The first 119 seasons of football at Virginia Tech
- The Bugle, Virginia Tech’s Yearbook, describing the school’s first football practices in 1892
Football at Virginia Tech officially kicked off on Oct. 21, 1892 when the school was known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Its start, however, was slow.
With VAMC President John McBryde’s approval and support, an athletic association was organized in September 1891. The major efforts of this organization during its early years were concentrated on football.
At the urging of a few interested students and faculty during the fall of 1891, a number of students assembled on campus to play pick-up games of the new sport. A year later, largely through the efforts of Professor W.E. Anderson, Professor E.A. Smyth and cadets H.B. Pratt and J.W. Stull, Tech’s first football team was organized. Anderson played right tackle and served as the captain. Smyth was the “trainer” (or coach) and business manager.
It was necessary for the organizers to go into the barracks every day and beg men to come out to play because those who were not placed on the first team one day would refuse to return the next.
The first game was scheduled with St. Albans of Radford and played on the Blacksburg campus on Oct. 21. The game resulted in a 14-10 victory for VAMC with Anderson scoring the first touchdown in Tech history. After studying a book of rules, Professor Smyth took the leading role as the team’s mentor. As a result, he came to be known as the father of modern football at Virginia Tech.
In 1896, the words Polytechnic Institute were added to the college’s name and it became known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute, which in turn became Virginia Tech. With the change in names came other changes.
The school colors changed from black and gray to Chicago maroon and burnt orange. The colors were chosen by the Corps of Cadets and adopted as the official college colors in the fall of 1896. They were first worn in a football game against Roanoke College on Oct. 26, 1896.
A student contest was held to produce a new school yell and O.M. Stull won a prize for his new yell, the now famous Old Hokie. Stull’s yell, in its original form, was:
Hoki! Hoki! Hoki Hy!
Tech! Tech! V.P.I.!
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
At some point an ‘e’ was added to Hoki and the name stuck as a nickname for Tech teams and the school’s spirit. When asked about his yell, Stull admitted that the words he used had no hidden or symbolic meaning whatsoever, but had been thought up in an effort to grab attention. His effort was successful, as thousands of fans attending Tech athletic contests over the past century can testify.
The Great Carpenter
A true Virginia Tech legend, Hunter Carpenter played in Blacksburg from 1900 to 1903 and again in 1905. His Tech career had intrigue, controversy and greatness.
Carpenter arrived at college at age 15 weighing 128 pounds. He waited two years before becoming Tech’s starting right halfback. When he did get a chance to play, he used the alias Walter Brown because his father had forbidden him to play football. Not until his father saw him star in a 1900 game against VMI in Norfolk did he give approval to young Hunter’s sport.
In 1903, Carpenter helped Tech defeat a powerful Navy club, 11-0. In that game, he kicked a 46-yard field goal and, according to published reports, played much of the game without jersey or stockings, which were torn from his body.
In 1905, he scored 82 points and helped boost Virginia Polytechnic Institute to a 9-1 record that included wins over Army, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Carpenter scored five touchdowns in the South Carolina game and helped the Hokies outscore their opponents 305 to 24.
Carpenter was never named to the All-America team because Walter Camp, who named the team at the time, said he would never name a player who he had not seen play. Others, including his former coach Sally Miles, placed him on a level with Red Grange and Jim Thorpe. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1957.
Tech’s starting lineup in 1909 averaged just 172 pounds, but that didn’t stop the Hokies from posting an outstanding 6-1 season that started with a 6-0 win against Clemson and ended with an 18-5 victory versus North Carolina State. New head coach Branch Bocock, who came to Tech from the University of Georgia, was the Hokies’ first truly professional coach with a full-time salary.
The Military Classic of the South
For years, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Virginia Military Institute clashed in the “Military Classic of the South.” Both schools had corps of cadets and a budding rivalry by the time the series was moved to Roanoke in 1913. Beginning in 1921, the VPI-VMI game was played on Thanksgiving Day and it became the centerpiece of a gala affair.
The Tech Corps of Cadets would march from the train station to the Hotel Patrick Henry and the VMI Corps would march to the Hotel Roanoke. On game day, both corps would march to Victory Stadium. The teams were playing for pride and a 22-inch high Chamber of Commerce trophy.
The VPI-VMI series continued as a Thanksgiving Day treat through 1969. The teams made their last appearance in Victory Stadium on a Saturday in 1971.
During its early years, the Tech football team competed in the South Atlantic Conference. But things changed dramatically for the school with the announcement on Aug. 22, 1921, that it would be a charter member of the newly formed Southern Intercollegiate Conference.
The other charter members were Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington & Lee. In 1922, the league added Florida, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tulane. The University of the South joined the conference in 1923 and in December of that year, the league’s name was officially changed to the Southern Conference.
The membership shifted over the years. In 1932 the 13 southern-most members formed the Southeastern Conference. In ‘36, six new members - The Citadel, William & Mary, Davidson, Furman, Richmond and Wake Forest - were added. Virginia withdrew in 1937, and George Washington and West Virginia joined in 1941 and 1950, respectively. In 1953, seven colleges withdrew to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Tech remained in the league until June 1965, when it withdrew to become an independent.
Several Virginia Tech players from the early days reached prominent positions in Southern football. The 1916 Tech team featured fullback Henry “Puss” Redd who was Tech’s head coach from 1932-40. Teammate William “Monk” Younger played defense so well in New Haven against Yale that college football kingmaker Walter Camp labeled him “the Southern Panther.” As Tech’s athletic director in 1941, Younger saw his team upset defending national champion Georgetown, 3-0, on a field goal by Roger McClure.
The captain of the 1918 eleven, Hank Crisp, lost his right hand in a childhood accident, but became a star Tech running back and team captain. Crisp went on to become a coach and athletic director at Alabama and was the man who recruited Paul “Bear” Bryant to play for the Crimson Tide.
In 1926, a University of Pittsburgh graduate named Andy Gustafson took over the football reins at Tech and coached the Hokies’ “Pony Express” backfield. Gustafson would go on to build the University of Miami football machine as head coach and athletic director.
Frank Peake and the Pony Express
After Virginia Tech’s freshman team won a game by a wide margin in 1925, a sports publicist nicknamed the team’s offensive backfield the “Pony Express”, taking off on Notre Dame’s famed “Four Horsemen.” The leader of that group was Frank Peake. He was joined by Scotty MacArthur, Herbert “Mac” McEver and Tommy Tomko.
Peake was a fleet back who loved the open field. He scored three touchdowns in his first varsity game against Roanoke College and two more in the next game against Hampden-Sydney. When the Techmen played VMI in the season finale, he scored both touchdowns in Tech’s 14-7 victory. As a junior, he rushed for almost 200 yards and scored the lone touchdown in Tech’s 6-0 upset of the Colgate Red Raiders in New York. During one three-game stretch, he accumulated rushing and return yardage of 306, 314 and 353 yards.
