Unfortunately, Virginia Tech is no stranger to being on the wrong side of an upset. In fact, the Hokies have been the subject of three major college football upsets. The most recent was suffered this past weekend when the 0-3 Old Dominion Monarchs defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies, 35-49. This defeat was particularly humiliating because it represents the largest upset, referencing a points differential, in the 14 years ESPN has provided its Football Power Index (FPI). The sting of the fresh often hits hard and many fans and media pundits have lamented that this is the worst loss in the history of the Virginia Tech football program. Such a discussion would last long into the night, because the Hokies have suffered two other painful upset losses. Let’s look at the other two missteps and how the Hokies responded to those defeats.
Virginia Tech loses to the Temple Owls, 24-28
In 1998 the Virginia Tech Hokies vaulted to a 5-0 start. In week six of the season they hosted Big East conference opponent Temple. Entering the game Temple was 0-6, a 35.5-point underdog, and were 0-26 during Big East road games. Not only did the Hokies lose this game, they allowed a comeback! Virginia Tech led 17-0 at one point and seemed to have the game already put away. Freshmen QB, Devin Scott, filling in for the starting signal caller (sound familiar) ultimately led Temple to the victory by scoring 28 points all the while holding VT to seven during that time. Temple executed a goal line stand for the ages when they stuffed future NFL RB, Shyrone Stith, to hold on to an unexpected victory. The Owls only earned two wins during the 1998 season and one of those was against then No. 14 Virginia Tech. There other came against another Big East foe, the Pittsburgh Panthers. After the loss the Hokies fell from 14th to 23rd in the rankings. Two weeks later VT defeated No. 21 WVU and finished the season 9-3 after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide, 38-7 in the Music City Bowl. The year after? Freshmen quarterback Michael Vick and sophomore wide receiver Andre Davis led the Virginia Tech Hokies to an undefeated season and an appearance in the National Championship Game.
Virginia Tech loses to the James Madison Dukes, 16-21
Five days after losing to the No. 3 Boise State Broncos the Hokies hosted the James Madison Dukes. JMU was the No. 12 team in the FCS at the time and had just defeated Morehead State, 48-7. The Dukes defeated the Hokies 16-21 but finished their season 6-5. During the aftermath of the of the defeat JMU head coach Mickey Matthews said it was “the biggest win in my professional career.” This was particularly poignant because Coach Matthews was at the helm when JMU won the FCS national championship in 2004. After the loss the Hokies ripped off 11 straight victories, including a 44-33 win over Florida State in the ACC Championship game. The Hokies ended the season with a loss against No. 5 Stanford, led by Andrew Luck, during the 2011 Orange Bowl. The following season (2011) the Hokies lost only a single regular season game against No. 13 Clemson before again falling to them during the ACC Championship game. Afterwards the Hokies lost to No. 13 Michigan during the Sugar Bowl. DANNY COALE CAUGHT THAT BALL!
Virginia Tech loses to the Old Dominion Monarchs, 35-49
Of the three grand upsets only this one occurred away. In my opinion, this loss is much more akin to the Temple loss. As far as ranking the losses I think the James Madison fall is the greatest, especially when one considers the roster on the field when VT fell to the Dukes. Personally, I do not feel that the gravity of this loss will be fully understood until we know how ODU finishes the year. The Hokies are positioned to immediately respond, against a ranked Duke opponent, on national television. Like the JMU loss, Virginia Tech did not suffer a conference loss and are able to still compete for their division and the ACC. There is no way to predict what will happen, but if history is the greatest teacher then the Hokie Faithful can expect a rousing response. In the aftermath of VT’s great losses, the players and coaches have rallied to do prodigious things. I am personally of the opinion that the Hokies will do the same after the ODU situation. Time will tell, but I fully expect the Hokies to respond in the same way we have seen historically.