Monday, March 31, 2008

Goin' Clubbing: Rugby

Goin' Clubbing will be a regular feature on Gobbler Country. Each edition will be an in-depth look at a different club sport at Virginia Tech. While these athletes aren't on scholarship, they are still proud to play and represent the university. The first feature is on the men's Rugby team.

Rugby and American football have a few things in common. Both sports use an oblong ball and have goalposts and hard hitting. However, the comparisons typically end there, especially for the Virginia Tech rugby team.

The team practices and plays near the intramural fields, in the shadows of Lane Stadium. But while Hokie football players are talked about on message boards and the media, have scholarships and play under bright lights, the players for Tech’s rugby team play solely for the love of their sport and their university.

Most of the players on the rugby team didn’t have any rugby experience before joining. Aerospace engineering senior Chris Underwood didn’t. But like many of his teammates, the Bel Air, Md., native quickly embraced the sport.

He said he joined the team as a freshman because he missed playing sports in high school. He is now the captain of the team and president of the club and serves as mentor for new groups of players who come to the club with a lot of intrigue and little experience.

“Most players come to us with soccer, football, wrestling, or some other sport’s experience,” Underwood said. “We get a few kids out each year who have played before and they usually rise in the ranks quickly. The learning curve is quick though.”

The learning curve was especially quick for engineering freshman Ryan Dill because he had played in high school in York, Pa. He played three years and his team eventually made nationals his senior year.

Dill was aware of the rugby team at Tech before he came to Blacksburg and joined in his second semester. However, he did not expect his past experience to grant him a free-ride to a starting spot.

“I knew collegiate rugby would be severely different,” Dill said. “I have an older brother that plays for Army and I was able to watch them play at that level. Preparation to face the next level is all mental.”

The team practices four times a week, usually at night to accommodate players’ class schedules. Virginia Tech plays both a fall and spring schedule, typically against other teams in Virginia such as Radford and UVa. Recent results have not gone in Virginia Tech’s favor. However, the club is working hard to rekindle past glory.

The Face of Rugby

Proud Past, Promising Future

The men’s rugby club was founded in 1968. The team became a powerhouse in the ‘90s under former coach Steve Guiffre and went to the national tournament six times from 1998 to 2003. However, recently the club has fallen on hard times. This past season, Virginia Tech went 0-5 against its union, the rugby term for conference, and was out-scored 252-53 in those games.

However, head coach Jon Conrad has embraced the team and is emphatic about returning the team to its past glory.

“Our last two seasons have been poor, but I attribute that to general growing pains,” he said. “I'm quickly coming to the end of that excuse, however, so really we've got to start perform this coming fall.”

Conrad is a globetrotter. He came to the Virginia Tech program in 2006 from UVa. He grew up in Bangkok, Thailand, where he played rugby in high school and went on to play college rugby for Siena as well as Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He then coached a men’s club team in the Washington, DC, area while living in Charlottesville before moving on to UVa, where he was an assistant and then the head coach in 2004 and 2005.

Conrad decided to return to school in 2006, which led him to the Blacksburg area. He is now both coach and peer to the Virginia Tech players, as he is attending Tech and majoring in history. Although the Tech team doesn’t have the funds he is used to, he is still committed to its success.

“I’m still young enough and dumb enough to do this for free,” Conrad said.

And the players are just as committed to Conrad. No longer is rugby simply worked into their schedules. Instead, other activities are scheduled around rugby.

“In order of priority I always have school first with rugby right after that,” mechanical engineering senior Lee Doyle said. “Work and my social life come after that.”

This is something Conrad realizes and is very proud of.

“At practices I'm often heard rambling on about sacrifice and commitment, something every coach is entitled to do,” Conrad said. “What I probably don't recognize enough is how much the kids have already sacrificed to do something that is largely unappreciated. Rugby doesn't have the fans, they don't have the scholarships or the right to miss class for practice.”

A line-out against Radford

Making the Students Take Notice

The team has grown in numbers in the past few seasons. Underwood said when he first starting playing fielding a team of 15 was a tall order for the club. Now up to 50 players come to practice and Virginia Tech fields competitive teams in both Division I and III rugby.

However, he said it is important for the club to recruit more and better athletes to become better. This is difficult because the team no longer plays close to campus. The rugby field used to be in an area behind Lee, Pritchard and O’Shaugnessy Hall. Now, the team practices and plays across from the intramural fields and finds it difficult to attract people to games.

Underwood said the team now occasionally practices on the drillfield to be more visible to the students.

“Friends of rugby players love to come out and watch games and are intrigued by its contrast from other sports and of course its violent nature,” he said. “Sadly though, there are kids on campus who don’t know Tech has a rugby team.”

VT attempts to score a try against Kutztown

No Varsity Option

Unlike many club sports at Virginia Tech, the rugby club plays at the highest level of college rugby. This is because rugby is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport. While women’s rugby is on the NCAA watch list, the men’s side does not have an immediate future as a varsity sport.

College rugby is administered by USA Rugby, which holds a national championship each year. Cal is the kings of club rugby, having won 16 of the last 17 national titles. However, Cal’s athletics department considers rugby a varsity sport, despite the fact that rugby is no sanctioned by the NCAA. Therefore, the Golden Bears’ budget is significantly higher than that of other schools.

Would Virginia Tech’s athletics department do what Cal did and adopt the rugby team as its own? Probably not. But that doesn’t sway the opinion of the players that their sport should be considered for promotion to varsity status.

Rugby is the world’s second most popular sport behind soccer. Underwood said that following would allow the university to draw attention that traditional sports wouldn’t. Doyle said making rugby a varsity sport would be mutually beneficial.

And Conrad agrees. He said his players’ work ethic is just as strong as the varsity players in the athletic department and wishes they could get the same commitment from the university that they give.

“To be honest, all that rugby players seem to want, across the board, is the right to wear their school logo and their school colors without feeling like they're breaking some kind of rule,” he said. “In America, I have found that 'varsity' is synonymous with 'serious'. Nothing could be so misleading.”

The players for the Virginia Tech rugby club aren’t varsity athletes, but they are still student-athletes. They represent the university at the highest level of college rugby and are proud to do so.

They toil mostly unnoticed, but still strive to excel at their sport and live up to the tradition set by the teams of the ‘90s. They are proud to wear orange and maroon and proud to play a sport few at their university are familiar with and even fewer understand. They play mostly for pride, but they also play for Virginia Tech.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Will Greenberg Stay at Tech?

Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg has shown just how good a coach he is in the last two seasons. In 2006-07, he guided the Hokies to arguably the best season in their history.

Tech finished 22-12 and 10-6 in the ACC, earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and reached the second round.
The season also included wins over No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and season sweep of North Carolina, including a win over the Tar Heels when they were ranked No. 1 in the country.

