It’s Christmas Eve-Eve and Blacksburg is chilly and breezy but the sputter of precipitation is pretty much the tiny sticky mountain rain that blows through these parts with great regularity. The family has gathered for the holiday weekend, and the day spent out to a hearty brunch and some last minute shopping. So, you ask what this has to do with football and why am I even here? Well the food coma has sort of worn off, and the Steelers Saints game went into the half tied 14-14… oops … nope bad tackling in the last 44 seconds ended up making that a 17-14 Steeler deficit. And that reminded me of the Hokies’ season.
All of Gobbler Country’s Military Bowl credentials are in hand, and the game will be covered. It’s going to be interesting that’s for sure. The entire winning/losing thing rests on one game. One inconsequential exhibition game right at the end of the 2018 season and year. We’ll be reviewing the Bearcats to see where we are going to stand. The Bearcats are definitely a “Group of 5” level team, but they are ranked, and their record is four games better than ours. That makes this a difficult match up to predict. For most of the season, Tech looked very “Group of 5ish”. There was that much needed step up in momentum for the last quarter of the season, though.
You could see the team getting better. The defense was reacting to plays and anticipating offensive situations better. There was still the annoying 2nd half fade problem that scared us for the final three games. The Miami effort, as disappointing as it was in the 2nd half, seemed to have that “rock bottom” feel to it. The team didn’t look like it was facing defeat from the first kickoff. Yes, we lost it, and at the end Miami pulled away, but there seemed to be a measure of self-respect that walked off the field at the end of that game. It sounded a whole lot like a growl. A “we are better than this” sort of thing started to take hold.
The Virginia game felt different. It wasn’t just Virginia or the Commonwealth Cup. The Hokies wanted to win because they finally believed that they could win. You make your own luck in this world, and a football team most decidedly manufactures most of its own fortunate opportunities. Yes, blind luck does play into things, but mostly it’s how you prepare, attend to details, and play fundamentally sound football that determines whether the ball bounces your way or the other guys.
The last three games, for which Tech went 2-1, looked like the turn of a corner. A bowl win on New Year’s Eve, would be some of that much needed solidification of spirit and will that the young, inexperienced Hokies of 2018 lacked for so many contests. A win will allow them to say; “yeah, we are better than that, and THAT is in the past.”
So as we head into the holiday week, and the churn through the previews, maybe we need to think of leaving that old inexperienced dispirited bunch behind. The Hokies signed all 19 of their targets. They grabbed up several junior college transfers that will be of immediate impact in the depth chart, and they are coming back for 2019 nearly intact, and certainly much better seasoned.
We’ll be learning more about the Bearcats, but I think that we might get a chance to learn just a bit more about the Hokies in this one final game for the season.