Peake’s coach, Andy Gustafson, said he had never seen Peake’s equal under a punt. In the 1928 season, Peake injured a hip. Though still recovering, he came off the bench in the Virginia game to run back a punt for a touchdown on his first play of the game. Peake was named an All-Southern halfback his senior year and is still considered one of the greatest players ever to play the game for Tech.
The 1932 Team
Virginia Tech’s 1932 eleven was one of Tech’s finest teams. That team won eight games and lost to Alabama in a game that decided the Southern Conference championship.
The Techmen defeated several top teams in 1932. The Gobblers upset Georgia in Athens by a 7-6 count when team captain Bill Grinus blocked a Bulldogs’ extra-point kick that would have tied the game. Tech also downed an undefeated Kentucky squad, 7-0, in Blacksburg to run its record to 5-0.
The next big game came when the team traveled to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama for the Southern Conference title. It was ‘Bama’s Homecoming game and the crowd of 11,000 was the second largest in the history of Denny Stadium. Tech took a 6-0 lead in the game, but could not hold the lead as Alabama’s bigger offensive line wore the Gobblers down, and the Tide came back for a 9-6 victory.
Despite the disappointing loss, Tech went on to shut out Virginia and Washington & Lee to finish with an 8-1 record.
Herb Thomas, Jr., led the Hokies in scoring in 1939 and 1940, but he earned his highest distinction on the battlefield. On Nov. 7, 1943, during fighting on Bougainville Island, Marine Sergeant Thomas gave his life to save the lives of the men in his squad. Thomas, who protected his comrades by diving on a live hand grenade, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
The Beardless Wonders
With several Tech players serving overseas in World War II, the 1945 team was filled with 17- and 18-year olds known as the “Beardless Wonders.” The youngsters fared poorly, posting a 2-6 record on the season. One of the two wins engineered by Ralph Beard and his fellow wonders came against a coaching legend named Paul “Bear” Bryant.
The Tech offense had practiced against a defense called the Blackboard Six. Practicing against the Blackboard Six did not ready the offensive team for the opposition as Tech was whitewashed by other defenses in its first two games. Bryant’s assistant at Maryland, Frank Moseley, soon to become Tech’s own head coach, scouted the Hokies’ early-season loss to William & Mary and told Bryant that Maryland need not worry about the Techmen.
Bryant eschewed preparations for the Tech game and looked ahead to his next opponent. When he came to Blacksburg, the Terrapin coach lined up his defense in the Blackboard Six, and Tech ran over Maryland in a 21-13 victory. The Beardless Wonders recorded Tech’s only victory ever over “Bear” Bryant that day.
When Frank Moseley was named head football coach and athletic director at Virginia Tech in 1951, The Techgram, the university newsletter, ran the headline, “Va. Tech Football - A Job To Do.” The Techmen had posted an abysmal 1-25-3 record over the previous three years.
Coach Moseley brought to Blacksburg exactly what the Tech administration wanted in a coach. He had coached in winning programs. As an assistant at Maryland and Kentucky, he worked under “Bear” Bryant.
Moseley was tough and confident. The 1951 Techgram said that Moseley “... carries about him the air of a man who would do well in a battle with the devil himself.” He coached toughness and preached physical conditioning and after the players went through his drills, many went out the back window. His staples were the running game and a stingy defense.
From 1951 to 1953, Moseley’s teams won 12 games. In 1954, Tech went undefeated with an 8-0-1 mark and finished 16th in the final Associated Press poll. The coach was named the AP Coach of the Year in Virginia. In 1956, he was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year. By July 1955, he had turned down three offers to coach elsewhere.
Moseley stayed and made a career as Tech’s coach and athletic director. When he gave up the head coach’s job after the 1960 season, he had a career mark of 54-42-4, which was the best mark of any Tech coach at the time. As athletic director, Moseley headed the Lane Stadium construction drive. He retired in 1978.
Preas and Nutter
Buzz Nutter and George Preas wound up in the same place - on the 1958 National Football League champion Baltimore Colts. The two offensive linemen also came from the same place - Virginia Tech. The two players had different experiences, however, in getting from Blacksburg to Baltimore.
Nutter played on the 1950-52 Gobbler teams that turned in a 7-25 three-year record. He became the first Tech player drafted by an NFL team and played for the Washington Redskins his first year. After being cut by the Redskins, he signed with the Colts. He played in Baltimore for 11 years and helped the team to NFL championships in 1958 and ‘59.
The right tackle on those championship teams was Preas, who passed up offers from Georgia Tech and Army to play in Blacksburg. He played on the outstanding 1954 Tech team. He was named to the All-Southern Conference second-team as a junior and the first-team as a senior. Preas set a league mark by starting 40 consecutive games in his career.
Preas was at tackle for the Colts in the ‘58 championship game. He helped clear the way for Alan Ameche’s winning touchdown in sudden death of what is considered by many as the greatest NFL game. Preas played 11 years for Baltimore.
Tech’s football program started reaching more people during the 1950s. The Hokies’ 1954 season opener against North Carolina State marked the first Tech game to be broadcast over the Virginia Tech radio network. In 1959, the Tech-Florida State game at Miles Stadium was televised regionally on 33 stations from Baltimore, Md., to Miami, Fla. It was the first football game ever televised from a Southern Conference stadium.
The 1954 Team
The 1954 Virginia Tech team was one of the school’s best elevens. That year, the Techmen posted an 8-0-1 record and narrowly missed out on the Southern Conference championship won by a West Virginia team led by Sam Huff. One of the keys to the team’s success was something that would become a staple of Tech football in the late 1990s - speed.
Halfbacks Billy Anderson and Howie Wright were two of the speedsters in the backfield. They were joined by Leo Burke and Dickie Beard. Beard was referred to as “The Cumberland Flash” and led the Southern Conference in rushing with 647 yards. He was named to the all-conference team and was voted The Associated Press Athlete of the Year in Virginia.
That tough ‘54 team also included end Tom Petty, who merited all-conference honors after catching five touchdown passes, and guard Billy Kerfoot, the team captain, who joined Petty on the all-conference team. Tackle George Preas, a future NFL standout, was also an all-league honoree.
Senior Johnny Dean and sophomore Billy Cranwell quarterbacked the team, and Don Divers played a key role in the offensive and defensive backfields. That year, Divers intercepted two passes against VMI and returned both for touchdowns - a feat that would not be duplicated by a Tech player until Ashley Lee did it against Vanderbilt in 1983.