This past season, the Hokies were picked to finish 10th in the ACC. The young team struggled early on, but came together late in the season and earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

Tech reached the quarterfinals of the NIT and finished with a 21-14 record. The Hokies were also 9-7 in ACC regular season play and earned a bye in the conference tournament, where they made the semifinals. The season was successful and unexpected. Greenberg and the coaching staff got much more out of a young team than anyone could have expected.

The freshman who contributed experienced some growing pains early, but played like veterans late in the year. A.D. Vassallo grew both as a leader and a player. I give the coaching staff all the credit for this. I was down on Vassallo most of his career because I didn't think he played hard enough on defense and didn't work hard enough without the ball on offense to get open. Now, I have high hopes for his senior year when he will be the leader of the team.

Greenberg has built the Hokies into a formidable opponent in the ACC. No longer do teams view a trip to Cassell Coliseum as an easy win. The question now becomes, will Greenberg stay at Virginia Tech and continue to build the program, or will he take another job at a higher profile program if the call were to come.

Providence College recently fired head coach Tim Welsh. While that news probably didn't register on the radar screen of many Hokie fans, it did with me. Greenberg is a tremendous coach who is going to eventually get attention from other programs. While Providence may not give Greenberg a call yet, there's no reason to say that they wouldn't consider him.

There are reasons for Coach Greenberg to both stay and leave. The Hokies are on the rise and he has a chance to build a program and put his signature on it. Tech is also in the ACC, which Greenberg has said helps him recruit players he didn't have a shot at while at previous jobs. And, there isn't as much pressure at Tech. The fan base isn't used to having a good basketball program.

The flip side of that coin is that Tech is now and always will be a football school. No matter how much success Greenberg has, Hokie fans will always care more about how the football team is doing. Basketball is part of the distraction that gets fans to the fall. Look at Florida. The Gators won back-to-back basketball titles. But I doubt you'll find anyone in Gainesville that considers UF to be a basketball school.

I don't think about Hokie basketball much until football season is over, and I consider myself a college basketball fan. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Hokie basketball team isn't on much in Oklahoma. The other part is that I just care more about the football team's injury reports and how we're going to handle the other team's defensively line on Saturday than I do about the hoops team until after the bowl game.

I could see Greenberg getting frustrated by the football focus and moving to a basketball-first school like PC, which doesn't even have a football team. Being in the Big East would allow him to still recruit the better players in college basketball.
I don't see Greenberg taking a step down just to be at a basketball school, which is why I don't think he would take the PC job if they came calling. But it would be a basketball conference and a return to the Northeast.

I think if Greenberg did leave, it would be for a school like St. John's, DePaul or even another ACC school. If Tech continues to finish in the top four of the ACC every year, he's bound to get an offer he can't refuse or Tech can't match.

As Coach Greenberg continues to grow the Virginia Tech program, he's bound to start getting calls from other school looking for a new basketball coach. The question is: Will he answer?

Should He Stay?

- ACC school (recruiting, TV)

- Less pressure

- Build a program

Should He Go?

- Basketball school

- More money

- Return to Northeast (if that's important)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tincher Making Headlines

Two days later and it's still hard to believe what I saw Wednesday night. Anglela Tincher delivered the single most dominant individual performance I've ever seen in sport.

She faced the best there was in her sport and didn't let them sniff a hit. Bustos had one loud foul in her second at-bat, but that was it. There wasn't another time where you thought "there goes the no-no."

However, despite how dominating she was, the crowd never rallied around her. There was no "Rocky IV" moment where the underdog won over the crowd. She got her applause when it was over, but in my view it was more like the home team's fans applauding a no-hitter by an opposing pitcher than appreciation. It wasn't like she just no-hit OU, she no-hit the freaking Olympic team.

Tincher's "Miracle on Dirt," as called it, has gotten her and the Hokie softball team a lot of recognition: Tincher ends USA Softball's streak, proves she can beat the best
Oklahoman: Hokies' Tincher no-hits Team USA
Oklahoman: Virginia Tech softball team finds connection on trip to Oklahoma City
Roanoke Times: Hokies still celebrating win over Olympic team
Collegiate Times: Hokies pull off monumental upset
TechSideline: A First-Hand Report of VTs Stunning Softball Win

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Road Trip No. 1: Hokies vs. Team USA

Gobbler Country Road Trip No. 1
Softball: Hokies vs. Team USA
ASA Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Miles Round Trip: 60
Total Dollars Spent: $25 ($10 ticket, $15 Shirt)

Tinch > Finch.

The first ever Gobbler Country Road Trip was a home game for me. And the Hokies felt right at home in Oklahoma City as well. Hokie phenom pitcher Angela Tincher no-hit the best softball team in the world as the Hokies beat Team USA, 1-0.

To put that into perspective, Team USA came into the game 17-0 on its pre-Olympic tour. Only one previous team had scored on them and they had just finished beating DePaul, 23-0. And the one and only Jennie Finch was starting in the circle for the Red, White and Blue.

All Tincher did was not allow hit, not allow a ball out of the infield, walk one and strikeout 10. She dominated the world's elite.

I said earlier today that for the Hokies to win, Tincher would have to pitch the game of her life and Tech would have to get a gift run. That's pretty much what happened. Obviously, it was an incredible performance by Tincher. The Hokies scored in the second when Kelsey Hoffman led off the inning with a double. Pinch runner Anna Zitt advanced to third on an illegal pitch by Finch and then scored on a single by Caroline Stolle.

That was all Tincher needed. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more dominating performance by a pitcher at any level in either softball or baseball. Set your TiVos for 7 p.m. May 6 when the game is shown on ESPN2. Amazing performance.

Photos from OKC:

Entrance to Hall of Fame Stadium

Inside the stadium

Hokies pregame warm-ups

Jennie Finch

Angela Tincher

Tincher's first batter, Caitlin Lowe

Hokies get a runner to third in the second

Coach Scot Thomas congratulates the Hokies after scoring in the second

Facing Jennie Finch

Tincher and the Hokies between innings

Monica Abbott

The coaching staff before the bottom of the seventh

Tincher completes the no-no

Hokies 1, USA 0

Coach Thomas addresses the team after the game

Tincher interviewed by ESPN

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Busy Day for Hokie Sports

A trio of Tech sports have big events Wednesday. Frank Beamer's football team opens Spring Practice with several key positions needing to be filled. Seth Greenberg's men's basketball team hosts Ole Miss for the right to advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. And Scot Thomas' softball team faces Team USA in an exhibition at ASA Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

While most of Hokie Nation will be focused on the events in Blacksburg, I'll be at the softball game here in OKC. The first Gobbler Country Road Trip will be a short one and pictures from the game will be posted Wednesday night.

Football: Spring Has Sprung

The Hokie football team begins life without Branden Ore on the first day of Spring Practice. And the player Hokie fans are probably most eager to see won't be part of the action. Ryan Williams, one of the signature players of the most recent recruiting class, won't be on campus until August. That gives juniors Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman and sophomores Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby a head start on securing the starting tailback spot.

