Virginia Tech Hokies (#20) vs. Florida State Seminoles (#19), 9/2/2018, 8:00pm
Final Score: Hokies 24 – Seminoles 3, Attendance: 75,237
Weather: cloudy/rainy, 76; Ticket: $63 & Parking: $215 on Stubhub
Can’t stop the Chop
The Seminoles play in Doak Campbell Stadium which is a fairly monstrous old stadium with steel girders crisscrossing the interior. Prior to the brick facade update, it was un-affectionately known as the Erector Set. I liked it immediately. It has bench seating, not that we noticed because we were standing virtually the whole game. It did have two video scoreboards. The larger one did a nice job of showing game stats. Unfortunately, they did not show nearly enough replays. That may have been by design because VT was beating them like a red-headed stepchild for most of the game. The concessions were fairly standard and the same goes for the restrooms. We were sitting on about the 30 yard line about a third of the way up. Our tickets were just a hair over $60 on Stubhub. I talked to a couple scalpers and they said they were getting anywhere from $40 to $60. It may have been the Labor Day Holiday, but getting tickets was fairly easy. The re-seller market was pretty strong but it was probably helped by the rainy weather.
As my son is a Hokie, we were wearing Virginia Tech gear and while we were surrounded by Seminole fans, the treatment was generally polite, if not friendly. The FSU fans were impressively loud throughout most of the game, starting with Chief Osceola launching the flaming spear into the field to the very frequent tomahawk chop. That cheer is loud, crazy loud. I was surprise how well the Hokies handled it. It is a tough place to play. FSU also has a cheer spelling out Florida State followed by FSU. It was a well-coordinated chant that echoed throughout Doak Campbell.
As I mentioned, we stood pretty much entire game with the FSU fans getting saltier as Virginia Tech grew their lead. It didn’t stop the woman next to me from dancing wildly at every timeout. My guess was that her camo clad husband didn’t take her to the ‘club too often so this must of been her big night out. To her credit she was pretty good and immediately resumed cheering for the ‘Noles once the music stopped and the game restarted. The fan base was fairly diverse. I seem to recall a couple of different polls saying FSU had one of the most attractive student bodies. I wouldn’t say the students of FSU were dramatically different than most of the other schools I have visited. What I noticed was a fairly large shall I say “mature” fan base. It is Florida after all. The FSU band was impressive even if their song selection was not. They played a medley of comic book related tunes very similar to what Troy played a couple of days earlier. I imagined some sort of traveling music man traversing the east coast with Marvel song sheets in hand that summer selling them to various programs from D1 colleges to the local high schools.
Since the arrival of Bobby Bowden in 1976, FSU steadily improved until it was arguably the best program in the country by the 1990’s. They have won three national titles in 1993, 1999, and 2013 and have had three Heisman winners: C. Ward, C. Weinke, and J. Winston. Among the most noteworthy players of the program would be Deon “Prime Time” Sanders. As an independent, the program built a reputation that they would play anyone, anywhere. Contending for the national title is not a goal at FSU, it is an expectation.
Florida State is located in the Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida. This would lead you to believe that it would be relatively easy to get to and would have all the necessary accoutrements for travelers (e.g. plentiful hotels). It did not. We ended up staying in an AirBNB about 20 miles outside of town. It wasn’t the worst option as we could have slept eight for the price of one hotel room. It was just that the nightly drive back from Tallahassee felt like one wrong turn would put us into a clearing where the Klan was holding a cross-burning rally. All those big cypress trees with hanging moss are downright creepy at night. Once in Tallahassee, getting to the stadium was fairly simple and well organized. Or it was once we convinced a diligent security guard that we had the right parking pass to get into the most expensive lot at the stadium. Apparently, they don’t get a lot of ten year old cars coming through there. My son wanted to tailgate for the game and we had expected to have a few more visitors. I bit the bullet and bought a parking pass for the Tomahawk lot for ~$200. However, a week before the game Stubhub calls me to say the seller was given a different pass. It was for the Golden Chief lots. For big games, Golden Chief lots go for anywhere from $300 to $500. Our spot was literally right in front of the stadium, which turned out to be better than we needed. Judging by the cars and most of the fans parking there, this was where the upper crust park on the way to their catered suites. I was waiting for the Tallahassee version of Sonny Crockett pulling up in a Ferrari, which I guess would have been Barney Fife in a Dodge Dart. Again, this is panhandle Florida. Our lot was great for foot traffic and we met a lot of friendly ‘Noles fans. However, it didn’t have the party vibe that the slightly further away Tomahawk lot probably did.
