Where were you on November 6, 1999?
Chances are if you were a Virginia Tech football fan, you were right in front of a television set watching the Hokies battle hated rival West Virginia. This wasn’t just any VT/WVU battle.
No, far from it.
The Hokies came into the game ranked No. 3 in the country sporting an undefeated 7-0 record, while the Mountaineers were a disappointing 3-5. However, you wouldn’t have known the records of either team on this day.
WVU was scrappy and, arguably, had played the better overall game. But, Virginia Tech had Michael Vick.
West Virginia had scored a touchdown with just 1:15 remaining to give the Mountaineers a 20-19 lead. WVU would go for a two-point conversion, fortunately, it was unsuccessful. That gave the Virginia Tech offense the ball with 1:11 remaining from its own 15-yard line.
First down, Vick’s throw is too strong for Andre Davis. On second down, Vick rolls to his right and hits Terrell Parham for 14 yards and we are off to the races. Vick then hits Ricky Hall for a short gain and he’s unable to get out of bounds. Clock is rolling. Vick doesn’t panic. Instead, he again uses his amazing athleticism to roll to the right, tight ropes the sideline for a 26-yard gain and gets out of bounds with 23 seconds remaining. The ball is now placed at the West Virginia 36-yard line.
Tech’s sideline is going crazy. WVU’s sideline, which was filled with euphoria just moments earlier, now fears the inevitable.
Vick, on first down, connects with Hall for nine yards but the clock is still ticking. Vick rallies the Hokies to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball with just five seconds remaining.
Here comes Shayne Graham.
Graham, the Big East’s all-time leading scorer and the best kicker in Virginia Tech history, is set to attempt a 44-yard field goal that would keep the Hokies undefeated. His career long is 53 yards. This one is shorter, but the pressure, oh the pressure.
What’s Graham do? From the right hash, he splits the uprights and the Hokies are still undefeated. The dream season is still alive. And this would be the only time Virginia Tech was challenged during the entire season until the national championship game.
This game had it all; hated rival, big stakes and drama. And the Hokies stood tall, leaving Morgantown with one of the biggest – if not the biggest – wins in school history. Beating the hated Mountaineers only made the win that much sweeter.
Over the years, as conference expansion has driven the two formal rivals apart, the Hokies haven’t had a true rivalry. Sure, there’s Virginia, well, never mind. There’s Miami, but the Hurricanes haven’t been ‘The U’ since coming to the ACC with the Hokies back in 2004. Since Tech has been in the ACC, WVU and the Hokies have only played on two occasions: 2004 and 2005. The Hokies won both meetings.
A lot has happened over the last 12 years. Graduating classes have come and gone. Coaches have come and gone. Bud Foster remains. He understands the hate between these two schools. Unfortunately, he’s about the only one. Fans, though, they still get it. That’s why this weekend is going to be fun. While current players may not understand, folks watching from home or those in attendance, they comprehend the magnitude of this one.
This isn’t just another season opener against a ranked non-conference foe. For 60 minutes on Sunday night, the rivalry returns. And we should all embrace it.
So, let’s allow Wayne Ward to leave us with this.