My guess is the Hokies will be tailback-by-committee next season until two front-runners emerge. I don't see one back taking on the bulk of the carries next season. Lewis is a good change-of-pace back, but running between the tackles isn't his bread and butter. The other three will probably split the bulk of the carries.

On defense, linebacker will be the main cause for concern for the Hokies following the departure of Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. Cam Martin returns after having a pleasantly surprising sophomore season. Brett Warren filled in admirably while Hall was injured last season and could take over for Hall in the fall.

Last year's star of spring and fall practice, Jason Worilds, is set to see more time at defensive end with the departure of Chris Ellis. Worilds, Nekos Brown and Orion Martin appear on paper to be at the front of the rotation at DE. I see Orion Martin stepping up and having a Darryl Tapp-like season and Worilds setting himself up to do the same in 2009. Putting pressure on the quarterback will be key for this year's defense. Barring injury, this group looks like it will do plenty of if.

Playmaker exraordinair Macho Harris will be Virginia Tech's starting boundary corner this season, but will also see time at receiver in the spring. Tech lost four experienced wide receivers after last season and Harris will be a welcomed site for quarterbacks Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor.

It will be Taylor's first Spring Practice after playing as a true freshman last season. The spring drills will be his chance to take more snaps from Glennon, who became better as the year went on last season and was a main reason the Hokies won five games in a row to capture the ACC title last season. I believe Glennon is still needed in the offense. He's a good leader and an excellent passer. However, until the running game is shored up, you will probably see more of Taylor than Glennon early next season.

With two experienced quarterbacks and a healthier offensive line, I believe Spring Practice is more critical for the Hokies defense. A lot of leadership is gone from that side of the ball from last season. Not only is it important for Virginia Tech to find new starters, its important for leaders to emerge from the returning starters. I think Kam Chancellor will be the one to step up. He had an outstanding season in 2007 and I believe he could be the leader of the 2008 defense.

Basketball: Start Spreadin' the News...

...the Hokies are one win away from New York City. Seth Greenberg's bunch plays host to Ole Miss Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Hokies are riding a wave of momentum coming into their quarterfinal tilt. A raucous crowd sparked Tech in its win over UAB Monday. It appears the atmosphere will be more electric for Wednesday's game.

If Tech can use that momentum and play defense like it did against UAB, Ole Miss doesn't stand a chance. But the Rebels are a better team than UAB and are led by senior Dwayne Curtis, who average nearly a double-double per game.

Ole Miss' point guard, Chris Warren, is a freshman and getting him to turn the ball over will be key for the Hokies. Warren leads the Rebels in scoring though two NIT games, averaging 17 points per game and has nine assists and three turnovers in those games.

Game Guide
Who: Virginia Tech (21-13) vs. Ole Miss (23-10)
What: NIT Quarterfinal
When: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Where: Cassell Coliseum - Blacksburg, Va.
Why Virginia Tech Wins: Cassell will be rockin', Hokies will force turnovers and score transition buckets, Ole Miss is awful on the road (2-7)
Why Ole Miss Wins: Dwayne Curtis dominates the paint, David Huertas gets hot from behind the arc, Ole Miss hasn't lost against a non-SEC foe this season (16-0)
Through two NIT games, the Hokies are shooting 56 percent while holding their opponents to just under 40 percent from the field...the Rebels have turned the ball over 31 times and Tech 26 in the NIT...Ole Miss is 1-6 all-time on the road in the NIT.
Up Next: Winner faces the Ohio State-Dayton winner in the semifinals of the NIT April 1 in New York City.

Best in the Nation vs. Best in the World

Tech All-America pitcher Angela Tincher get a shot at Team USA at 6:30 p.m. Central Wednesday in Oklahoma City. The game will be broadcast on tape delay by ESPN 2 at 7 p.m. Eastern May 6.

Tincher comes into the contest at 15-4, 0.46 (9 ER/138.1 IP) in 22 appearances, 17 starts for the No. 24 Hokies. She has 282 stikeouts against 34 walks this season. She is 248 strikeouts away from becoming the third pitcher in NCAA history to record 2,000 Ks.

While its just an exhibition, the game is a good way for the Hokies and Tincher to get national attention. Anytime you can get put on ESPN, even through tape delay, is a good recruiting tool in softball. It also gives the Hokies a chance to test their skills against a vastly superior opponent.

Tech has already faced Arizona, UCLA and Northwestern this season, but they now face the best softball team in the world. Tincher is arguably the best pitcher in college softball right now and gets her chance to show what she can do on a large stage.

No pitching rotation was announced by USA Softball for their series in Oklahoma City. They beat Oklahoma State, 7-0 Monday, Oklahoma, 2-0 Tuesday and play both DePaul and Tech Wednesday. However, neither Jennie Finch nor Cat Osterman has started for them so far in the series. Both pitched in relief last night against OU. Finch pitched three inning and Osterman one inning. There's a chance Tech could face one or both on Wednesday.

I have no delusions of grandeur about Tech winning this game. Team USA is 16-0 on its Bound 4 Beijing Tour and only one team has scored on them. Cal State-Fullerton got on the board in a 9-3 loss March 19. It will still be fun to see them in person and see what they can do in the spotlight. I hope they impress.

Game Guide
Who: Virginia Tech (23-9) vs. Team USA (16-0)
What: Bound 4 Beijing Tour
When: 6:30 p.m. Central, ESPN2 tape delay at 7 p.m. Eastern on May 6
Where: ASA Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium - Oklahoma City, Okla.
Why Virginia Tech Wins: Angela Tincher throws the game of her career, Hokies get a gift run
Why Team USA Wins: They're the best softball team in the world
Dot-Dot-Dots: This is the second time in Tech history its faced Team USA, the Hokies were no-hit, 12-0, against Team USA in 2004...Texas' Osterman, Tennessee's Monica Abbott and Alabama's Kelly Kretschman are the only members of Team USA that are not products of California or Arizona schools...the Hokies hope this isn't their first trip to OKC, ASA Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium hosts the Women's College World Series each year.
Up Next: The Hokies travel to Maryland for a three-game series March 29-30. They return home for a three-game series against UVa April 5-6.

Tech in the NIT Quarterfinals

Tech was impressive in its NIT second round game against UAB last night. The Hokies won 75-49 to put them in the quarterfinals. Tech faces Ole Miss at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 for the right to go to MSG for the NIT semifinals.

The last time the Hokies made it this far in the postseason, they got a three from Travis Jackson to advance to New York. Thanks to BazHokie for posting this video.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hate Index No. 1

The Hate Index will be a sometimes-updated feature here on Gobbler Country in which I let all of our rivals and enemies know how much I loathe them. It doesn't have to just include teams. It can be specific players or even members of the media. For the first installment, however, I'm just listing teams. Consider this to be a crash-course in Gobbler Country hateration. All aboard the Hate Train.

