different effort than the prior effort against Syracuse.
It was an exciting evening. It was also a tough time on the sidelines. There were several camera crews jumping in front of the camera to spoil great shots. There were cables winding around ankles, or tripping you up as you made your way from point to point, enough that now I know why there are those huge lenses where some photographers just park in one place and take pictures from the next county.
So here are some of the best shots from the rest of the game. The game was a thrill, being there to get these is a life time dream – since that 9th grade Photo Journalism Class at Thomas Eaton Jr. High.
The next home game, the view from the sideline will come from Joshua, who gets to see what I have been talking about for the last few games.
But before we tee it up with Georgia Tech, we have to win in Pittsburgh and then at Duke. Neither of those teams is going to roll over, and neither of them is as beat up as the Hurricanes were. It’s time for Coach Fuente to break the Curse of the Big Ketchup. One Game. One Team. Right Now!