Heartwrenching, adj: causing great sadness; heartbreaking. Synonyms include agonizing, bitter, calamitous, cheerless, deplorable, dire, distressing, grievous, heart-rending, joyless, lamentable, moving, pitiful, poignant, regrettable, sad, touching, tragic, unfortunate.
I can’t think a better word that describes the outcome of the 2012 Sugar Bowl for Hokie Nation. In the days and weeks leading up to it, I had a good feeling about it, and everyone knew how impactful a win would be for the program. It was our chance to make a statement - a statement attesting the fact that Virginia Tech is better than its dreadful 2-5 record in BCS bowls. After almost a full half of football, even only up 6-0, I thought they were going to do it. And after they stormed back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game, I thought they were going to do it. And when Danny Coale ... I thought they were going to do it.
But we all know what happened and how it turned out.
So the Hokies fall to 2-6 in BCS bowls, and an even worse 2-9 in marque TV games (adding in the season opening losses to Southern California, Alabama, and Boise State). I cannot help but feel that Beamer has peaked. When was the last time we won a big-time football game outside of the comforts of the ACC? The two wins over Nebraska in 2008 and 2009 are close, but those games did not have the eye of the nation on them and those were not elite Nebraska teams. The same goes for the win over Tennessee in the 2009 Chick-fil-a Bowl. Maybe the 2009 Orange Bowl victory over Cincy? Close, but no cigar. I would not classify Cincinnati as among college football’s crème de le crème that season. I think you have to go to 2003 when we beat 2nd ranked Miami on the road in what was a Big East match-up to find our last win over the best-of-the-best. That's a long time ago in eyes of college football fans and media.
Let’s face it, Frank Beamer built this football program through consistency: consistency in his coaching, consistency in his staff, consistency in recruiting. Year-in and year-out, you can count on the Hokies to win a lot of football games, beat some good teams, and go to a bowl game. Unfortunately the Hokies also consistently lose to the great teams. Will this be Frank’s legacy? It’s a shame that the postscript to his hall of fame career will be “couldn’t win the big one.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank Beamer. He is the face of Virginia Tech - not just of the football program but of the face of the entire university. In his quarter century of being the head football coach at Virginia Tech he has helped raise the university’s visibility on the national level. And, by all accounts, he does things the right way. He runs a clean program, and he has won a ton of football games. He’s going to win some more, too, because he’s consistent.
However, there’s that nagging little “but” ... but he can’t win the one. To me, these losses hurt more than the losses to bad teams do. Yeah, losing to JMU was embarrassing, but losing to Boise State the weekend prior was the kick in the gut. It’s these losses on the big stage that are keeping me from wanting to go to bowl games. Virginia Tech is now 0-9 at the neutral site games I’ve attended: Florida State (2000 Sugar Bowl), Southern California (2004), Auburn (2005 Sugar Bowl), Georgia (2006 Chick-fil-a Bowl), Kansas (2008 Orange Bowl), East Carolina (2008), Alabama (2009), Boise State (2010), Michigan (2012 Sugar Bowl).
I am too passionate about the Hokies, and these losses basically ruin the trips. Did I have fun in the French Quarter this week? Abso-friggin-lutely. Did I do my part to support the team at the game? Hell yes I did - my throat was sore from yelling. But after the game I wanted to go home, sit on the couch, and watch a movie to get my mind off of what I witnessed. It’s hard to keep going to these games when you don’t get to experience the joy of winning them, and I honestly don't know if we'll see another marquee win with Frank at the helm.