ACC Opponents

Nothin' But Love
1. Duke Football - I hope Cutcliffe makes that team respectable. It would help our SOS. Yes, even when I have nothin' but love for someone, it's for selfish reasons. I'm a huge douche.
2. Clemson - I've got no problem with Clemson. They're good people, even if they did steal $50 worth of car magnets from me during my trip there in 2007.
3. Georgia Tech - Really not much to have against the Wreck. Every now and then they'll field a football team that can beat you. But most of the time they just aren't good enough to hate. Good basketball coach, too.
4. Wake Forest - A feel good story on the football field. That and they're crazy. You can't really hate the insane. You know, because they might show up and blow up campus.

Mildly Annoying
5. NC State - They're good people. But I'm still peeved about the loss in '04. It takes a while for me to let stuff go. And Tom O'Brien's there now instead of Chesty.
6. Boston College - Takes a step down to mildly annoying with the loss of Matty Heisman. There will be payback the next couple years for your past transgressions, Eagles.
7. North Carolina - Even though they have Butch Davis and Tyler Hansbrough helped ruin my weekend, I kind of like the Heels. That and its between them and Duke and I ain't picking Duke.
8. Maryland - The stereotype is they're all rude fans from Jersey. The reality is they're all rude fans from jersey. But, unlike almost everyone else, I like Gary Williams. In the words of Bill Raftery, "He looks like an unmade bed after games."

May Your Canals Be Filled With Sand
9. Florida State - You're only ahead of Miami because you're not in our division. Your coach is just a figure-head. He stands around looking lost all game (you know, because of the Alzheimer's). Your players are so dumb they have to cheat to pass an online class. I took online classes all the time in college. If you have to cheat at an online class then you shouldn't be in college. And the players that aren't dumb and dumb enough to get caught are so thuggish they make our players look like angels. You want "Lack of Institutional Control," NCAA? I give you F$U. And guess what? We don't soil ourselves when we see the spear on the side of the helmets anymore.

10. Miami - And you. Your fans are the most fair-weather fans in the league and the ones who show up are cocky even when you suck. The good news is you can sell beer at your games. I appreciate that. Miami would be great if it weren't for their fans.
11. Duke Basketball - Yeah, it's cliche to hate you. But your fans are a bunch of posers and I hate Coach K and all of your players. The flopping, the ref-abuse from Coach K and the just the fact that Wojo exists makes me hate you.

12. Virginia - You get your own category. All the reasons that I despise you have been echoed ad nauseum by all Hokies. Basically, your entire culture sickens me. When I have children, I will pay for them to go to college anywhere they want. Except UVa. If they want to become one of you, they can pay for it themselves. Before this year's UVa game, a friend of mine who votes for the Heisman wanted to get under my skin. He sent me an email that said he was filling out his Heisman ballot and considering Chris Long. The E-mail included the Chris Long Lovefest UVa media relations had sent him. This was my response:

"(expletive) chris long and everyone who looks like chris long. this is the biggest football game in the history of the great Commonwealth of Virginia and ill take a (expletive) in the (expletive) before i let france (aka: uva) win it. those zima-chugging, brie-cheese-eating, neck-tie-wearing arrogant (expletive) can (expletive) clean off. (expletive) uva. uva football is gayer than eight guys (expletive) nine guys. their (expletive) fight song is auld lang syne. are you (expletive) kidding me? get a real (expletive) fight song. i still hate new years eve because it means i have to hear that (expletive) song. the only good thing is i know that by the time new years eve rolls around, those (expletive) have already played their bowl game. usually about a week before hand. that is, if they made a bowl. and dont get me started on this (expletive) that uva is a better academic institution. the hardest part about graduating from uva? that would be getting into uva. uva is harder to get into and tech is harder to graduate from. those trust fund (expletive) can take their "higher academics" and kiss my (expletive). you know why? because biology lectures arent televised. football games are. they can sit there with their brie, wine and neck ties and call themselves sophisticated. me? im going to get hammered on wild turkey 101, grill brats, wear my beer-stained hooded sweatshirt and watch my football team beat the (expletive) out of yours because thats where sophistication gets you. give me tech and hard nosed, blue collar work ethic because were going to kick your (expletive) 10 times out of 10 that way. drink your wine and eat your brie, (expletive). my bourbon-drinking (expletive) has has won 7 of the last 8 meetings (ed. note: now 8 of 9). take your (expletive) trust fund and use to buy a first class ticket to boise to see your worthless team play in the (expletive) humanitarian bowl again. (expletive) uva. (expletive) them. (expletive) uva. thursday is day 1,083 of tech's continuous possession of the commonwealth cup, (expletive). ps - happy thanksgiving."

And I was sober when I wrote that. I was told two days later by someone who had the E-mail forwarded to them that it was the "funniest (expletive) E-mail" they had ever read.

Non-Conference Teams

Nothin' But Love
1. Oklahoma - The Alma Mater. I don't like Stoops, but I at least respect him. It's win-win for me when the Sooners play. If they win, I'm happy for the players and the people involved with that program. When they lose, I'm happy I get to see Stoops squirm.
2. South Florida - Beating WVU twice in a row gets you some love.
3. Ohio State - I hate Michigan, have friends who are Bucks and they have the coolest helmets in college football. You're the only Big Ten team I have any respect for.
4. East Carolina - Just don't do anything stupid like beat us anytime between now at 2080 or whenever this friggin' series ends.

Mildly Annoying
5. The SEC (Minus Tennessee) - Mildly annoying because they're so good at football and their fans often wear neck ties to games. But wow, do they have good tailgating.

May Your Canals Be Filled With Sand
6. Michigan - Good job hiring DickRod. Now I dislike you more.
7. Texas - Wrong kind of orange. I do like Rick Barnes, though.
8. Louisville - I learned at the 2005 Final Four that their fans have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They're trailer trash, wanna-be thugs. Yes, I would like fries with that. No, I don't want an apple pie.
9. Tennessee - Vols fans, I've got bad news for you. You're really not going to like it. You may want to sit down. OK, here it is. WE'RE BETTER AT FOOTBALL THAN YOU ARE. In fact, you're kind of bad at it now. Your coach has no control over his team and really should be shown the door. It used to be you wouldn't play us because we weren't on your level. Guess what? Now we don't want to play you because you're not on our level. And your stadium is overrated. Not as good as advertised. Rocky Top, you'll always be... second in the SEC! Good ol' Rocky Top (woooo!)... second in the SEC!

West Virginia
10. West Virginia - You also get your own category, Couch Burners. Is there anything sadder than burning your own furniture after a football game? And you do it win or lose. You're basically the most class-less fan base outside of Newcastle, England.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We don't mess around

... when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. This is how you're supposed to enjoy March Madness:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ore's VT Career Over

Coach Beamer announced today that the Hokies and starting running back Branden Ore are parting ways. This makes Spring Practice even more interesting for the Hokies as they now look to replace four wide receivers who saw significant time and Ore, who carried most of the rushing load in 2007.

