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Next few games to offer better perspective on this year's Tech squad
The Roth Report
September 18, 2006
By Bill Roth

Virginia Tech has outscored and overmatched its first three foes by a 109-10 count. Northeastern, North Carolina, and Duke are now a combined 2-7 (Northeastern beat Holy Cross and UNC squeaked by 1-AA Furman) and it's pretty clear by now that none of the three is a BCS contender. In layman's terms, we're still not sure how good the '06 Hokies can be. We can project how many games this team might win, but just how good is this team?

Well, starting this week, the competition gets a bit tougher, game by game, week by week, and we should have a good picture.

While it's true that this week's foe, the University of Cincinnati, is 1-2 and claims its sole win over Eastern Kentucky, one look at the tape of the Bearcats' game at top-ranked Ohio State last week shows a pretty good football team. Cincinnati, which finished 4-7 last year, returns 10 starters from its defense, and for most of the game, did a terrific job in bottling up the Buckeyes' rushing game.

UC stopped the Buckeyes in the first half as Bearcats head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff were creative in designing coverages to keep OSU wide receiver Ted Ginn in check. But Cincinnati, which was held to minus-4 yards rushing, simply ran out of gas in the second half against the top-ranked Buckeyes before falling 37-7.

Virginia Tech also recorded eight sacks last week and will need to use similar pressure against its next three foes. Tech's schedule gets sequentially tougher each week and clearly nobody in Hokieland will forget the Bearcats last visit.

It was wet and rainy in 1995 and the teams last met on a soggy field in Blacksburg. Cincinnati won 16-0. That would be the last game Tech would lose that year as the Hokies ripped off 10 straight wins, including a victory over Texas in the Sugar Bowl. That, by the way, was also the last year Tech played on that old field without any type of drainage system.

The Hokies in 2006 are unbeaten, highly ranked, and perhaps even untested. The next three foes will offer a pretty good yardstick of just where these Hokies are - and where they might be at season's end.

1979 Metro winning team reunites
Tech's 1979 Metro Conference basketball team and coaching staff held a special reunion this past weekend in Blacksburg. Most of the players from that team, including Hall of Famer's Dale Solomon and Wayne Robinson, attended as well as head coach Charlie Moir.

"This was a very special basketball team," Moir recalled. "We had nine straight wins to start the season and actually had two nine-game winning streaks during the course of that season."

While the 1978-79 Hokies were a high-scoring team - one that shot a remarkable 51.1 percent from the floor for the season - Moir was proud of the team's defensive effort.

"I know we could score but you could tell that teams had a hard time scoring against us," Moir said. "That's what made us such a fine team."

During Friday's event, former players George 'Tic' Price and Marshall Ashford spoke to the crowd inside a packed banquet hall, as did former President William Lavery and Ken Haines, the current CEO of Raycom Sports who served as a color analyst on the Tech radio broadcasts during that era.

"What a fun team to watch," Lavery said. "When Les Henson made that shot at Florida State from 89 feet away or whatever, I remember Wayne (Robinson) laying down on the floor kicking his legs in the air he was in such joy. That team had a lot of great memories, especially the tournament in Memphis."

"We had to win that tournament to get into the NCAA's," Moir recalled.

Tech defeated Cincinnati, Louisville, and Florida State to win the tournament. The Hokies would advance to defeat Jacksonville before losing to eventual national runner-up Indiana State and Larry Bird in the second round 86-69.

"Les (Henson) said before the game that Bird wouldn't score 20 points on us," Price joked at the banquet. "He was right. Sure enough, Bird scored 26!"

That brought the house down in laughter. Bird actually scored 22, grabbed 13 boards and dished out seven assists.

More laughs: Coach Moir's ability to remember the names of referees of key games over his tenure.

"This is a family event or I would tell you what really was said to those officials," Moir joked.

