History shows Hokies capable of bouncing back
The Roth Report
September 10, 2007

By Bill Roth

It was September of 1996 when Virginia Tech's players, beaten and humbled, wearily staggered off the Carrier Dome turf at Syracuse following a humiliating 52-21 loss to the Orangemen. It was the worst loss of the Frank Beamer era, and particularly distressing at the time since the 1996 Hokies had such high hopes. That was a senior-dominated team that had the look of a champion.

But not that day at the Dome. Fifty-two points? That was one long, tough day. Kind of like last Saturday night, eh?

Well, as history shows, the Hokies rebounded from that lopsided whipping at Syracuse, and won out. They captured the Big East title and played in the Orange Bowl. It turned out to be one of Tech's best teams ever.

Last Saturday's loss at LSU felt a lot like that Syracuse game from '96 in many ways. Like that day, the 2006 Hokies ran into the 'perfect storm' at LSU. A hungry, passionate, talented opponent, playing in front of an all-time record crowd, put together a near-flawless performance against the Hokies. The result, as was the case in 1996, wasn't pretty for Beamer's bunch.

Following the 48-7 pasting in Baton Rouge, Beamer addressed his team, reflecting on the fact that Tech's brightest victories of the past that have seemingly come following the program's darkest moments.

"I told them about our 1995 team," Beamer said following the LSU game. "We were 0-2, but had great senior leadership. Those seniors said we weren't going to lose another game and they didn't."

Following that 0-2 start, the Hokies ripped off 10 straight wins, including the victory over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

As we've learned over the years, Beamer does some of his best coaching, and Tech has had some of its best seasons, following some of its most disheartening losses. The teams in the mid-90's overcame those bad September Saturdays and lopsided losses, and recovered to play in the Sugar and Orange Bowls.

More recent history shows the same trend. Tech's 2004 team started 2-2 before winning its final eight games, capturing the ACC title, and playing in the Sugar Bowl. Even last year, Tech bounced back from consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College to win its final six games and finish the regular season 10-2.

One common denominator in each of those turnarounds? Terrific veteran leadership.

"I'm going to be counting on those seniors this week," Beamer said.

The coach also hasn't been afraid to make personnel moves, and that doesn't preclude the quarterback position. Ironically, it was against LSU in 2002 when Beamer made an early-season quarterback switch, pulling senior Grant Noel for the more mobile sophomore, Bryan Randall. Noel started the LSU game, but it was Randall who came in and helped Tech to a 26-8 win over LSU. Randall started the next 38 games for the Hokies and eventually was the 2004 ACC player of the year.

Noel had been 10-4 as a starter and had led Tech to a Gator Bowl berth the year before. But Beamer played the hunch that, in the long run, Randall would be the more productive quarterback because of his mobility and play-making ability.

Five years later, remarkably once again against LSU, Beamer and his staff made nearly an identical decision. Glennon's record as a starter is 11-4, and while his skill set may be greater then Noel's, he's in the same situation as Noel was in 2002. There's a young buck with a rocket arm who can really scoot waiting in the wings.

Responding To Adversity
YearThe ChallengeThe Result
1995Started season 0-2Won final 10 games. Won Sugar Bowl over Texas
1996Lost 52-21 at SyracuseWon next seven games. Played in Orange Bowl
2004Started 2-2Won next eight games. Played in Sugar Bowl
2005Lost 27-7 at home to MiamiBeat UVa 52-14 in Charlottesville the next week
2006Lost 22-3 at Boston CollegeWon next six games to finish 10-2 in regular season
2007Lost 48-7 at LSU???

The decision to pull Tyrod Taylor's redshirt year was inevitable. He's been too good in practices and scrimmages and too poised in meetings to sit. And the Tech coaches didn't do this so he could serve as the backup for the next two seasons, which is really unfortunate for Glennon, who has worked so hard and dedicated so much effort over the past nine months to be a leader of this football team.

In so many ways, Glennon is like Jim Druckenmiller, who quarterbacked Tech to BCS bowls in 1995 and 1996. He's big, has a strong arm, has leadership skills, works exceptionally hard, and has the respect of his teammates. He has many of Druckenmiller's intangibles, but he doesn't have Druck's offensive line.

With future NFL horses like Todd Washington, Billy Conaty, Ginnaro DiNapoli, T.J. Washington and Jay Hagood up front, the Hokies were comfortable with a traditional drop-back passer running the show and Druck was the prototypical pocket passer. Druck was 20-4 as a starter at Tech, but he likely would've fared no better than Glennon last week at LSU. In fact, Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, a first-round draft pick who played against LSU in the Sugar Bowl last year, had a similar experience to Glennon when facing the Tigers.

It's unfair to judge Glennon on one game, and Beamer hasn't. But he can see a trend going back to last year, and can see the future. If this team doesn't have a dominant offensive line, it will need a mobile quarterback.

"Tyrod brings some things to this team that we need right now," Beamer said of making the QB switch, hoping Taylor can be the additional playmaker who can turn the busted play into an eight-yard gain. Beamer is hoping Taylor can get out on the edge and be a threat running or passing, a player who can keep defenses honest and make the Hokies tougher to defend.

Through two games, the Hokies haven't been tough to defend. Ask ECU's Greg Hudson or LSU's Bo Pelini, those team's defensive coordinators. Heck, ask the guys from Kent State from last year. Teams are loading up and stuffing Tech at the line of scrimmage and the numbers are staggering. Amazingly, six of the Hokies' past seven foes have held Tech to under 100 yards rushing: Miami: 53, Kent State: 84, Wake Forest: 92, Virginia: 156, Georgia: 42, ECU: 33, and LSU 71.

Over the past 30 years, since Billy Hite has been Tech's running backs coach, the team has averaged nearly 200 rushing yards per game. But of late, Tech isn't getting anywhere near that kind of production.

"If you can't run the ball, you're not going to win many games," Beamer said.

Tech has averaged just 2.2 yards per rush over the past seven games. That's over 239 rushing attempts with a first-team All-ACC tailback on the roster. That simply makes no sense. Clearly, Tech needs to improve that number and adding an additional playmaker in the backfield is probably a good start. Taylor's skills were clearly evident during the Hokies' lone touchdown drive Saturday.

But more than personnel moves, the key to a successful season will start in practice this week as the Hokies prepare to start a three-game home stand.

Like the 1996 team and the others, you have a hunch the 2007 Hokies will respond to a humbling loss in a positive way. We'll get a good look when Ohio visits Lane Stadium.