I liked Ore and thought he could have become one of the better running backs in Tech history. I thought that being at 100 percent combined with a healthy and more experienced offensive line was going to lead to a tremendous season in 2008. Now, we're left to wonder what could have been.

Ore was never considered a "bad kid", but had a number of incidents that preceded today's announcement by Beamer. Before the 2006 season, Ore was sent home to refocus on football. He did and made first team All-ACC. This season, he was suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl for being late to a practice and also testified in a federal drug case involving one of his friends.

The Hokies start Spring Practice March 26 and will hold their Spring Game April 19. The first cracks at starting tailback will likely go to juniors Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman. Lewis started in place of Ore in the Orange Bowl in 2007 and against UVa in 2006 when Ore was injured. Cheeseman is a converted cornerback, who had the Hokies' longest run from scrimmage in 2007 when he scored on a 70-yard run against Georgia Tech.

Lewis (5-9, 205): 111 rush, 420 yds, 3.8 avg, 6 TD
Cheeseman (5-10, 209): 21 rush, 133 yds, 6.3 avg, 1 TD

Other contenders will include redshirt freshmen Josh Oglesby and Darren Evans and true freshman Ryan Williams. The idea of Williams contributing early will get Hokie fans blood pumping. He was one of the stars of this year's signing list and played in the U.S. Army All American Bowl.

However, Williams is the only contender on the list who will not be involved in Spring Practice. Unless he is worlds ahead of the other four in the fall, he will likely still be redshirted.

I think the dismissal of Ore will also have an effect on the quarterback situation. I believe the coaches will see the need to play Tyrod Taylor more, or even start him, to help the running game. It will be like early in 2007 when Taylor was taken out of his redshirt and inserted as the starter after the LSU game.

The offensive line was struggling and the mobility of Taylor suited the Hokies' needs. Now, as the team's leading returning rusher, I believe Taylor will again be called upon by the coaches to help the running game until the running back situation is straighted out.

It will be interesting to see what will happen to Ore, as well. He could try to make the NFL's supplemental draft. He could also transfer to a lesser division, like former Hokie George Bell did. Bell and the Hokies parted ways on better terms than Ore before last season. The oft-injured tailback went to D2 Catawba, where he ran for 715 yards and helped lead the Indians to the second round of the D2 playoffs.

Either way, I hope Ore's career doesn't end here. I hope he is able to get back on track and find a place where he is a good fit. He was a solid running back who had issues that have forced him to not finish his career as a Hokie. While Tech will miss him, hopefully it will work out in the long run. The Hokies have five and a half months to figure out what they will do to replace Ore's productivity. Just like when the Hokies booted Marcus Vick off the team before the 2006 season, I think its better to be faced with this problem now than in August.

Ore's Career Numbers
Total: 617 rush, 2,776 yds, 4.5 avg, 31 TD
ACC: 388 rush, 1,664 yds, 4.3 avg, 20 TD
Home: 329 rush, 1,677 yds, 5.1 avg, 17 TD
Away: 288 rush, 1,099 yds, 3.8 avg, 14 TD

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Uniforms for Tech?

Coach Beamer hinted during a chat recently that the Hokies uniforms could be tweaked for the upcoming season. That means two things. First, I need to wait until they come out before buying the replacement for my Brandon Flowers jersey. Also, it means Tech has the opportunity to do something that I thought should have been done when they last switched uniforms in 2004.

Go throwback, baby.

Tech's current uniform combinations are maroon/white and maroon/maroon at home and white/maroon and white/white on the road:

Current uniforms

I like the current jerseys. I think they look pretty sleek, but I can't stand the maroon/maroon combinations. I just don't think having the jerseys and pants match in the home uniforms looks good at all. But the maroon/white combo is solid.

The white/white option on the road looks awesome, especially at night. Of the regular uniforms Tech has had in my lifetime, the current ones are the best. But instead of adding more
Nike tweaks and piping, why not go back to the best uniforms tech has worn: The ones they had in the 60s.

Suggs and Randall, looking good

Tech has donned the throwbacks twice, but not since the uniform change in 2004. The Hokies wore maroon throwback jerseys and white pants at home vs. UVa on Nov. 17, 2001 and beat the 'Hoos, 31-7. They wore white throwback jerseys and white pants on the road vs. Temple on Nov. 15, 2003 and needed overtime to beat the Owls, 24-23.

I think going back to the old jerseys would help make Tech stand out. Too many teams, even Michigan, have let Nike mess with their identity and turned their jerseys into a Matisse painting. It works for Miami. It doesn't work for Tech. The Hokies identity is all about hard-nosed, hit-'em-in-the-mouth football.

The throwbacks would reflect that. As much as I don't like USC, right now they have the best looking uniforms in college football. They went old school in their last uniform change and they look excellent.

Tech should do the same by turning back the clock. It should go against the current trend of letting Nike do things like this...

An example of what not to do

...and instead get back to its roots. Nothing says "Lunch Pail" like the throwbacks.

Of course, we could just go with the jerseys we're undefeated in:

We're a perfect 1-0 in these

Rooting for the Hokies, Now More than Ever

Today's a big day in the history of Virginia Tech athletics. Tech's baseball team faces the Evil Empire at 3 p.m. today at English Field in Blacksburg. The Yankees are making the trip to Blacksburg to honor the victims of April 16, 2007.

Click here to watch the game for free

For that, the Evil Empire is to be commended. However, as a die-hard Red Sox fan, I sincerely hope they get beat by 20 runs.
I'll be wearing my 2007 World Series Champs hat at work while watching on the Internet and rooting for the Hokies. Don't worry about my productivity, I'm a multi-tasker.

Kudos to the Yankees for not leaving any of the big-time position players at home for this one. Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada and the centerfielder who is dead to me are all on the traveling roster.

The pitchers are a different story. Seven of them made the trip. I haven't heard of six of them and the other is former Oklahoma RedHawks closer Jose Veras.
Veras set the RedHawks single-season saves mark in 2005 with 24. The record was previously held by former Hokie Brad Clontz, who had 18 in 2004.

Here's hoping the awful pitching the Yankees brought to Blacksburg means they get pummeled.

The game is getting Hokie Baseball a lot of press...
Yankees expect emotional day...
Yankees honored to visit Va. Tech
Yankees play exhibition at Virginia Tech today
Newark Star-Ledger:
More than a game for Yanks
NY Daily News:
Yankees will play Hokies
NY Times:
Yankees to take on Hokies
Collegiate Times: Virginia Tech head coach (and former BC head coach) Peter Hughes grew up in Brockton, Mass., and grew up
hating the Yankees.

I hope the attention garnered by today's game means the baseball team's attendance increases. I really don't like college baseball, but this is good for the program. It'll help recruiting for Coach Hughes and bring more attention to Hokie sports and the university.