The coach played the audio clip of Henson's full-court shot, a.k.a. 'The Henson Heave,' which drew a huge ovation from the crowd. Later, Haines read a warm and thoughtful letter to the team from ACC commissioner John Swofford.

While 27 years have passed since the players on the team were all together, the camaraderie and chemistry that made them successful remains strong today.

"You guys are a huge part of our past," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said to the team. "Your hard work is an example to our team today and we hope some day to have an ACC Championship banner here in Blacksburg to go along with the 1979 banner."

The Voice's Mailbag
Hi Bill -
I'm a Hokie fan down in the Lone Star State, trying to keep up with my favorite team. The victories over teams that have a large local following here - UT, A&M, and LSU have been great. Looking forward to one more on Sept. 8 next year. I receive Comcast SportsNet (Mid-Atlantic) on my DIRECTV satellite dish. I was very happy to see your show, but it seems the Hokie PlayBack on Sunday is being blacked out. I had been hoping to watch the Northeastern game a day late. Is the replay always going to be blocked? Carl, Dallas.

Carl,
Due to ACC rules, we are not authorized to deliver any ACC games outside of our footprint in the ACC region. ESPN owns the national rights to the live broadcast and delayed re-broadcasts of Tech football.

Bill,
Did you notice that the referee for the UNC game was Jack Childress, the same referee that headed the group of officials that stole the championship game from us in Dec., 2005? I know Frank Beamer did. I could see it in his eyes right away. Nat, Richmond.

Nat,
From my recollection, FSU's Brodrick Bunkley and the rest of his defensive buddies had more to do with the result of that game than the officials. But yes, I did notice.

Hi Bill,
First off, you are the man. Secondly, in your heart of hearts, do you believe that when we need it, our air attack will be effective? I'm not talking about dinky passes here and there. I'm talking gunning it down the field with confidence and taking big chunks of yardage.

I only ask because we haven't seen much simply because we haven't had to. Here's my concern: Duke and Cincinnati. Two more teams that VT should beat on the ground, and therefore, not have to work the receivers. Here's the problem: Georgia Tech. Do you think Glennon needs these games to get some experience doing some serious gun-slinging to all the talented receivers in order to be ready for what GT is going to bring (not to mention BC, Miami, Clemson, and yes, Southern Miss has a good defense)?

Additionally, do you think that Bryan Stinespring will fully utilize all the offensive talent and loosen the shackles a bit on offense this year? It would be a shame not to with these guys. Keep up the great work! Thanks. Brett, Burke, Va.

Brett,
I liked what I saw out of Tech's receiving corps in the Duke game. David Clowney, Josh Morgan, and Eddie Royal each contributed big plays. As the offensive line continues to gel, the ability to throw the ball down field, and the frequency of those plays, is sure to increase. You're right. Tech will need to pass the ball effectively to beat Georgia Tech, but that running game needs to improve, too, and it will.

Bill,
As an alumni and avid Hokie fan, in your opinion, what makes Bud Foster have the consistent top ranking and success on our defense year after year? Does Coach Foster want a head coaching job some day? Steve, Rock Hill, SC

Steve,
Being modest as he is, Coach Foster will credit having some of the nation's top players on his defense over the past few years as the reason. Tech's turned out a ton of NFL players off its defense. But it's more than that. Foster's intense style, asking his guys to 'be difference makers' on the field really shows. His kids take an ownership in the defensive unit each year.

His 'What's Important Now" theory is important, too. The way he gets his players to take personal accountability throughout the week makes a big difference on game days. Bud's a great coach on Saturday, and he and his staff make great in-game adjustments. But it's during the week in those meetings and practice sessions where Foster is an ultimate teacher and motivator. He'd make a great head coach.