Tech knocked off Clemson in Death Valley that year and shut out Virginia. The squad’s only blemish was a 7-7 Homecoming tie against William & Mary. Tech accumulated 366 yards in total offense against the Tribe but could only muster one fourth-quarter score. The Tribe scored its only points on an interception return for a touchdown.
Carroll Dale, Virginia Tech Class of 1960, was one of the finest football players in school history. He was an outstanding collegian and a successful pro.
Despite playing in Moseley’s run-oriented offense, Dale became Tech’s all-time leading receiver to that point with 64 career receptions for 1,195 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Tech end started the second game of his freshman year against Tulane and did not come out of the lineup for the rest of his college career.
In 1957, the Saturday Evening Post named Dale the best sophomore lineman in the nation. After his junior season, he was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year and a second-team Associated Press All-American. As a senior, Dale became the first Tech football player to gain first-team All-America honors. The consummate team player, Dale won the Southern Conference’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in both 1958 and 1959.
Dale went on to have an outstanding career in the National Football League. He spent five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams before being traded to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. He played on the 1965 NFL title team and the 1966 and 1967 Packer teams that won Super Bowls. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1970 and made the game-winning catch. Dale returned to the Pro Bowl in 1971. He also played in Super Bowl IV for the Minnesota Vikings.
Jerry Claiborne was hired by Athletic Director Frank Moseley in 1961 to run the Virginia Tech football program. In the 10 seasons he coached in Blacksburg, Claiborne eclipsed his boss’ record and became the school’s winningest coach to that point with a 61-39-2 mark.
Claiborne, like Moseley, was an assistant under Paul “Bear” Bryant. He coached Bryant’s defense at Alabama after working with the defense for a Missouri team coached by Frank Broyles. Claiborne played safety and offensive end at Kentucky under Bryant.
Tech’s new coach adhered to Moseley’s principles of tough defense and a strong running game. Tech led the Southern Conference in total defense and pass defense in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, Tech was second in the nation in pass interceptions and fourth in punt return defense.
Claiborne was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 1963 after the Techmen won their only outright league title. He took the 1966 and 1968 Tech squads to bowls.
From 1963-67, Virginia Tech was the 12th winningest program in the country under Claiborne. With 36 wins, 13 losses and one tie, the Gobblers were ranked right behind Notre Dame.
1963 Southern Conference Champions
The 1963 Gobblers captured Virginia Tech’s only outright Southern Conference football championship. The ‘63 edition went 8-2 and featured the all-star running combination of quarterback Bob Schweickert and fullback Sonny Utz.
Tech beat nationally-ranked Florida State, 31-23, in Tallahassee that year. Newt Green, who was twice named to the all-conference team during his Tech career, blocked a punt against the Seminoles. Jake Adams, a fine end, caught the ball in the air and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to help Tech seal its victory.
Schweickert, Utz, Green and lineman Gene Breen were all named first-team all-conference, while end Tommy Marvin was a second-team pick. Senior Mike Cahill led the club in interceptions and turned in a key defensive stop by picking off a two-point conversion pass to preserve a 14-13 win over Richmond. Running back Tommy Walker helped Tech win the season finale against VMI by catching a 26-yard scoring pass from Schweickert and running a kickoff back 99 yards.
Schweickert and Utz
Quarterback Bob Schweickert and fullback Sonny Utz drove the Tech offense in the early 1960s. Schweickert was Tech’s “Mr. Outside,” while Utz was “Mr. Inside.” Together, they combined for over 6,000 yards of offense during their three varsity seasons.
Schweickert served notice of things to come in a late-season 1962 game at Tulane. The sophomore had missed four games with a shoulder injury, but that day in New Orleans he rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another. With Tech trailing, 17-14, Schweickert danced through the Green Wave defense on a game-winning 74-yard touchdown run.
The Tech quarterback danced around a lot of would-be tacklers during the ‘63 season when he helped lead the team to an 8-2 record and the school’s only Southern Conference football title. On his way to being named the SC Player of the Year, Schweickert ran for 839 yards to set a conference record. His total offense mark of 1,526 yards that year also set a league standard.
Utz led Tech in scoring with 10 touchdowns during the ‘63 season and joined Schweickert on the all-conference team. Two of his TDs came in a road win against nationally-ranked Florida State.
The backfield duo returned in 1964 to lead the Techmen to a 6-4 record. Utz rushed for 777 yards to lead the squad, while Schweickert ran and threw for 1,409 yards of total offense. The highlight of the season came when Tech downed 10th-ranked Florida State, 20-11, at Miles Stadium. Schweickert punted eight times for a 47.4-yard average that day, prompting FSU coach Bill Peterson to say it was the first time a quarterback had ever beaten him with a foot.
Tech and Florida State provided some of the biggest thrills for Hokie football fans during the 1960s. In 1964, Tech defeated the nationally 10th-ranked Seminoles, 20-11, at Miles Stadium in a game that featured the heroics of quarterback Bob Schweickert. Two years later, the Hokies and Seminoles treated a 1966 Tech homecoming crowd to a classic battle that saw the home team preserve a 23-21 victory with a goal-line stand and an interception in the final quarter. The thrills kept coming for Tech fans in 1968 when a 3-3 Tech team turned its season around with a stunning 40-22 upset of 14-point favorite FSU in Tallahassee. That win, fueled by linebacker-turned-tailback Kenny Edwards, keyed a five-game Tech winning streak that led to a Liberty Bowl bid.
Statistics alone do not reveal the gridiron value of Frank Loria, Tech’s first consensus All-American. The 5-9, 175-pound safety was a big hitter with a “sixth-sense”.
Loria, who also excelled as a punt returner, helped the 1966 Tech team to an 8-1-1 regular-season record and a Liberty Bowl bid. The Clarksburg, W.Va., native was named an All-American by The Associated Press and the Football Writers Association. That year, he returned three punts for touchdowns, including one for 80 yards against Florida State that helped Tech beat the Seminoles, 23-21, in Blacksburg. He also saved the William & Mary game with a fourth-quarter interception.
His senior season, Loria was ranked eighth in the nation in punt returns and picked off three passes. Tech’s star was named to the top six All-America first teams. For his career, Loria started all 31 games in which he was eligible to play on the varsity.
In 1970, a plane carrying the Marshall University football team crashed in West Virginia, killing all passengers. Assistant coach Frank Loria was on the plane. In 1972, Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership fraternity, dedicated an award in the memory of Frank Loria for the Tech student-athlete who exemplifies citizenship, leadership and athletic and academic achievement.