Update: Tech lost, 11-0. Friggin' Yankees.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I feel your pain.


Tech had its bubble burst by the NCAA Selection Committee Sunday, relegating the Hokies to the NIT (which might as well stand for Not Invited Tournament). Tech is the No. 1 seed in their region of the NIT and will face Morgan State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Blacksburg. The winner of that game will face the winner of VCU and UAB. That game also takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Richmond. Tech will not have to leave Cassell Coliseum on its road to New York.

Before the venting, let's take an opportunity to step back and consider the season and the job Coach Greenberg and the rest of the staff did this season. The Hokies were picked to finish 10th in the ACC in the preseason. And early on, that appeared to be spot-on. My first Virginia Tech basketball game was the season opener against Elon and the Hokies looked awful. Their half-court offense was pathetic. AD Vassallo was lazy without the ball and was therefore useless.

The one bright spot was Jeff Allen. Against Elon, he showed that he was capable into turning into a stud. He did that over the course of the season. Another freshman, Malcolm Delaney, slowly developed into a solid point guard. Early on, it appeared Hank Thorns was the man tabbed to be the point of the future, but I felt he struggled. Delaney became the point and Thorns became a good sixth man.

A team that looked like it was on its way to an abysmal season that may have led to no postseason was probably the last team out of the NCAA Tournament. Coach Greenberg was playing with house money this year. Nothing was expected of this team and he turned them into a team that went blow for blow with the best team in the country in the ACC Tournament.

It doesn't make it less disappointing that we didn't get in, though. First, the buzzer-beater loss to UNC, then Georgia's miracle run through the SEC Tournament likely moved the Hokies out of the field and into the NIT.


It shouldn't have come to that, though. The Hokies should have closed the deal against Clemson and UNC and taken it out of the hands of the committee. But two come-from-ahead losses put them out of the Big Dance. Tech didn't have a signature win and didn't play anyone good in the non-conference schedule. The Hokies lost to Butler and Gonzaga in Alaska, but other than that didn't face anyone sexy. Villanova and Arizona did, putting them in The Tournament. But there are several reasons the Hokies should have made it. They played in the best league in the country, a league that got only three at-large teams in The Tournament.

The Big 12 was horrible beyond horrible this year and got five at-large teams in. Baylor and Texas A&M? Please. The SEC was weak and yet they got four at-large bids. Don't get me started on Kentucky. What a horrible, horrible team. All of their quality wins came in conference. They sported the same resume Tech did. Bad non-conference losses, young team that gelled late, got blown out by 41 points on the road. It's a travesty they're in the field.

Then there's the Big East. Yeah, its good, but its not that good. Half the damn teams got in, including boringly average Villanova. Like Tech, they lost to NC State, who might have been the worst team I saw all season. They also lost at Rutgers, Cincinnati and DePaul. That's terrible. Their big non-conference win was over George Mason. Their wins over UConn and Pitt got them in.

And the Pac 10? What a joke. Other than Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute and the Lopez brothers, its not a great league. Kevin Love doesn't impress me. Mayo is a good player, but USC is mediocre. Then there's Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State. Lame, lamer, lamest. Oregon won on the road against K-State (yawn) and that probably got them in. Arizona beat Texas A&M at home (yawn), which probably got them in. But they went 8-10 in the regular season against the Pac 10 and lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

Oh, and the A10 got three teams in.

The Hokies won 10 games against ACC foes, including one in the ACC Tournament against an NCAA Tournament team. Put them in the field.


The good news is two-fold. First, Tech has another game to play. I didn't expect them to make the postseason this year, so bring on the NIT. Also, the future looks bright for a team that has had a top four finish in the best league in America three of the last four seasons.

Allen and Delaney will be great players. Vassallo turned into a leader late in the season and showed a fire I wasn't used to seeing from him. He has completely changed my perception of him in the last month.

The key will be finding players that can fill the role of stopper on defense and slashing, athletic playmaker on offense that will be left vacant by the loss of Deron. Hopefully that will be Terrell Bell, who has been touted for his defense and has the lanky Deron body type.

I've been a basketball fan for years now and it's fun to actually have my team playing well. I haven't had a college basketball team to root for, so the Hokies' hoop success is a welcome surprise.

Hopefully Coach Greenberg will stick around and keep improving the program like he has been doing.

Your Selection Sunday Theme

On this bubblicious Selection Sunday, we are the Kings of Wishful Thinking.

I agree with Coach Greenberg. Anyone who thinks Tech shouldn't be in The Tournament is completely insane. It doesn't mean we won't get left out, though. The Hokies need wins from Wisconsin and Arkansas on Sunday to have a chance. Even with wins by both teams, it will still be close. At this point, I think Tech will either be the last team in or the last team out.

But, if the committee is going to take Kentucky, which everyone thinks is a lock, then they better put the Hokies in as well. The two teams have basically the same resume. Tech has one more win (19) than Kentucky (18). Both teams are young, struggled early and came together late in the year. Both teams have bad non-conference losses, however, none of Tech's came at home. The Hokies lost to Penn State, Richmond and Old Dominion on the road. Neither team has a signature win.

Kentucky lost to Gardner-Webb and San Diego at home and UAB in Louisville. They won 12 conference games, but there's no comparing the SEC to the ACC. The SEC was horrible this year. Tennessee is a great team and Vandy is good at times, but other than that, its an awful league.

And Kentucky will be without its best player, Patrick Patterson, for The Tournament. The committee has said in the past it considers which teams are at full strength and which have injury concerns going into the selection and seeding process.

The Wildcats also lost to a terrible Georgia team in its first conference tournament game. Tech won a game in its conference tournament against a solid Miami team that is a lock for The Tournament.

So, considering all that, how is Kentucky in the field and Tech on the bubble? Its ridiculous. The Hokies should be in the Big Dance. They play in the best league in the nation, where every road game is a tough one. They just matched the best team in the nation, punch for punch, on a neutral floor. They are playing their best basketball of the season and everyone is healthy. They are deserving of a bid.

So, we spend the day rooting for the Hogs and Badgers and waiting for the selection show. It's going to be a long, suspense-filled day. But, we remain hopeful the committee will do the right thing and we'll see our name in one of those slots.

We'll even really be the Kings of Wishful Thinking and hope Tech gets sent to Omaha or Little Rock so we can be in attendance next week.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Naming Drinks is Fun

This post is being brought to you by Wild Turkey 101. Because that's what I'm drinking right now to unsee what I just saw. My buddy Mike, who was unfortunate enough to have to watch that game with me, and I started off with a shot that was half 101 and half Jager.

According to Webtender, it doesn't exist so I'm taking it upon myself to name it. From here on, a shot that is half 101 and half Jager will be called a "Brandon Flowers" because it knocks you the fuck out.

