Virginia Tech’s game with Nebraska, which turned into “Saturday Night at the Improv,” may go down as one of the great wins in school history. It will certainly be regarded as perhaps the most dramatic and unlikely finish.
With all respect to quarterback David Lamie and receiver Ron Zollicoffer, whose desperation heave-and-catch gave the Hokies a 22-19 win on the final play against William & Mary in 1978, Saturday’s ending was even more unlikely.
(Note: William & Mary fans contend to this day that Zollicoffer never did catch the football at Lane Stadium, and that it popped out when he hit the ground. Alas, there was no replay back then and a 22-19 Tech win stands today.)
The improvisational skills of Hokie quarterback Tyrod Taylor, plus his arm strength and confidence, were apparent on a remarkable 88-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes.
It ended with Taylor zigzagging on the Lane Stadium turf, darting and scrambling, before he delivered an 11-yard laser to a sliding Dyrell Roberts in the end zone for the game winner.
The euphoric ending masked an otherwise frustratingly ineffective second half for Tech’s offense. Playing excellent defenses – such as Alabama and Nebraska – exposes any offense’s shortcomings.
But keep this in mind: Nick Saban and Bo Pelini have built their careers, and are being paid millions of dollars, because of their defensive pedigrees. In an era where many schools are hiring head coaches because of their offensive schemes (see Charlie Weis, Bobby Petrino, Dan Hawkins, Mark Mangino, Rich Rodriguez, etc), ’Bama and Nebraska have gone the defensive route. Saban and Pelini are the best of the best when it comes to defense. That’s why they’ve both signed multi-year seven-figure contracts to coach at two of college football’s historic programs.
If you have any weakness whatsoever, they’re going to expose it and make you look bad. That’s what they do for a living. Throw in a couple of NFL-bound defensive tackles and linebackers and, well, you can see what happens.
But even the best-coached teams have a bust on defense every now and then, and good teams take advantage of those.
Thus, when Nebraska’s corner and safety bit on a pump fake and let Danny Coale break free down the sideline, the Hokies were in business. The 81-yard gain was incredible.
The 11-yard, Taylor-to-Roberts play was even more sensational. What Taylor did can’t be coached, of course. That’s the improvisational aspect of the game and of that remarkable scoring play.
In reflecting on the Nebraska game in its entirety, Tech’s bend-but-don’t-break defense allowed some yards, but Nebraska never did score a touchdown. And when the ’Huskers had to get one more first down to seal the game, Tech’s Jason Worilds and Davon Morgan made a key stop. One more yard, and Nebraska is taking a knee to run out the clock.
And on offense, when the Hokies absolutely, positively had to score, they did.
Is there room for improvement? That’s obvious.
But playing teams like Alabama and Nebraska, and competing against defense-first coaches like Saban and Pelini, will make the Hokies better in the long run.
Welcome back Don and Ken
Former Tech broadcasters Don Lloyd and Ken Haines were back in Blacksburg this weekend and spent some time in our ISP Sports radio booth. From 1974-82, the two were the broadcast team that called Tech’s games and both donned headsets to call a few plays during the Nebraska game.
“This booth is a lot nicer than the one we had,” Lloyd said to Haines, who served as a university vice-president back in the 70s. “It’s wonderful to be back in Blacksburg and back on the air.”
Today, Don is retired and living in Richmond with his wife.
Haines is in Charlotte as the CEO of Raycom Sports.
You can hear Don and Ken’s return to the airwaves by accessing the archived broadcast of the Tech-Nebraska game on Hokies’ All Access.
Looking ahead to Miami
Through two games, the most impressive aspect of Miami’s 2009 team has been the maturity of the ’Canes offensive line and the performance of quarterback Jacory Harris.
Harris is averaging 328 yards per game passing in the ’Canes two games – wins at Florida State and at home over Georgia Tech. Miami has averaged 465 yards per game in total offense this season and Harris is the key.
“Miami has had good players around the quarterback for the last couple of years, especially at receiver and running back,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “But when they get really good quarterback play, that’s something to watch.”
Coming into this week’s game, Harris is third in passing efficiency and eighth in total offense nationally.
“He’s really developed. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and you can see it. He’s tremendously poised,” Beamer said.
Tech is ranked No. 11 and Miami is up to No. 9 coming into this game.
Curiously, four of the past five meetings between the two teams at Lane Stadium have been lopsided affairs.
2007: No. 10 Virginia Tech 44, Miami 14. Branden Ore rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns and the Hokies held the ’Canes to 213 yards of total offense in a romp at Lane Stadium.
2005: No. 5 Miami 27, No. 3 Virginia Tech 7. Miami quarterback Kyle Wright threw a touchdown pass, kicker Jon Peattie hit two field goals and the ’Canes defense forced six turnovers – four on consecutive possessions in the second half.
