October 5, 2009
    SpongeBob idea a good one for Hokies, too

    After throwing three touchdown passes in Miami’s 21-20 win over Oklahoma on Saturday night, Hurricanes’ quarterback Jacory Harris told his teammates that they would no longer watch ESPN or any sports channels on the new TVs in the team’s locker rooms.

    “The only thing that we’re going to watch on TV from now on is SpongeBob,” Miami head coach Randy Shannon recalled Harris saying in a postgame talk to his teammates when he discussed cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants. “We ain’t watching ESPN. We ain’t watching CBS. We ain’t watching ABC.”

    The thought process: Too much of the ‘Canes are back, baby’ hype can be distracting for a team. Harris felt his teammates got caught up in the hype once they broke the top 10 in the rankings two weeks ago.

    So from here on out, if Kirk Herbstreit or any of ESPN’s talking heads brag about the ’Canes, nobody on that team is going to see it. And if ESPN projects the ‘Canes as a national championship contender, nobody on the team will hear a word of it.

    “If SpongeBob can tell you how good you are, then you deserve it,” Shannon joked Saturday night.

    The fact of the matter is this: SpongeBob and Nickelodeon would be a good channel to have on in Virginia Tech’s locker room starting this week, too. And perhaps each player could reset his homepage to www.spongebob.com.

    The Hokies, ranked fifth by the coaches and sixth in the Harris poll, could conceivably move up another spot this week with a win over Boston College. And while fans can discuss the BCS poll positioning and whether Tech would jump the LSU-Florida loser, the team can afford no such luxury.

    BC has beaten Virginia Tech during the regular season three straight years. No other team in the ACC – or before that, the BIG EAST – had that kind of success against Tech. That’s why there’s little chance the Hokies will spend much time this week looking at those rankings or bowl projections, and instead, will focus on a team that’s whipped them three straight years. You’d think, anyway.

    But it’s temping to look at the polls, no? Or talk bowl games, no? Or discuss ‘what if’ scenarios.

    It’s a fact that if the Hokies take care of business, there’s going to be a lot of “Pasadena talk” on TV both throughout Virginia and nationally. But the big issue at the Krusty Krab is the arrogance of Squidward the cashier and if the Chum Bucket is going to steal the recipe for the Krabby Patties.

    That previous sentence makes absolutely no sense to you if you spend more time watching ESPN than Nickelodeon.

    But for anyone familiar with Bikini Bottom, you know what it meant. And it’s genius for a football team, absolute genius. And you understand why the ’Canes may very well be sporting SpongeBob shirts at practice this week.

    As for the Hokies, perhaps they should adopt Fanboy and Chum Chum. Or Jimmy Neutron, the Boy Genius.

    After all, the TV hype machine has no effect on a team that doesn’t see it.

    And the hype around the Hokies is about to really crank up this week.

    Game No. 23 for Coach Spaz against Tech

    We had the opportunity to break bread with Boston College first-year coach Frank Spaziani this past summer. When asked how many games he had coached against Virginia Tech, he joked simply that we had too much time on our hands to even ask such a question, but he thought it was about 20.

    Actually, it’s 22. The curiosity got the best of us and here are the details.

    Spaz was an assistant coach at UVa under coach George Welsh from 1982-1990 and coached against the Hokies in each of those nine seasons. Since arriving at Boston College in 1997, he has coached against Virginia Tech 13 times.

    That means this Saturday’s game in Blacksburg will mark the 23rd game Coach Spaz has coached against the Hokies.

    In the modern era, here are the coaches we’ve seen on the opposing sideline more than any other:

    Bill Kirelawich, 24 (West Virginia; 1980-2000, 2003-2005)

    Frank Spaziani, 22 (Virginia; 1982-1990, BC; 1997-2008)

    Don Nehlen, 21 (West Virginia; 1980-2000)

    Doc Holliday, 20 (West Virginia; 1983-2000, N.C. State; 2004)

    Coach Spaziani will eventually top Coach Kirelawich on that list. It could happen next year depending on how ACC Championship game match-ups turn out in 2009 or 2010.

    Two other notes of trivial interest from this research: first, Gary Tranquill will be coaching against the Hokies as the opposing team’s offensive coordinator for the fourth different team. Tranquill has been an offensive coordinator at WVU, Virginia, North Carolina, and now, BC. Of course, Coach Tranquill was also a member of Coach Beamer’s staff at Virginia Tech in 1994.