Liberty Bowl Teams
Coach Jerry Claiborne took Tech teams to the Liberty Bowl in 1966 and 1968. The Techmen went 8-1-1 in ‘66 to earn a spot opposite the Miami Hurricanes in the Memphis, Tenn., bowl. Two years later, Tech finished with five straight wins for a 7-3 regular-season mark that secured it a return trip to the Liberty Bowl to play the University of Mississippi.
Tech earned respect with its two bowl visits, but fell short of getting what it wanted most - a victory. Jimmy Richards blocked a Miami punt to set up a Tech touchdown in the 1966 game, but it wasn’t enough as the Gobblers fell 14-7 to the ninth-ranked Hurricanes. In ‘68, Tech built a 17-0 first-quarter lead, only to see Ole Miss storm back behind a quarterback named Archie Manning for a 34-17 win.
The bowl experience left an indelible mark on at least one of the Tech players. Frank Beamer, a starting defensive back on the 1966 and ‘68 teams, would return to guide the school to unprecedented postseason success in the 1990s and beyond.
When Charlie Coffey arrived in Blacksburg in 1971, he set the program awash in orange, made a whirlwind media tour of the state to promote the Virginia Tech football team and improved the athletic facilities. Most significantly, the new coach broke with Tech tradition and installed a pass-happy offense.
Coffey, the defensive coordinator at Arkansas before coming to Tech, turned over his offense to Dan Henning. Henning, who had starred at William & Mary and went on to become the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, put the ball in the air. He tutored a rangy right-hander by the name of Don Strock who smashed all of Tech’s previous passing records. Strock threw to tight end Mike Burnop who caught a team-record 46 passes, and Donnie Reel who led the team in reception yardage with 705 in 1971. Tech’s air excitement and Coffey’s promotion prompted Hokie fans to purchase 1972 season tickets in record numbers to witness “Explosion ‘72.”
The highlight of the ‘72 season came when Tech upset 19th-ranked Oklahoma State in Blacksburg. Dave Strock, Don’s brother, kicked the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds remaining to lift Tech to a 34-32 victory. That season, Strock threw to Ricky Scales, J.B. Barber and Craig Valentine in addition to Burnop and Reel. He led the nation in passing and total offense, and his 3,170 yards passing was the fourth-highest total in NCAA history at the time.
After a disappointing 1973 campaign, Coffey left Blacksburg and took his aerial show with him.
The 1975 Season
The Tech football program went from one extreme to the other when Jimmy Sharpe took the reins in 1974 and installed a wishbone offense.
The Techmen struggled to adjust at first, losing their first four games of ‘74. Then, in game five at South Carolina, things started to click. Three different Tech players rushed for over 100 yards as the Hokies surprised the Gamecocks, 31-17. The team went on to win four of its last seven games. Two of the losses came by one point and the other by seven.
In 1975, Sharpe’s team posted Tech’s best record of the decade and the school’s best mark since 1966. Tech rebounded from two season-opening losses to win eight of its last nine games. That stretch produced some of the decade’s most memorable wins.
Tech shocked Auburn, 23-16, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Alabama. Running back Roscoe Coles had an 89-yard touchdown run and quarterback Phil Rogers threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead the Tech offense. It was the defense, however, that saved the day. With two minutes left in the contest, Auburn drove from its own 20-yard line to the Tech 5. Auburn had first and goal but could not score.
The Techmen gobbled up Auburn on two running plays before the Tigers threw an incomplete pass. On fourth down, the Auburn quarterback dropped back to pass, could not find an open receiver and was forced to run out of bounds. Linebacker Rick Razzano, noseguard Bill Houseright, tackle Tom Beasley and end Keith McCarter keyed that Tech defense.
Against Florida State in a Homecoming tilt, senior kicker Wayne Latimer boomed a school-record 61-yard field goal to knock off the Seminoles, 13-10. The defense stood tall again, holding FSU on downs from the Tech 12-yard line in the final minutes.
The defense also turned in the big play in a 24-17 win over Virginia that year. The Wahoos had the ball on Tech’s 14-yard line with one minute left in the game when Beasley forced a fumble with a sack of UVa quarterback Scott Gardner.
Tech’s mascot has experienced some changes over the past 39 years, evolving from a Gobbler to a Fighting Gobbler to a HokieBird. The first Gobbler mascot was a real, live gobbler introduced to the Tech sidelines by Floyd “Hard Times” Meade in 1912.
When Tech President Bill Lavery offered Bill Dooley the dual role of head football coach and athletic director in the winter of 1977, Tech fans were excited. Dooley had annually taken the best high school talent from the Old Dominion and brought it to Chapel Hill to build fine teams at the University of North Carolina.
Dooley was brought to Blacksburg to rebuild the Tech eleven. He would do that with a strong running game and a very good defense. Under Dooley, the nickname Hokies came to the forefront and the Gobblers faded away; the Gobbler mascot was transformed into the HokieBird; and a new VT logo was adopted.
Dooley started the 1978 season with some players he inherited from the previous staff. Safety Gene Bunn broke the school interception record in ‘78. Kenny Lewis, a fleet tailback, set a school single-game rushing record with 223 yards vs. VMI. Fullback Mickey Fitzgerald was a power runner and blocker who carried the nickname “The Incredible Hulk.” Wingback Sidney Snell emerged under Dooley.
A strong recruiter, Dooley brought in running back Cyrus Lawrence, tight end Mike Shaw, defensive tackle Padro Phillips, and offensive linemen Wally Browne and George Evans for the 1979 season.
Dooley would go on to compile the best record of any Tech head coach to that point. He would guide the Hokies to three bowl games and their first-ever bowl victory before leaving the program under a cloud of controversy following the 1986 season.
1980 Peach Bowl
Virginia Tech got the decade rolling with an 8-3 regular-season record in 1980 and a date in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. Coach Bill Dooley’s Hokies opened the season with a 16-7 road victory over Wake Forest in front of a regionally-televised ABC-TV audience. The Techmen whitewashed archrival Virginia, 30-0, at Lane Stadium in front of the state’s first 50,000 crowd for football. The Hokies then bested West Virginia, 34-11. Tech made its first bowl appearance since the 1968 season when it was invited to play 18th-ranked Miami in the Peach Bowl. The Hurricanes defeated the Dooley gang, 20-10, in a hard-fought game.
On the second carry of his collegiate career, tailback Cyrus Lawrence ran 59 yards for a touchdown. It would be the longest run of his Tech career. But that didn’t stop Lawrence from going on to become the Hokies’ all-time rushing leader. He did it the hard way with four- and five-yard gains. He turned in just 14 runs of more than 20 yards while at Tech and had only three runs over 40 yards.
In 1980, Lawrence rushed for 1,221 yards in 10 games to set a Tech single-season rushing mark. The 1,221 yards ranked him eighth nationally. Lawrence set another school record with six 100-yard games.