2003: No. 10 Virginia Tech 31, No. 2 Miami 7. Tech’s win snapped Miami’s 39-game regular-season winning streak, 27-game BIG EAST winning streak and 18-game road winning streak. Eric Green and DeAngelo Hall scored defensive touchdowns for the Hokies.
2001: No. 1 Miami 26, Virginia Tech 24. The win enabled the ’Canes to finish the season with a perfect 11-0 record. The ’Canes advanced to the national championship game in the Rose Bowl. Tech quarterback Grant Noel completed just 4-of-16 for 82 yards and threw four interceptions. He also fumbled once. Tech was led offensively by freshman tailback Kevin Jones, who rushed for 160 yards on 24 carries.
1999: No. 3 Virginia Tech 43, Miami 10. After falling behind 10-0, Tech scored 43 straight points. The Hokies scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a play where Miami tailback Clinton Portis, who rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries, was stripped of the ball from behind by Moore. Tech cornerback Ike Charlton picked up the loose ball and sprinted 51 yards untouched for the touchdown.
I am a VT alum and have attended many games. However, the long pass to Coale and the touchdown pass to Roberts were two of the loudest screams in Lane Stadium I have EVER heard! Many Nebraska Cornhuskers said we were the loudest stadium they have ever been to and we know they travel a lot! My question is, is it possible to determine the decibel level of Lane Stadium for the game during those two plays and the final Nebraska drive to end the game? I look forward to hearing from you! Daniel M.
We don’t have a true decibel meter at Lane Stadium. Of course, the positioning of such a meter would be crucial to get a true and accurate reading. The real key, of course, is how loud the crowd is in the middle of the field, as the opposing quarterback gets ready to take the snap. Not being an audio engineer, I’m out of my element here, but it’s likely one would get a different reading in the stands, or the press box, or in front of the band in the north end zone than one taken at the line of scrimmage. We’d have to strap a meter on the referee, right? The loudest I can remember Lane Stadium (excluding team entrances with PA blaring Enter Sandman) is: 1999 (Corey Moore’s scoop-and-score against Clemson); Miami in 2001 (Eric Green’s blocked punt that was returned by Brandon Manning for a score); Miami in 2003 (DeAngelo Hall strips Roscoe Parrish, and later, Green picks Brock Berlin for six).
We don't have a question but just wanted to say thank you for your excellent game coverage of today’s match-up against Nebraska. We are both VT graduates (’91) who now make our home in the swamp. We were away from the TV today, so listened to the Tech game on XM radio. It was more exciting to listen rather than watch, especially with your great commentary comparing the last 1:44 of the game to Tech’s comeback with Michael Vick against West Virginia. Imagine Tech fans everywhere on pins and needles listening to you call the last two minutes of the game! It was a moment we will not soon forget, nor will our children, who had to plug their ears in the backseat of the car due to their parents’ excitement! Nebraska is a great program with long tradition and great fans who set the bar high for sportsmanship. A win over a program like that is special. Keep up the great work as the voice of the Hokies! Randy and Jennifer Boe, Gainesville, Fla.
Randy and Jennifer,
Thanks for listening in Gainesville and for taking the time to write. What a finish!
Watching the ABC telecast was maddening! Commercials galore! Repeated interruptions of the game for (Brent) Musberger saying endlessly, “We'll take a break.” Can't something be done about this before next year, like throwing out ABC? Douglas Patterson, Savannah, Ga.
The commercials you see on telecasts are how ESPN/ABC pay their multi-million dollar annual rights fees to the ACC and SEC. Those sponsors and corporate partners are a primary revenue source for college and pro sports teams. Tech, and all college teams, are fortunate that, despite the current economic climate, sponsorship of major college athletics is still thriving. Believe me, when you stop seeing commercials on Tech football games, then we’ve got a serious problem.
Heard the question on the ACC footprint and the replay of the Marshall game on Sunday on tonight’s show. We have DirecTV (Comcast Sports out of Washington) and saw your highlight show on Sunday, but the game was blacked out. I would think living between two ACC schools in Florida, we would be in the footprint and be able to see the replay. Your thoughts? Go Hokies, Mark and Jenny Rivers, Zellwood, Fla.
Mark and Jenny,
Great question. Per the ACC’s contract with ESPN/ABC, conference members are allowed to produce and show delayed telecasts of their non-televised football games (such as Tech-Marshall) in border or ‘contiguous states’ only. That means, Dish Network or DirecTV subscribers who purchase Comcast SportsNet Washington as an added channel can see Hokie Playback only if they live in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Delaware, West Virginia, D.C., or Maryland. Those are, by the rule, the states that border Virginia.
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