This idea just sort of hit me last night as I was deciding what to write about. What are my best memories over the years I have been going to Hokie games. I narrowed it down even more, picking one memory per year for each of the last 20 years. I was onto something and coincidentally it’s a nice round number, so, let's go...
A little background information before I begin. I went to my first Hokie football game as a skinny, goofy 17 year old high school senior. This was before the bowl streak, back when 6-5 was the norm for a season. I was there for the 1992 season when Tech finished 2-8-1 and many wanted Beamer fired (oops!) Hell, back then you couldn't find a hot Virginia Tech Starter jacket or hat in the stores and Nike didn't even make Hokie apparel. VT clothing for the most part was butt ugly. Anyway, the best experiences involving VT football and basketball my freshman and sophomore years usually came from camping outside of Cassell Coliseum for a few nights with friends to get student tickets to the big games. Looking back, I made some great memories. They were good times.
For most years, there is one dominant memory stuck in my head. It made picking pretty easy, but obviously a lot of notable moments were left out. Some memories will be a single play, or an entire game, while others will be an entire day, and unfortunately some will be memories I wish to forget. Just remember, this is my list and what I chose were not always the best moment for the team that year. I decided to break this column into two parts, so here is 1990-1999, I hope you enjoy and please share some of your own. With a nod to Seinfeld, each of the twenty gets it's own title.
The Easy Choice - November 24, 1990 (Live)
My first true Virginia Tech experience, came when I was a high school senior. I had been to Blacksburg a couple times growing up, since I have family from the area (story for another time), but not as a prospective student. At the time I had applications (later acceptances) at Virginia Tech, William & Mary and UVA. A family friend took his son, his best friend and myself to the game. I was genuinely excited and thought I was ready. Holy crap, I was not. Blacksburg was in pandemonium. This was the big time. The entire campus wanted nothing more than to make UVA more miserable after the #1 Hoos were upset by GT at the beginning of the month. This was big time football in a small town that wasn't on the national football radar yet. It was a life changing day, that I will never forget. I had found home.
The Embarrassment - November 16, 1991 (Live)
During my freshman year I wanted to show off Blacksburg to a good friend from high school who was a freshman at ECU. At the time I was a young, dumb, talking mad trash and soon eating a significant amount of crow. VT had ECU on the block, ready to finish them, up 14-7 early in the 3rd quarter. Then on ECU's 5 yard line Rodd Wooten threw a pick six 95 yards the other way and ECU doesn't look back. I vividly remember that throw and run back. I learned a lesson that day, my friend didn't say much, but he sure did smile a lot.
The Whack Job! October 31, 1992 (Radio)
It was a top ten worst defeat losing to RUTSgers on the road, by a last second Bryan Fortay touchdown pass that concluded an up and down, wild shootout. This is what it felt like to be on the wrong end of the Soprano family argument. This was not broadcast on television, all the fans not in attendance had to listen to the Buffet Buddies over the airwaves. When Bill Roth made the touchdown call for the Scarlet Knights, the whole dorm simultaneously yelled “Shit!” which echoed throughout the quad. If it were not for Halloween and the sure to be drunk, half naked women to observe later that night, we might have gone and burned Frank Beamer's house down. I honestly believe this was the game that led Frank to make wholesale defensive changes, out with the wide tackle 6, in with the 4-4.
The Beamerball - December 31, 1993 (TV)
As a poor college kid who had seen little good Virginia Tech football his first couple of years in school I had no clue this was the game that ignited the success of the next 18 years. I watched the game at a friend's house, it kicked off 12+ hours of college debauchery on New Year's Eve. When the block happened, I jumped from the chair like I was Neo from the Matrix ...
A rep was born as Beamerball went from regionally respected in the Big East to nationally feared.
The World Wide Leader Introduction - September 22, 1994 (Live)
I was lucky to be in school for ESPN's first Thursday night game in Blacksburg. This was hot shit at the time. The Campus was excited for a couple weeks leading up to the game. Back then the concept of Thursday night games were pretty new and not old hat. Tailgating began on Wed after classes and continued until Sunday night. The town was electric, the game was loud and the Worldwide Leader knew they had found ratings gold in the not so sleepy town of Blacksburg, Virginia.
The Comeback - December 31, 1995 (TV)
As tense a game as any outside of the 1999 WVU game that I have ever watched on television. I wanted this game badly, and after the 3rd quarter with UVA up by 15 I thought all hope was lost. Then Jim Druckenmiller went to work and started to do some heavy lifting. No play in his career ever shined as bright as this one below. I yelled and shook the house at the pump-n-go TD. Watching the replay makes me want to go tackle a Hoo and trash talk him afterwards!
For a little salt in the wound this happened seconds later ...
The Bittersweet - October 26, 1996 (Live)
A year and half after graduating I was now firmly set with a good job, that soon led to a career in the IT field. Most of my friends had graduated and moved on as well. This was the first time I realized the Blacksburg I knew as a student, as a young man with no responsibilities had stayed put, but I had moved on without it. Even though seeing friends, tailgating, the victory and bar hopping was fun, I knew it wasn't the same. I was on the outside looking in, I ached to be back in Blacksburg, and be 21 forever. The visit was awesome as usual, but that drive home was the worst, much worse than any I did after a loss. Those were just games, this drive back was the realization I had to be all grown up now.
The Premature - August 30, 1997 (TV)
The excitement of watching Al Clark on TV beat the doors off of RUTSgers during the first game of the season, thinking this rebuilt Hokie Team had just reloaded after 1995 and 1996. Only this was not the case, this Hokie team imploded as the season wore on. I still remember how pumped I was after that game, not realizing this would be the worst VT bowl team of the Beamer era to date.
The Bud Foster - December 29, 1998 (TV)
Big Bad Bama, thought they would roll all over this little Big East school with their duo of Shawn Alexander and Andrew Zow. Oops. Bud Foster thought differently. Bud had been defensive coordinator for a couple of years by now but the 1998 season started to really show he was going to be special. That season was highlighted by this game that would spark the 1999 version to even greater things. Let me know if this sounds familiar, a huge ground and pound advantage by the VT offense leading to a 2+ touchdown second half lead where Bud Foster dialed up the pressure causing sacks, turnovers and points off turnovers. Yeah, that second half made many a Hokie female start to swoon over Bud.
The Game - January 4, 2000 (Live)
Take any VT big game atmosphere, feed it a 5 hour energy drink, with a Red Bull chaser and this was how electric and intense the National Championship game was in the Super Dome. Watching Michael Vick carve up the 1999 Noles Defense was a bit surreal. Back then, there was no peer to FSU when it came to athletes on defense and Vick made them look a JV team. Not to be outdone, Mr. Dillards himself, Peter Warrick put on an amazing show to give Dadgumit his 2nd National Championship. A lights out night, even in a loss.
Many, many friends came to Nawlins for this event. The city was a buzz, the trash talking was superb and debauchery in the Crescent City was second to none. The following day continued the party as all my friends stayed to help celebrate my birthday at Pat O'briens all night long. An epic four nights for sure!
Part 2 will come next week. There's a surprise to start the last 10 years and some trash talking by a player's mom!