Lawrence was tough enough to carry the ball 29 times a game his junior year after averaging 27 carries in ‘80. During the 1981 season, Lawrence gained 1,403 yards to break his own school record and finish seventh in the country. He gained 202 yards against Virginia.
The star back suffered a season-ending knee injury just four games into his senior season. He totaled 3,767 yards in his 35-game Tech career to establish the school’s career record. He averaged 107.6 yards rushing per game and turned in a school-record 16 100-yard rushing games in his career.
Coach Bill Dooley loved defense and Dooley, as well as Tech fans everywhere, loved Bruce Smith.
At 6-3, 276 pounds, Smith had tremendous agility and speed for a player of his size. During his four-year Tech career at tackle, Bruce became the most honored football player in school history at the time. As a junior in 1983, the Norfolk, Va., native recorded 22 quarterback sacks and was a first-team All-American.
Smith didn’t get any easier to block his senior year as he registered 16 more sacks and made a career-high 69 tackles in leading Tech to an Independence Bowl appearance.
The “Sack Man” won the Outland Trophy as America’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. Smith had a career total of 71 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses, totaling more than five times the length of a football field (504 yards).
In 1985, the Buffalo Bills made Bruce Smith the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He went on to record an NFL-record 200 career sacks with the Bills and Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the NFL’s 2009 Hall of Fame Class.
With four seconds left in the New Peach Bowl at Atlanta on Dec. 31, 1986, Virginia Tech trailed North Carolina State, 24-22. Pass interference was called on the Wolfpack as it was defending Tech wingback David Everett.
The penalty moved the football to State’s 23-yard line. The Hokies were within field goal range - the range of kicker Chris Kinzer.
State called a timeout to rattle the Tech sophomore. Tech finally snapped the ball for the 40-yard field goal attempt. Kinzer kicked and was knocked down on his follow through. The ball sailed through the uprights as time expired and Tech won, 25-24.
It was Tech’s first bowl victory ever.
One of the trademarks of Coach Frank Beamer’s teams at Virginia Tech has been outstanding special teams - most notably, blocking kicks. In the 1990s, no Division I-A team blocked more kicks than the Hokies. Tech blocked a total of 63 kicks during the decade, including 31 punts, 18 PATs and 14 field goals. Blocked kicks played key roles in Tech bowl wins against Indiana in the 1993 Independence Bowl and versus Alabama in the 1998 Music City Bowl. From 1990 through 1999, thirty-one different Tech players blocked kicks while playing for Beamer.
Frank Beamer roamed the Tech defensive backfield for teams that went to Liberty Bowls in 1966 and 1968. After he left Blacksburg, he embarked on a coaching career that included stops as an assistant at Maryland, The Citadel and Murray State. He was promoted to head coach at Murray State in 1981 and ran the Racer program for six years.
The ex-cornerback came back to Tech as the first alumnus to guide the Tech football program since 1945. In replacing the departed Bill Dooley, he brought back to Blacksburg the trademark defense that he learned as a Tech player under Jerry Claiborne and a healthy respect for the importance of special teams. He also brought back to Blacksburg some of the best teams in the land.
In his first five years on the job, Beamer’s squads faced 29 bowl-bound teams and 18 Top 20 opponents. Nine of his first 27 games at the helm were against Top 10 teams. In 1987, the Tech slate was rated the most difficult in the nation.
Tech pulled off two big upsets over two of those top teams. The Hokies knocked off a Major Harris-led West Virginia team in Morgantown, 12-10, in 1989, behind four Mickey Thomas field goals and a fired-up defense. The victory over the ninth-ranked Mountaineers started a three-game winning streak over West Virginia - the first time Tech had reeled off three consecutive wins over WVU.
The Hokies also registered a momentous victory over Virginia in the 1990 season finale. The Wahoos had been ranked No. 1 in the nation for part of the season and 54,157 spectators, the largest football crowd in the history of the state at the time, came to see the two teams tangle. ESPN also came and televised the tilt nationally. Vaughn Hebron rushed for 142 yards to lead the Hokie offense, and quarterback Will Furrer threw three touchdown passes in the 38-13 win.
Those upsets were just a hint of things to come under Beamer.
The ‘BIG’ Break
After competing as a football independent for 26 years, the Hokies became a charter member of the BIG EAST Football Conference in 1991. The football-only conference, which also included Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and West Virginia, was formally announced on Feb. 5, 1991, by Commissioner Michael Tranghese.
No team in the newly-formed league benefited from the alliance as much as Virginia Tech. The Hokies finally had a stage for their football program, and it would only be a short time before they seized the spotlight.
Starting in 1993, the first season of round-robin play in the conference, Tech began an 11-year span that saw it register the second-most wins of any team in the league. During that stretch, the Hokies were the only BIG EAST school to participate in a bowl each season. Tech would win the conference title in 1995 and 1999 and share it in 1996. The Hokies also would represent the league in the Bowl Championship Series each of those three seasons.
Heading to Another Level
Beamer’s success at Tech was not immediate. And it did not come without hard times. Shortly after Beamer took over the reins in Blacksburg, the Tech football program was hit with NCAA sanctions for problems that occurred during the previous regime. Those sanctions included two years of scholarship reductions that impeded Beamer’s success into the next decade. In 1992, the Hokies suffered through a gut-wrenching season that saw them hold fourth-quarter leads in seven of their 11 games, but win just two games. The final record was 2-8-1.
Out of the ashes of the 1992 season came a rebirth that would ultimately mark the beginning of the most successful period in the history of the program. During the spring of ‘93, the Hokies made some changes. They added some new faces to the coaching staff. They adopted an attacking style of defense that emphasized speed and aggressiveness. They fine-tuned the offense and turned it over to quarterback coach Rickey Bustle, who was elevated to offensive coordinator. Tech’s faith in Frank Beamer was about to pay off.
The result was an 8-3 regular-season record and a rousing 45-21 victory over Indiana of the Big Ten in the Independence Bowl. It was the first year of round-robin play in the BIG EAST Conference, and the Hokies finished a surprising fourth. The Tech offense rewrote the school record book, accumulating 4,885 total yards, scoring 400 points and averaging 36.4 points per game.
1995 Season - Sweet Success
One of the most memorable seasons in Virginia Tech football history did not start out memorably.
First there was a 20-14 home loss to Boston College. Then there was a forgettable 16-0 home whitewashing at the hands of Cincinnati. With Miami - an opponent Tech had never beaten in 12 tries - on the horizon, prospects for a third straight bowl trip didn’t appear to be bright.
As it turned out, that appearance was deceiving. Fueled by the leadership of a strong senior class, Tech defeated Miami for the first time ever, 13-7, in a heart-stopping finish. And the Hokies didn’t stop there. They won their last nine regular-season games in a row capped by a sensational comeback victory over archrival Virginia. Along the way, the Hokies also collected their first BIG EAST championship.