Bill,
I read an article about Brandon Flowers in The Roanoke Times where it mentioned that Beamer and his staff have decided not to recruit the state of Florida anymore. Do you know why that is? It seems like Tech sure has gotten a lot of top-notch players out of Florida over the years and it puzzles me why they would stop. Thanks and enjoy reading the Roth Report! Victor, Blacksburg

Victor,
Some issues with de-commits and some misfires in recruiting helped spur a change in Tech's philosophy. Coach Beamer has said many times that he believes the talents of high school players in the Mid-Atlantic region are good enough to contend for a national championship. He said again this week that Tech will recruit a Florida player with a Tech or family tie to the program. But don't expect Tech coaches spending weeks at a time in Orlando or Tampa. Their time is better spent up north in Beamer's estimation.

Bill,
It was great to see the offense clicking in week one. I want to thank you for your continued coverage of Hokie sports. I noticed that you always touch on the positives, but never point out any places where you could see improvement. Do you see any major weakness in this year's team? Sometimes constructive criticism with the positives is a greater way to improve. Thanks again for your coverage of VT sports. Jason, Athens, Ohio.

Jason,
Problems: The Hokies are in trouble if tailback Branden Ore gets hurt or if the offensive line were to lose two or three starters.

Bill,
If Branden Ore is the one player we can not stand to lose, Duane Brown would finish second on that list. With that in mind, I do not believe Brown should be on punt coverage. There are two people on the punt team who are more important than others, the punter and the snapper. I would argue none of the other nine are of significantly more importance than another one of the nine.

Given that, I think Brown's importance on this unit is overstated. I noticed Penn State used their entire LB corps on the punt coverage team from guard out. I can not recall an injury on punt coverage, but losing Brown would be a huge blow to our team. Or at least this couch coach believes so. Neal, Stafford.

Neal,
Coach Beamer's stated goal is to put his best players on his special teams and that includes Brown. Losing Brown would be a tough blow for the Hokies, but losing Xavier Adibi or Vince Hall would be just as tough. They play on special teams, too.

To be honest, I like the sight of Brown racing down the field, and I doubt the opposition likes to see the big fella closing in to make a tackle. That versatility will also help Brown on the next level and shows his true athletic ability. After all, how many tackles are talented enough to cover punts?

Bill,
Has there been any progress or decisions made concerning the five wrestlers who have filed suit to be released from their commitments to VT? Jeff, Richmond.

Jeff,
"It's in the hands of the legal system right now," says Director of Athletics Jim Weaver. That's the best we can do for now, Jeff.

Bill,
I recently graduated from Tech. My job requires me to go to London for four months starting in October. I want to watch the Hokie games, and all others, on the TV or Internet. Can you give me some suggestions? Thanks a lot for your great work. Jayson, San Jose.

Jayson,
I'd suggest finding a local Sports Café in London. It's an ESPNZone-style chain that caters to fans of international sports. They show Tech games all the time. Here's their link: http://www.thesportscafe.net They've got burgers, ribs, steaks, plus fish-n-chips (of course).

Bill,
Just drove in from NC from one of the most impressive games I have ever been to in my life, and I am not just talking about the football game. Did anyone see that the Hokie nation took almost 50 percent of the seats in Kenan Stadium? It is the first time I have been at an away game where the cheering squad used both sides of the field and had enough fans for the 'Let's Go, Hokies' chant. I couldn't believe that with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter, half the Carolina fans left the stadium. Hats off to the Hokie Nation! Danny, Pilot, Va.

Danny,
Glad you were able to make the trip to Chapel Hill. The Orange and Maroon stands outs in Kenan and I know our spirit squad appreciates your interaction. Hope to see you and many more thousands in O&M up in Boston in a few weeks.

Bill,
WE WANT THE TRUTH! Why aren't the Hokies playing WVU anymore? I WANT THE TRUTH, Scott, Bluefield, WV.

Scott,
"You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall."

Ah, sorry for breaking into Jack Nicholson there, Scott. It was just too hard to resist. Actually I talked with Jim Weaver before the Duke game and asked your exact question. His response: "We thought in the best interest of the rivalry that we should take some time off." You're not going to get much more of a response from the higher-ups, but that pretty much speaks for itself.


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