This was the season when many Hokie fans had hoped it would happen again.
With the talent on its roster, buoyed by confidence it had gained from its back-to-back ACC championships and a win over a terrific Cincinnati team in the Orange Bowl, the 2009 Virginia Tech team would mark the 10th anniversary of the school’s only prior appearance in the BCS championship game with a return trip to the title game, this time in Pasadena, Calif.
There would be the team event at Disneyland.
The Hokie Club would have a posh luncheon at Spago in Beverly Hills.
And Tech fans would walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stop to gaze at George C. Scott’s star and proudly brag to passers-by that, “Yes, he was from southwest Virginia, too.”
Unfortunately, as we’ve learned, Virginia Tech’s goal to reach the West Coast has gone about as smoothly as the Griswold family’s similar goal to reach Walley World.
If you recall the 1983 movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, endures just about every imaginable frustration during his family’s quest to reach Los Angeles for its annual summer vacation.
In Blacksburg this fall, Tech head coach Frank Beamer has been feeling the exact same frustrations (although Christie Brinkley hasn’t pulled next to the team bus in a Ferrari … at least not yet.)
Beamer’s team, while talented and exciting, has been wildly inconsistent. It’s a team that’s had more big plays on offense than any Tech team since 1999. Yet the offense still has major issues protecting its quarterback. It’s a team that has scored a ton of points, but one that has botched more scoring opportunities than any squad in recent memory.
On defense, it’s a team that can stuff the run for three plays and then allow a 60-yard scamper. It’s allowing foes to convert an alarming number of third-down opportunities and has players ‘simply running the wrong way,’ according to defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
BCS title game dreams, for this year, are over. But how the Hokies play in November will tell the real story of this 2009 team and set the tone for Virginia Tech’s 2010 season.
Can Beamer and his staff find that elusive consistency they’ve been searching for since August?
Can they add the word ‘efficient’ to an offense that has already proven to be explosive and exciting? That means not squandering scoring opportunities like the Hokies did three times in the first half at Georgia Tech and four times in the opening half against North Carolina.
Can they get off the field on third down defensively, and get back to their turnover-causing, havoc-wreaking ways?
Can they be the kick-blocking threat their head coach expected them to be when this season began?
Listen, you can state that the Hokies, who were ranked seventh in the preseason, and who were as high as No. 4 just a few weeks ago, were vastly overrated and never should’ve been mentioned in any preseason title talk. Do they have flaws? Obviously.
But so do USC and Oklahoma and Ohio State, all of which were all ranked ahead of the Hokies in the preseason.
If you watched the 2009 Virginia Tech team totally take apart Miami 31-7 and stifle Boston College 48-14, you’d walk away convinced that this was a special team, one of America’s best. And at times, it has been.
During the course of this season, the Hokies have been a dominant, fast, aggressive, fanny-whippin’, physical outfit that appeared to have all the parts. Ask Miami’s Jacory Harris or ask those BC defenders. They’ll tell you.
At other times, Tech’s been an unfocused, sloppy, seemingly disjointed outfit that holds on touchdown runs, blocks in the back on punt returns and appears to have an undersized and depth-shy defense.
It’s the search for that elusive consistency that Tech must find now during the season’s final month.
There will be no trip to Los Angles for this team, but there’s still a good chance for a strong finish. A great November followed by a rousing bowl victory would really set the table nicely for 2010.
You know, in the end, Clark Griswold and his family made it to Walley World.
Here’s hoping Frank Beamer and his gang have a similarly happy ending.
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