Not only did Tech get its third straight bowl trip, it got a big one. As the BIG EAST representative in the Bowl Alliance, the Hokies earned a trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Over 25,000 Tech fans went along for the ride.
On New Year’s Eve 1995, the Tech football program scored its biggest victory to date when it came from behind to defeat Texas, 28-10. The stirring victory capped a 10-2 season and helped the Hokies to their highest ever finish in the national polls at the time.
Tech followed by winning a school-record 10 regular-season games on the way to another 10-2 mark in 1996. The Hokies appeared in the Orange Bowl and held their own before losing to powerful Nebraska. Winning records and bowl games followed again in 1997 and 1998.
A Stepping Stone
Of all the successful Tech football teams of the 1990s, the 1998 squad may have been the most surprising. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the men in orange and maroon. No one gave them a chance to win big or to challenge for the BIG EAST championship - but they did both.
Tech fooled the experts that season and actually finished just three or four plays away from an unbeaten record. The Hokies “rebuilt” with a 9-3 record and suffered their three losses by a total margin of 10 points. In a showdown with Syracuse for the BIG EAST title, Tech lost in heart-breaking fashion at the Carrier Dome on the last play of the game.
The team benefited from both great leadership and great character. It bounced back from each tough loss to win its next game. The Hokies capped their unexpected run with a dominating 38-7 victory against tradition-rich Alabama in the inaugural American General Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. The Crimson Tide entered the game with an all-time 10-0 record against Tech and more bowl wins than any other college program. They exited with the second-worst bowl loss in their storied gridiron history.
Following the game, Coach Frank Beamer was beaming with pride as he addressed the large following of Tech fans whose enthusiasm was never dampened by the evening’s wind and freezing rain.
“This is for the future,” the Tech coach said. “We’ve talked about trying to get up that ladder (to the top of the college football ranks). I think we took another step, maybe two steps, because when you beat a team like Alabama it means something.”
For Virginia Tech it meant a lot. The victory set the stage for the Hokies’ greatest football season ever.
Sign of the Times
The sign was simple. It was written in block letters and taped to a door in the football offices. It read: “Preparing to Win a National Championship”.
It seemed a bold thought for a program that just seven years earlier had produced only two wins. But Tech’s 1999 team took it to heart. They lived and breathed that thought.
There were plenty of reasons for the Hokies to be excited about the ‘99 season. Thirteen starters were returning, including seven on defense. The special teams were loaded with experienced performers. The preseason rankings were Tech’s highest ever. Season ticket sales were soaring. And there was this new kid at quarterback named Michael Vick.
All the excitement was tempered, however, by reminders of the recent past. A year earlier, Tech had started fast with a 5-0 record only to have its hopes dashed by an upset loss to Temple. Memories of that loss served as fuel to stay focused in 1999.
From the first day of practice, the 1999 squad set out to take the season one game at a time, to prepare the same way for each opponent. And that is exactly what they did - 11 games in a row.
The season unfolded in storybook fashion with Vick and All-American defensive end Corey Moore playing leading roles. Among the prominent chapters were a hard-fought 31-11 Thursday night victory against Clemson on ESPN, a stunning 62-0 victory against Syracuse and a fifth consecutive win against the Miami Hurricanes, this time by a score of 43-10. The Hokies defeated state-rival Virginia on the road, 31-7, and escaped with an unforgettable, last-second 22-20 victory at West Virginia. Along the way, Tech was visited by the ESPN GameDay crew twice and drew media attention from coast-to-coast. The Hokies rose to No. 2 in both national polls and capped their first ever 11-0 regular season with a convincing 38-14 win over Boston College.
Following the 1999 season, Corey Moore became Virginia Tech’s most honored football player ever. The senior defensive end earned the Bronko Nagurski Award as college football’s defensive player of the year and won the Lombardi Award as the college football lineman of the year. He became just the second Tech player to gain unanimous All-America honors and was named the Football News’ Defensive Player of the Year. He finished the season with 60 tackles, 17 quarterback sacks, 11 additional tackles for loss, 25 hurries, three pass deflections, three fumbles caused and a fumble return for a touchdown.
A Shot at the Title
Tech’s reward for its first unbeaten, untied regular-season mark since 1918 was an invitation to the Nokia Sugar Bowl where the Hokies would battle No. 1 Florida State for the title of national champions. The Tech football program was breaking new ground once again with yet another first under Coach Frank Beamer.
Before a crowd of 79,280 - the largest crowd ever to view a Sugar Bowl game at the Superdome - the two teams staged a grand finale to the season.
Although Tech’s offense was able to gobble up yardage in the early going, the Hokies were stung by uncharacteristic mistakes in the kicking game. FSU struck quickly for touchdowns on a blocked punt and a punt return. With six minutes left in the first half, Tech trailed 28-7.
A defensive stand deep in Tech territory gave the Hokies one last chance in the first half. Sparked by quarterback Michael Vick, Tech marched 80 yards. Vick capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run to narrow the score to 28-14 at the half.
Vick’s touchdown started a run of 22 straight points that vaulted Tech into a 29-28 lead in the third quarter. In the end, however, it was the Seminoles’ ability to produce big plays that made the difference. Led by MVP Peter Warrick, FSU scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to gain its first 12-0 season and its second national title with a 46-29 win.
Tech’s 1999 dream season did not end the way it had hoped, but the Hokies proved without a doubt that they belonged in the top echelon of college football.
Although his stay in Blacksburg was relatively brief, Michael Vick’s impact on the Virginia Tech football program figures to be long-lasting.
During the mercurial quarterback’s two seasons under center, the Hokies enjoyed unprecedented success. Tech posted back-to-back 11-1 seasons, appeared in a national championship game and finished with its highest-ever national rankings. The two-year period produced sky-rocketing ticket sales, increased contributions and an incredible flurry of media exposure that extended from coast-to-coast. All but two of Vick’s games at Tech were televised. Every home game of his career was played before a sellout crowd.
Vick didn’t create all the success and exposure single-handedly. He had plenty of help. But every time he took the field, he generated the type of excitement that comes with special players.
Tech’s coaches realized early-on that Vick was a special player. However, it wasn’t until the 1999 season that they found out just how special he would be.
Coach Frank Beamer promised to redshirt Vick during his first year at Tech and held to that promise during a rash of injuries at quarterback early in the 1998 season. Bolstered by the redshirt season, the 6-1, 207-pound left-hander from Newport News, Va., made the most anticipated debut in school history when the Hokies opened their 1999 season against James Madison.