The other item that may have reduced the number of tailgaters in our lot was the weather. As is often the case in Florida, thunderstorms were predicted to roll through Tallahassee around 3 p.m. Just like clockwork, the severe thunderstorm alarm went off at the stadium at 2:45. You’d have thought we would have at least put some of the tailgating supplies away. We did not and instead just moved in a little closer under the tent. Cue the heavy showers and strong winds. A half hour of holding the tent down in a driving storm resulted in us being soaked and our phone cameras taking cloudy pictures. I had packed an extra shirt for the game, along with towels. I was regretting not packing another pair of shorts, or better yet, tailgating in swim trunks and then changing before the game. I felt fairly stupid holding the tent, but looking around; we weren’t the only ones in parking lot fighting the storm. We squished our way to game time, wet but no worse for wear.
The Hokies dominated this game right from the first kickoff. They drove down the field in less than five minutes and promptly scored a touchdown. FSU received the following kickoff, muddled around for a few plays and then turned the ball over. Tech drove down from there and kicked a field goal. There were a couple of traded drives followed by a missed chip shot field goal by the Seminoles. The FSU defense continued to play tough and their offense managed to finally get a field goal. The ‘Noles then forced the Hokies to punt on the next drive. Unfortunately the VT punter, Oscar Bradburn, was money, as he was all night long, pinning FSU deep in their end of the field. The Hokies then pulled a page from Beamer Ball and blocked the punt and recovered it in the end zone. It left the score at Hokies 17, Seminoles 3 and the FSU faithful were starting to turn. However, the Florida State defense played strong in the 3rd quarter, shutting out the Tech offense.
Early in the fourth quarter, FSU’s stud running back, Cam Akers, who had been bottled up the whole game, finally got loose. He breaks off an 85 yard run and the Seminoles are ready to cut the Hokies’ lead to seven and add some drama back to the game. There was some controversy as a Va Tech player went down in the end zone, thus dampening some of the Seminoles momentum. It appeared this was the second time the Hokies had used this tactic, or the fourth or fifth time if you believed the fans surrounding us. The funny thing was that slowing the game down should have helped the Seminoles. They had already botched an earlier drive where they had appeared to score a touchdown, but rather than take a time out to give the officials upstairs a chance to review, they rushed off another play. They ultimately did not score a TD on that drive. The other thing was that the Tech player that went down was linebacker Trevon Hill. He had been wreaking havoc on the FSU offense so he’s not exactly the player you’d want to come off the field by faking an injury. Regardless, the Seminoles took the extra time to get cute, putting Akers at QB. He promptly fumbled; the Hokies recovered and ended the threat. It was too bad, because Doak Campbell was rocking again. A few plays later the Va Tech completes a 50 yard bomb for a touchdown. It was effectively game over and the Seminole fan march to the exits commenced. FSU had a lot of turnovers and their new coach, Willie Taggert, looked a little bit in over his head at times. This much was sure though, the FSU fan base does their job at the games, cheering loudly and often.
Panhandle Florida is really closer to the trucker cap, camo wearing fans of the Alabama teams to the north than the suburbanites of UCF and USF or the hipsters at Miami. Exhibit one would be the fan we saw googling “what is a Hookie” on her phone. Exhibit two would be the guy in front my son who tried to intimidate him when he did the Va Tech “key play” bit where they shake their keys. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of that tradition, but it is hardly worth fighting about. It probably didn’t help that the Hokie fans were well represented and the largest section was nearby. They were loud and got louder as the game went on.
Doak Campbell is a tough environment for visiting fans but it isn’t menacing. FSU fans are vocal and intense at home, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We also met plenty of nice folks tailgating and received congratulations from ‘Noles fans after the game. In the end, visiting Doak Campbell is a must for any serious college football fan. It has the requisite traditions, winning history and vocal fan base. Come early and tailgate hard. And, bring a change of clothes, just in case.
A review from a dedicated alum:
Revisión Estadio por Natalia A.
En la Universidad Estatal de la Florida más bien conocida como Florida State University hay tradiciones muy interesantes para los partidos de futbol Americano que se juegan en esta universidad. Los Seminoles organizan sus tailgates más grandes en un conjunto de apartamentos llamado Indian Village. Es allí donde se reúne gran parte de la población estudiantil puesto que el estadio Doak Campbell está a menos de cinco minutos caminando.
Además de esto, hay una tradición al pasar por debajo de un puente subterráneo ubicado en la intersección de Pensacola St y Stadium Dr. Todos los estudiantes al pasar por debajo de este puente cantan el war chant y su eco llega hasta más de dos o tres cuadras de distancia. Por último y muy importante es el pasar a saludar al caballo de Chief Osceola, su nombre es Renegade. Los estudiantes siempre pueden pasar a ver el caballo que se encuentra dentro del estadio. Como bien sabemos FSU es conocida por su espíritu recreativo y sus grandes fiestas. Es realmente una excelente experiencia para todos aquellos amantes del futbol americano. El espíritu alegre y la pasión por su equipo universitario hacen de los Seminoles una gran fanaticada.