Senior leadership key as Hokies get ready to re-focus for final two games
The Roth Report
November 7, 2005
By Bill Roth

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Jonathan Lewis has been here before.

The senior has been a part of the Hokies' football program long enough to know that how a team responds to adversity - how it bounces back from tough losses - is the greatest yardstick one can use to measure a team's heart and soul.

"Three years ago, we had a devastating loss and we didn't bounce back," Lewis recalled. "Well, this year we've had a really tough loss and how we bounce back is the most important thing. I'm confident we can come back from this."

As many Hokie historians can recall, Tech lost four of its last five regular-season games in 2002 after starting the season 8-0. The Hokies lost a heartbreaker to Pittsburgh, 28-21. In Blacksburg and in early November, no less. The following week, they went to Syracuse and lost in triple overtime, and Tech never recovered.

This year - of course - Lewis was referring to the 27-7 loss to Miami that eliminated Tech from the Rose Bowl hunt. But in reality, it did more damage to the Hokies' pride than its ranking. Tech dropped to just eighth in both polls.

"This season isn't over by any means," head coach Frank Beamer said.

And he's right. But will his team believe? Well, Beamer is fortunate to have seniors like Lewis on this team. When No. 56 talks, his teammates listen.

"Hey, in 2003 we had a shaky game at Temple and came back the next week and lost at UVa," Lewis said. "The key is how we bounce back for this year's game up at Virginia. To be a true Virginia Tech Hokie, you got to have pride in yourself."

Don't doubt the resolve of Lewis or the rest of Tech's seniors who will have a vital role in re-focusing this 2005 team.

"We got a little off the tracks tonight," senior tight end Jeff King said after the Miami game. "But at the same time, we have to move on and play our way back into it. At the end of the season, there aren't going to be many one-loss teams out there, and you don't know what can happen. But right now, we need to correct some mistakes and get ready for Virginia."

Having an open date this week probably comes at a good time for Beamer, his seniors and the rest of the '05 Hokies. College kids are resilient - probably more so than fans - but recovery time from the Miami loss might take longer than usual.

"I'll tell you that I think it's a good thing that we don't have a game this week," Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "I watched the BC game against North Carolina, and I thought BC looked a little lethargic coming off their loss here. Sometimes it might take a little while to bounce back and re-focus. We can still finish out strong and have a 10-1 season, so we still have a lot to play for."

Lewis believes history can be the best teacher for the '05 Hokies.

"We had two tough losses last year, USC and N.C. State, and we bounced back," Lewis said. "When you come back from tough losses and win, that's what makes a season special. That's what you remember. And we have that chance in the last two games of this season."

Spoken like a true senior leader. And that - more than anything - is what Beamer and his team need in the coming week.

Hokies set for hoops opener
Meanwhile, Tech's basketball team tips off Thursday, Nov. 10th, against Radford at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies will play three games in four days to start the 2005-2006 season. They face Radford, Bowling Green (Nov. 12th), and Western Carolina (Nov. 13th), all at home.

"Good scheduling there, eh?" Tech coach Seth Greenberg joked. "It looked good till guys starting dropping. We went from having a lot of depth to not much at all because of injuries."

Tech will be without forward Wynton Witherspoon (stress fracture in his foot) and center Robert Krabbandam (knee) for the opening weekend.

"All four teams have to play this schedule, so we'll play it," Greenberg said. "But to be honest, you'd like to have a full roster when you're going to play that many games in a short period of time."

Although they'll play this week, guards Zabian Dowdell and A.D. Vassallo have been sidelined with injuries in practice over the past month.

"We couldn't even have a real scrimmage last week," Greenberg said. "But our guys are eager to play and we'll see how the young players in our program perform right away. Certainly when you have injuries, it creates an opportunity for someone else to step up."

None of the games of this week's NABC classic are televised, but we'll have radio coverage of Tech's games beginning 30-minutes prior to tip-off of each game on Virginia Tech/ISP Sports Network radio affiliates throughout the region. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. for the season opener between the Hokies and Radford.

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