Yeah, we played great. Yeah, it was nice that we played so well against the No. 1 team in the land. But we lost in the worst way imaginable. We led the whole way and Tyler Fucking Hansbrough ripped my heart out. At least it was the player of the year and not the dook player who shall remain nameless who added salt to the wound one day after the football team laid an egg in the ACC Title Game in '05.

This one hurts more than that dook game because it probably knocked us out of The Tournament. I like that the ESPN guys are talking about how we deserve to be in because of how well we played. What I don't like is that the committee doesn't give a shit about almost beating No. 1. The committee takes the Yoda approach to things like that. Do or do not, there is no try.

I'm glad they played well, but this team had two chances in six days to come up with a win that would have put them in the field, no questions asked. And twice they got complacent and choked down the stretch. Both the UNC game and the Clemson game are on the coaches. We stopped attacking, we started bleeding the shot clock and having empty possessions late because we were trying to shorten the game. And twice it led to tough losses. Tournament teams keep attacking, keep putting pressure on their opponents and get the job done.

I'll have a Selection Sunday post later today that will basically be a homer rant as to why we should be in. Until then, I'm going back to my 101 and diet.

Dream the Impossible Dream

Now things get interesting. The Hokies hit the boards to beat Miami, 63-49 Friday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Tech needed the win to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament and came through. Tech is now 19-12 with 10 wins against ACC opponents.

The Hokies dominated in the rebound column, collecting 51 rebounds to Miami’s 25. Tech’s 51 boards included 20 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points. In the preview for the game, we said the Hokies needed to get the ball inside. They did just that with 30 points in the paint, 22 in the second half. Tech looked very good in transition both offensively and defensively and it showed in the box score. The Hokies had a 12-2 advantage in fast break points.

Was the win enough to put the Hokies in the Big Dance? We won’t know for sure until tomorrow, but my feeling right now is that it did not. Miami was a “lock” team (despite my efforts to put them on the bubble) with 22 wins and the win came away from Cassell Coliseum. The failure of any bubble teams to make a statement in their conference tournaments also helps the Hokies. They finished fourth in the ACC and made the tournament semifinals. They’ve finished well, winning five of six going into the North Carolina game.

However, their RPI and SOS aren’t great, they have losses to Old Dominion and Richmond on their resume and they don’t any eye-popping wins. The committee will justify leaving them out by saying they never did anything to stand out from the other bubble teams.

Everyone I see on ESPN has Tech out of the field. Joe Lunardi is especially down on the Hokies and has them near the bottom of the bubble. However, I think it will be closer than people think because they play in the ACC and won Friday. They are one of the few teams who won when they needed to win. The pressure got to most teams, but Tech was able to come through with a very impressive win when it mattered most. I think the committee will look at that. The Hokies need help to get in, and if they get it they could sneak in as the last team on the bracket. It’s going to be close. Right now I think the Hokies are one of the last two teams out of The Tournament.

The point is moot if the Hokies can beat No. 1 North Carolina in Saturday’s semifinal game. The Hokies lost by 39 to North Carolina in their only regular season meeting Feb. 16 in Chapel Hill. Tech swept the series with the Tar Heels in 2007 and North Carolina definitely got their revenge in this season’s match-up. But if the Hokies pull the upset today, it gives them a marquee win over the nation’s best team in a tournament environment.

The problem is Carolina’s really, really good. Barring another injury to Ty Lawson between now and when the bracket comes out, they will be my pick to win it all. They’re too strong in all facets of the game and there isn’t a single player in the top seven of Tech’s rotation that I would take over anyone in the top seven of Carolina’s rotation. Still, the game will be played, so we just have to be a bunch of Don Quixotes and dream the impossible dream.

Game Guide
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina

Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: Bobcats Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: Raycom in the ACC viewing area, ESPN everywhere else

Regular Season: It wasn’t pretty. It was on national TV.

Trends: Virginia Tech won its last game, 63-49 over Miami Friday in the ACC quarterfinal. The Hokies have won five of their last six and eight of their last 12 games. North Carolina won its last game, 82-70 over FSU Friday in the ACC quarterfinal and has won nine consecutive games since losing to Duke Feb. 6. The Tar Heels have not lost a road or neutral court game this season (15-0).

What to expect: North Carolina will run, run, run to get points in transition. The good news is Tech is good at transition D. The bad news is once the break is stopped, Carolina will just throw it down to Tyler Hansbrough and hope for the best. Usually this ends well for the Tar Heels. There probably won’t be much outside shooting in this one. The Tar Heels don’t shoot a lot of threes because they don’t have to and the Hokies don’t shoot a lot of threes because they aren’t very good at it. In the half-court, Tech will try to work down low or drive to the basket to get Hansbrough in foul trouble. This doesn’t work a lot. Hansbrough has fouled out twice in his career, none this season.

Hokies win if: They force turnovers in their transition defense, somehow get Hansbrough in foul trouble and pretty much play a Villanova-in-85 type perfect game.

Tar Heels win if: They don’t beat themselves.

Dot-dot-dots: The Hokies are making their second consecutive appearance in the ACC semifinals…they lost to NC State in last year’s semis…the Tar Heels are looking for their record 29th appearance in the ACC finals…they have 16 ACC tourney championships…Tech is 0-5 all-time vs. UNC in Charlotte.

Rooting Guide
The best part about being a bubble team is rooting against other bubble teams. That’s probably just because I’m a schadenfreude. Here’s who we’re rooting against/for on Saturday and Sunday:

TBA – Georgia (out) over Kentucky (bubble)
TBA – Tennessee (lock) over Arkansas (bubble)
TBA – Mississippi State (lock) over Ga./Ky. winner (out/bubble)
11:35 a.m. – Memphis (lock) over Tulsa (out)
1 p.m. – Tennessee (lock) over Arkansas (bubble)
4:30 p.m. – Kansas (lock) over Texas A&M (bubble)
6 p.m. – Saint Joseph’s (bubble) over Temple (out)
Saint Joseph’s is likely in after beating Xavier. A loss by them could keep Tech out.
7 p.m. – BYU (lock) over UNLV (bubble)
7 p.m. – Kent State (lock) over Akron (out)

1 p.m. – SEC – Tennessee or Mississippi State
3 p.m. – Big 12 – Anyone but Texas A&M
3:30 p.m. – Big Ten – Michigan State or Wisconsin

Today’s Schedule/Picks
1:30 p.m. – UNC over VT
3ish p.m. – Duke over Clemson

Friday, March 14, 2008

Must Win vs. Miami

The Hokies' game against Miami is essentially a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament thanks to BC's win over Maryland last night. I doubt the selection committee will only take three teams from the ACC. The Terps should be out of contention for the fourth ACC bid, meaning it will go to either Tech or Miami.

This all could have been avoided if the Hokies had beaten Clemson on Sunday. Now, because nearly every bubble team lost yesterday, Tech has been given a second chance. What they do with it is up to them.