In his first collegiate game, Vick dazzled the fans with three touchdown runs in just over a quarter of play. The last of those three scores ended with a national highlight reel flip into the end zone. It was the first of many highlights for the young quarterback.
Vick accounted for five first-half touchdowns in a win at Rutgers. He stunned West Virginia with his last-minute heroics to set up a game-winning field goal. His 75-yard touchdown run against Temple was shown coast-to-coast. He accounted for four more touchdowns and 366 yards of offense in the regular-season finale against Boston College.
Vick’s reputation was building. On Jan. 3, 2000, he captivated a national audience with a mesmerizing performance against No. 1 Florida State in the national championship game. Vick accounted for 322 yards of offense against the Seminoles’ vaunted defense, and even though FSU came on to win the game in the final quarter, he was the talk of a nation. In the blink of an eye, Michael Vick became a household name.
The honors rolled in. Vick won an ESPY as the nation’s top college player. He was awarded the first-ever Archie Griffin Award as the nation’s most valuable player in college football. He finished third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy and second in the voting for The Associated Press Player of the Year. He was named first-team All-America by The Sporting News and second team by the AP.
By the time his sophomore season began, Vick had appeared on practically every preseason magazine cover and been touted as a Heisman favorite. Early on, he filled the highlights again with his quick feet and powerful arm. There was an amazing 82-yard touchdown run at Boston College and a pair of long TD passes against West Virginia. As the season progressed, however, swarming defenses and a troublesome high ankle sprain began to take their toll.
Vick bounced back from six sacks to ice Tech’s first win at Syracuse since 1986 with a 55-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes remaining. A week later against Pittsburgh, he was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. The Hokies went on to win that game, but the following week, with Vick limited to 19 plays off the bench, Tech suffered its lone loss of the 2000 season at Miami.
After starting a home victory against Virginia, Vick returned to form in the Toyota Gator Bowl, helping the Hokies to a 41-20 victory over Clemson and gaining MVP honors in the process. It would be his last game in a Tech uniform.
In early January, the Tech star announced his intentions to turn pro during a press conference at the Hampton Road’s Boys and Girls Club near his old neighborhood. On that day he assured Tech fans he would “always be a Hokie.”
On April 21, 2001, Vick was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, making him the second Tech player in program history to earn the honor.
It took tailback Lee Suggs just two full seasons at tailback to completely rewrite Virginia Tech’s career records for touchdowns. In fact, Suggs nearly did it in one season when he ran for 27 touchdowns and scored 28 as a sophomore in 2000. He led the Division I-A ranks in both scoring and touchdowns that year, shattering the Tech season mark for touchdowns (14) along the way.
Suggs broke the Tech career marks for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns during the first game of the 2001 season, before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the same game. He returned in 2002 to add 24 more touchdowns and finished his career as the all-time Tech and BIG EAST Conference leader in rushing touchdowns (53) and total touchdowns (56).
Suggs scored at least one TD in an NCAA Division I-A record 27 consecutive games.
Coach Beamer is always quick to point out to anyone asking how much Tech’s entrance into the Big East helped turn his program around. While that step was important, Virginia Tech as an athletic department took the ultimate step on June 25, 2003. That was the day Clemson University President James F. Barker, chair of the Council of Presidents, announced that the Atlantic Coast Conference had extended formal invitations for membership to the University of Miami and Virginia Tech.
“Our member institutions reached agreement to officially offer membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference to the University of Miami and Virginia Tech,” said Barker. “These two institutions represent and share the values for which the ACC has long been known. We feel they will be a great addition to our family.Through the ACC’s first 50 years, the conference has earned a reputation for excellence in both academics and athletics. As we look to the future, we are confident that our schools, coaches and student-athletes will maintain that heritage.”
“The ACC is the place our people wanted to be since 1953, when the ACC was formed,” said Jim Weaver, Virginia Tech’s athletic director. “The brand is so strong and we were always a part of the footprint of the league.”
The Atlantic Coast Conference was founded on May 8, 1953, at the Sedgefield Inn near Greensboro, N.C., with seven charter members - Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Wake Forest - drawing up the conference by-laws.
The withdrawal of seven schools from the Southern Conference came early on the morning of May 8, 1953, during the Southern Conference’s annual spring meeting. On June 14, 1953, the seven members met in Raleigh, N.C., where a set of bylaws was adopted and the name became officially the Atlantic Coast Conference.
On Dec. 4, 1953, conference officials met again at Sedgefield and officially admitted the University of Virginia as the league’s eighth member. The first, and only, withdrawal of a school from the ACC came on June 30, 1971, when the University of South Carolina tendered its resignation.
The ACC operated with seven members until April 3, 1978, when the Georgia Institute of Technology was admitted. The Atlanta school had withdrawn from the Southeastern Conference in January of 1964. The ACC expanded to nine members on July 1, 1991, with the addition of Florida State University.
The conference expanded to 11 members on July 1, 2004, with the addition of the University of Miami and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. On Oct. 17, 2003, Boston College accepted an invitation to become the league’s 12th member starting July 1, 2005.
This new home was the perfect fit, not just for the Hokie football program, but the Tech athletic department as a whole. Since joining the league in 2004, Tech’s football team has won the ACC title four times.
After joining the new league in 2004, the Hokies wasted no time in winning their first conference title. One has to look no further than the leadership and play of senior quarterback Bryan Randall as the main cog in that puzzle.
The strong-willed and strong-armed signal caller led the Hokies to a 10-2 regular-season record, including a win on the road at Miami to clinch the title and send Tech to the Sugar Bowl. Randall won 26 games as a starting quarterback, the most under head coach Frank Beamer.
The Williamsburg, Va., native was named the ACC’s Player of the Year and finished his career as the school’s leader in total offense with 8,034 yards.
It hasn’t just been players who have been honored during Tech’s recent run of success. Following the 2006 season in which his defense was ranked No. 1 in the nation, defensive coordinator Bud Foster was awarded the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top Division I assistant coach. He was also recognized as the 2000 Division I-A Defensive Coordinator of the Year by American Football Coach magazine after helping Tech to the national championship game in 1999. Foster’s unit is the only one in the country to were ranked in the top 10 in total defense for five straight seasons (fourth in 2004; first in 2005 and 2006; fourth in 2007 and seventh in 2008).
House of Horrors
Lane Stadium has undergone numerous renovations since it first opened in 1965 with a game between Tech and William & Mary on Oct. 2. The stadium’s original capacity was 40,000, an addition to the east side stands in 1980 raised the capacity to 52,500. Over a two-year span in 1999 and 2000, 5,100 seats were installed in the north end zone and prior to the 2002 season, Tech added 11,120 seats in the south end zone to enclose that part of the stadium.