    And on the Hokies’ coaching staff, Jim Cavanaugh has coached 32 games against the University of Virginia during his career at Tech. Billy Hite has coached 31 games against the Cavaliers. That tops the list on the Hokies’ staff in terms of games coached against Virginia Tech opponents in the modern era.

    Shinskie looks like Weinke

    The last time Virginia Tech faced a former baseball player in his mid-20s as the opposing starting quarterback was in the 2000 Sugar Bowl when the Hokies saw Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke.

    This Saturday, 25-year-old Dave Shinskie will trot onto the field at Lane Stadium with a similar pedigree. Earlier this year, Shinskie was throwing pitches for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Double-A team. It was his final season of a seven-year professional baseball career.

    Through five games with BC, Shinskie has thrown for 616 yards, completed 61 percent of his passes, and has seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. He was 12-of-21 for 203 yards and two touchdowns last week in BC’s win over Florida State.

    Guys who have played pro baseball bring an interesting, and often, positive element to a college football team, as we saw with Kenny Lewis, Jr., when he first returned to Tech.

    Shinskie may not experience Weinke’s success, but consider this. In 2012, Shinskie will be a 28-year-old senior quarterback for Boston College. He could be 10 years older than many of his teammates and opposing players, which is quite unique.

    How good is he? We’ll get our first look at the big kid with the arm here on Saturday.

    Dear Bill,

    Was Virginia Tech’s win over North Carolina in women’s soccer the greatest upset in Hokies’ history in ANY sport? I’d be curious in your answer. Thanks. Janet, Blacksburg.

    Janet,

    Going by the numbers, I’d say absolutely. The loss was the first for the Tar Heels against an ACC team since September 30, 2007, and was only the 34th for Carolina in the 31-year history of the program. The Heels now stand 683-34-22 all time. UNC’s record in regular-season play fell to 525-27-18 and 135-8-4 in the ACC. Think about that. The Heels have lost 27 games overall and just eight conference games in 31 years. Great job by Coach Kelly Cagle and her team to pull out that win.

    Bill,

    This is not a question. I just want to let the Hokie Nation and the team know that soldiers over in Iraq watch your games and love what you do for your entrance. I am a VT alum and a diehard VT football fan. This was my second time over here and I always love to see the Hokies play. Thank you for providing the small things that get us through these deployments. Thanks goes to all of the Hokie Nation and the players for providing that excitement! Alex, Baghdad, Iraq.

    Alex,

    We should be thanking you and all of our service members and their families who are sacrificing so much to fight for our freedoms. We’re glad you’re keeping up with the Hokies in Iraq and look forward to your safe return so you can see the Hokies in person at Lane Stadium.

    Bill,

    Why wasn't the Miami game in prime time? It was the only game that weekend with both teams ranked and yet the College GameDay Crew was in Happy Valley. I don't understand. Cory, Floyd, Va.

    Cory,

    Usually, television programmers know what they are doing. I double-checked these numbers this week and they are staggering. One in every 720 Americans and one in every 70 Pennsylvanians is a graduate of Penn State University. Throw in a legendary coach like Joe Paterno and you can see the logic.

    But, you are absolutely right. The Virginia Tech-Miami (4.4) game did better ratings-wise than PSU-Iowa (4.0), even though the game at Penn State was played in prime time, which is tremendous. In fact, Tech-Miami did better than the Hokies’ game with Alabama. Here are the highest-rated games so far this season, excluding games of October 3 (the Miami-Oklahoma game is sure to make this list).

    Notre Dame vs. Michigan (ABC): 5.6

    Tennessee vs. Florida (CBS): 4.8

    Texas vs. Texas Tech (ABC): 4.3

    Virginia Tech vs. Miami (ABC): 4.4

    Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (ABC): 4.2

    Penn State vs. Iowa (ABC): 4.0

    More curious, to be honest, is the networks’ decision to pass on the Tech-BC game this Saturday. Although the 2008 ACC championship game did poorly (2.9 rating), the 2007 game between the two teams did well (4.2 rating). The win here is for Raycom and television stations throughout the region that will get the Hokies in a rare ACC Game of the Week window for the first time in several years.

    For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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