Game Guide
Virginia Tech vs. Miami

2:30ish p.m.
(Game starts appx. 30 minutes after the UNC-FSU game at noon)
Place: Bobcats Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: Raycom in the ACC viewing area, ESPN2 everywhere else

Regular Season: Tech and Miami met once in the regular season, Feb. 9 in Blacksburg. Miami won, 74-71 for its first win in Blacksburg since 2004. A.D. Vassallo made four threes and scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Tech shot 63 percent (17-27) in the second half, including five-for-nine from behind the arc, but couldn't overcome a 10 point deficit in the final 12 minutes. The difference came at the line, where Miami made 21 of 25 free throws. The Hokies made eight of their 12 foul shots.

Trends: Miami won its last game, 63-50 vs. NC State yesterday in the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes have now won seven of their last nine games. They lost six of their previous seven. The Hokies lost their last game, 70-69 at Clemson on Sunday. The Hokies had won their previous four and seven of their previous 10 games.

What to expect: Should be close. The previous meeting was decided by three points and most of the games in the ACC this year have been tight.

Hokies win if: They make their free throws down the stretch, keep Miami from going to the line and they can get points in the paint from Vassallo and Jeff Allen.

Canes win if: Jack McClinton goes off and they're able to force turnovers from Tech's inexperienced ball handlers.

Dot-dot-dots: The Hokies are 6-10 and the Canes are 9-7 in road and neutral court games this season...Tech is 1-3 and Miami is 4-3 all-time in the ACC Tournament...the Hokies have received a first round bye in the ACC Tournament in three of four seasons since joining the conference in 2004-05.

Today's schedule/picks:
Noon - UNC over FSU
2:30ish p.m. - Miami over VT
7 p.m. - Duke over GT
9:30ish p.m. - Tyrese Rice over Clemson

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Charlotte 2008

Our buddy Clark lives and Charlotte and will be trying to get tickets to the ACC Tournament this week. If he's successful, we should have plenty of photos from the action inside Bobcats Arena and of the events around the tournament.

Clark's Web site,, is the best source of Hokie desktops on the Internet.

Hopefully more photos from the ACC Tournament to come...

Tech's first game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday against today's Miami-NC State winner. The game will be televised on Raycom in the ACC viewing area and nationally on ESPN2. The actual game time will depend on how long the early game on Friday lasts. Tech will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of the noon game between UNC and the Wake/FSU winner.

Today's schedule/picks:
Noon - Wake over FSU
2:30ish p.m. - Miami over NC State
7 p.m. - Georgia Tech over UVa
9:30ish p.m. - BC over Maryland

And if you're a Tech fan rooting for NC State to pull the upset this afternoon, apparently you haven't been paying any attention to the Hokies' recent history with the Pack.

We've lost six consecutive games against NC State, including three games last season.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Branden Ore Sucks Outside of Virginia

It’s hard to be a stat-head like I am and love college football. There aren’t as many useful stats and there aren’t as many trends as the two most stat-friendly sports, baseball and basketball. Even the box scores for football suck.

First, the football box score is typically two pages. After the game, you’ll get a team stats page and an individual stats page and you’ll have to go back-and-forth between the two when trying to dissect what just happened.

With baseball and basketball, the box score is one page. It’s a beautiful thing. And for the most part, it tells the story. Basketball is the easiest sport to pick out why a team won or lost a particular game and basketball has better trends.

Baseball games, however, are too reliant on one player: The pitcher. If he shits the bed, its game over. And the box score doesn’t show a lot of the details involved in why a team wins or loses are particular game (like defense).

In hoops, its all right there. That’s why one of my favorite Web sites is Ken Pomeroy’s stats site. Pay close enough attention to basketball box scores and there’s no reason you shouldn’t win your office pool come March.

But football’s different. Each game is almost its own season, especially in the college game. That’s why when you find a particular trend it football, it’s more exciting.

For instance: Branden Ore really fucking sucks in games not played in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We have a lot of time between now and the ECU game to dissect Ore’s career and what his senior year will be like, but in looking at his stats from his first three seasons, I noticed he’s a lot better at home than on the road. Ore averages 5.1 yards per carry at home and 3.8 on the road. Seventeen of his 31 career touchdowns have come in Lane Stadium.

Then, looking closer at his road game-by-game, I noticed something else. Two of his top three road rushing totals have come at france. He ran for 147 yards there last season and 115 yards there in 2005. Those would be his two best totals if he hadn’t run for 116 yards on a neutral field against Kansas in last year’s Orange Bowl.

So, when you look at Games in Virginia vs. Games Outside Virginia for Ore, his road game shittiness becomes even more apparent.

In Virginia: 22 g, 375 car, 1,939 yds, 5.2 ypc, 19 td

Ouside Va.: 16 g, 242 car, 837 yds, 3.5 ypc, 12 td

The question is, why is Ore so much better in the state than outside it. The rivalry factor could explain why he’s better in Scott Stadium than any other road facility (also because Tech owns that stadium when we play there). And it could not be entirely his fault that he’s better at home. Crowd noise effects offensively lineman more than probably any other position.

Of course, the bad road rushing numbers don’t just follow Ore, they follow the Hokies. In Ore’s freshman season of 2005, the Hokies also had Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh. Ore got a lot of carries that year because one of them was usually either injured or suspended. The freshman Ore was the back-up in many of those games. It also didn’t hurt that we had a running quarterback in Marcus Vick.

That season, the Hokies averaged 4.3 yards per carry, 195 yards per game and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground in seven road games.

The next year was Ore’s first as the primary back and saw the switch from a dual-threat QB in Vick to a drop-back passer in Sean Glennon. As a team in 2006, the Hokies averaged 2.1 yards per carry, 67.4 yards per game and scored 7 touchdowns in 5 road games.

The drop-off is even more apparent when the numbers are placed together:

2005: 7 g, 4.3 ypc, 195.0 ypg, 17 td

2006: 5 g, 2.1 ypc, 67.4 ypg, 7 td

In 2007, the numbers went up in a season I thought Ore was hurt much of the year and the offensive line struggled early in the season due to their own injuries. However, the emergence of another dual-threat QB, Tyrod Taylor, helped our rushing numbers on the road a bit.

2007: 7 g, 3.2 ypc, 124.7 ypg, 8 td

The only number that didn’t rise significantly was touchdowns. Was this because of Ore’s injuries and the line not being able to produce in the red zone? Maybe. Even if it is, it’s good to see our rushing numbers on the road improve like they did. Ore averaged 3.5 yards per carry (3.1 not including UVa) last year, which was better than the team’s average.

I think the improved numbers, along with Taylor’s presence and a healthy and more experienced O-line will mean our numbers in road games will be a lot closer to 2005 this season. I think it will mean good things for Tech and good things for Ore as he tries to put a sub-par season both on the field and off the field behind him in 2008.