The latest addition was completed prior to the 2006 season as a new press box, luxury suites, a new President’s area, private club seating areas, a ticket office, athletic fund offices, a memorabilia area and student-athlete academic services area were built in one magnificent structure on the west side of the stadium
Lane Stadium has always been a difficult place for opponents to play and has been dubbed one of the best game-day environments in college football. Heading into the 2013 season, Tech has a 54-9-1 record versus non-conference teams at home since the start of the 1991 season. Virginia Tech has posted a 201-70-6 overall record in its 48 seasons at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field. Tech is 127-33-1 at home under the direction of Frank Beamer.
Tech football teams are 361-101-13 in Blacksburg, including a 57-9 record since the start of the 2003 season. A large part of that impressive record is the home-field environment created by the fans as Lane Stadium has been sold out for 93 consecutive games, starting with the final home game of the 1998 season against Virginia.
The Hokies went unbeaten and untied in 2008 (6-0), 2000 (6-0), 1999 (6-0), 1996 (7-0), 1993 (6-0) 1980 (6-0), 1975 (5-0) and 1965 (3-0) at Lane Stadium. They went 4-0-1 in 1972 and 2-0-1 in 1966.
Frank Beamer has taken his alma mater to new heights and is one of the most-recognized names in the game today. He enters the 2013 season, his 33rd as a head coach and his 27th in Blacksburg, with an overall record of 258-127-4. His 258 wins are the most among active coaches and the sixth-most all-time in FBS history.
Under Beamer, Tech football has enjoyed unprecedented success with 20 consecutive bowl appearances, four ACC titles, five ACC Coastal Division crowns, three BIG EAST Conference titles, two “major” bowl victories and a trip to the national championship game.
Tech won the BIG EAST title in 1995 and 1999 and shared it in ‘96. Beamer was voted BIG EAST Coach of the Year by the league’s coaches each of those seasons and was tabbed the ACC Coach of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.
For his part in the Hokies’ magical 1999 season, Beamer earned eight national coach of the year awards. He was named the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year, the GTE Coach of the Year, the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Coach of the Year, The Associated Press Coach of the Year, the Walter Camp Football Foundation/Street & Smith’s Coach of the Year, the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year and the Woody Hayes Coach of the Year. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Joseph V. Paterno Coach of the Year Award, based on his school’s performance on Saturdays, in the classroom, and within the community.
In 1997, he was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame and had his No. 25 jersey retired by Tech in a pregame ceremony before the Marshall game in 2002.
The 2007 and 2008 seasons were special ones for the Tech faithful. In 2007, a special group of seniors, led by future NFL picks Duane Brown, Xavier Adibi, Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal and Calton Powell, rallied after a painful, last-second loss to Boston College at home to win the last four games of the regular season. With a berth in the ACC Championship game secured, the Hokies went down to Jacksonville, Fla., and avenged that loss, beating the Eagles 30-16 to claim the school’s second league title in football. With the win, the Hokies clinched a spot in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Despite a tough loss to Kansas, the Hokies still finished with an 11-3 record and the seniors concluded their careers with a 43-11 record - the best in school history.
In 2008, a young group of Hokies took the field and stumbled out of the gate in losing to East Carolina in the opener. After rebounding with wins, including tough ones at North Carolina and Nebraska and one at home against Georgia Tech, the Hokies dropped consecutive games at Boston College and Florida State before falling at Miami three weeks later. The team got it together and won its last two games to again reach the ACC Championship game and again avenge a loss to Boston College. Tech had some unfinished business left in the form of winning an Orange Bowl. This time, the Hokies came out from the get-go and took care of things, beating 12th-ranked Cincinnati 20-7 to cap off a 10-4 season.
A Historical Stretch
Tech won 10 or more games eight years in a row from 2004-2011, tied for the third-longest streak in FBS history. Virginia Tech is also one of just three schools (Florida and Florida State) to go to 20 straight bowl games. Included in that streak are four appearances in the Orange Bowl, three trips to the Sugar Bowl and five Gator Bowls.
With a trip to the Russell Athletic Bowl last year, Virginia Tech is now one of only six programs in college football history to go to a bowl in at least 20 straight years, Nebraska (35), Michigan (33), Florida State (31; active), Alabama (25), Florida (22; active) and Tech (20; active).
Head coach Frank Beamer is now one of only four coaches in college football history to appear in 20 or more straight bowl games, joining Bobby Bowden (28), Tom Osborne (25) and Paul “Bear” Bryant (24).
What a Debut
In 2008, redshirt freshman Darren Evans ran for over 1,200 yards and was poised for a breakout sophomore season. That was until he tore his ACL in preseason practice. In stepped another redshirt freshman in Ryan Williams who quickly calmed the fears of many and eventually went on to the best rushing season in Hokie history.
Williams broke several school and conference records en route to earning third-team All-America, first-team All-ACC and ACC Rookie of the Year honors. The Manassas, Va., native ran for 1,655 yards and scored 22 total touchdowns (21 rushing). The touchdown totals were both conference season marks and Williams also had 10 100-yard games, setting a new school mark and tying the ACC standard.
After a season together in 2010, they both declared for the NFL Draft, leaving as two of the great running backs to ever suit up in Blacksburg.
The Tyrod Era
Tyrod Taylor came to Virginia Tech in 2007 rated as the No. 1 dual threat quarterback in the country and he didn’t disappoint. After splitting time as the starter his first two seasons, he took over the reins full-time in 2009 and ended up leaving Tech as one of the top quarterbacks ever to suit up in Blacksburg. The Hampton, Va., native posted a record of 34-8 and set school records for passing yards (7,017), total offense (9,813) and several others. He capped off his career with an ACC title in 2010 and was named the ACC’s Player of the Year.
Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2004 season, the Hokies have been racking up the conference titles as a team, as well as top individual honors. Three players have been named both the ACC Player and Offensive Player of the Year: Bryan Randall (2004), Tyrod Taylor (2010) and David Wilson (2011), while Ryan Williams was named the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year. Offensive tackle Blake DeChristopher won the 2011 Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the top offensive lineman in the ACC while receiver Danny Coale was awarded the 2011 Jim Tatum Award, given to the top football student-athlete in the conference.
The Wrap Up
Virginia Tech has had several football conference affiliations since 1892 when it began playing. From 1892-1897 it was an independent and joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association for one year in 1898. It went back to being independent from 1899-1906 and was a member of the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association from 1907-1921.
From 1922-1964, the Hokies were in the Southern Conference. Tech was once again an independent from 1965-1990 and then made the move to the Big East in 1991, where it resided until 2003. Since 2004, the Hokies have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Hokies enter their 120th season of college football with a record of 697-440-46 in 1,183 games played, appearing in 26 bowl games.