Game Review: Virginia Tech Hokies vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 11/12/15, 7:30pm
Weather: Cool and clear, 58; Ticket Price: $36 Stubhub; Parking $25
“What a Peach” by Tree
The Yellow Jackets play at Bobby Dowd Stadium very near to downtown Atlanta. Georgia Tech did not come to my mind as a powerhouse program, but in reality it has a rich and storied history. Its first full-time coach was none other than John Heisman. It was the first school to win all four traditional major bowls: Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton. Georgia Tech has won four national titles, two more than its better known rival, Georgia. While Georgian’s describe the rivalry as “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate”, in reality, I would guess the Bulldogs see Tech more as a nuisance rather than rival . Nonetheless, the tradition is grand. Bobby Dowd is the oldest, continuous in use stadium in the FBS. Obviously, it has been updated several times. The stadium is of average size at 55,000, but with all the accouterments of a modern stadium. Well, almost all modern, the men’s restrooms have the classic troughs.
The real attractions at Ga Tech. are the traditions. The Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech, a 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe, leads the team onto the field to start the game. Throughout the game, the fans sing the fight song, Ramblin’ Wreck. I thought I would tire of the song, but the more I heard it, the more I liked it. The mascot of the team is Buzz, a giant Yellow Jacket. Between the third and fourth quarter, the student section sings the “Buzzweiser” song accompanied by a slightly bizarre dance. It was hilarious and only endeared Georgia Tech even more to me.
I met my son and a couple of his friends about 20 minutes before kickoff at the Georgia Tech Hotel. They had made the trip down from Blacksburg and were counting on a Hokie win to lead them to a bowl game. I found the staff at the hotel very gracious and it was conveniently located on campus. We walked over to the stadium with the tickets in hand which my son had purchased in advance from Stubhub. A prudent choice since there was four of us, but I felt we would have done better than the all in cost of $36 each if we had bought from local scalpers. With the kids arriving late, we didn’t have a chance to tailgate. Instead we pounded a couple of beers during the short walk over to the stadium. It was a night game and most of the tailgating was shut down. It is not quite like the tailgating in the SEC, but it did seem adequate. Our seats were in the corner of the end zone at the lower level. We could see the video scoreboard, so they were good enough. We were surrounded by Georgia Tech fans with an occasional gaggle of Hokies. Despite being in enemy territory and wearing Maroon and Orange, the fans were mostly friendly. The kids did get some abuse for shaking their keys on third downs, but it was generally in good fun. And let’s face it, the strength of students at Ga. Tech is in brains not brawn. These are mostly gear heads versus some of the meat heads you might meet at your generic State University. The concessions were fairly standard and my souvenir cup was at the high end at $6. I did, however, get a free pom-pom.
Georgia Tech is in Atlanta, which I had never really spent any time in. I flew in from Houston and had a few hours to spare since this was a Thursday night game. My son was driving down with my car from Blacksburg to meet me. He would then ride back with his friends. Accordingly, I was going to have to work some logistics. Fortunately, the Georgia Tech Hotel and Convention Center allowed me to store my suitcase there even though I was not going to spend the night. They then let my son park in their lot. It wasn’t cheap at $24, but it was more than worth it from a convenience perspective. With my bags stowed, I still had some time to kill. I grabbed some lunch at a Waffle House and then walked over to the College Football Hall of Fame. While the waffles were very good, I regretted eating them as I walked past the Varsity, missing the chance for the traditional chili dog and frosted Orange.
However, my mood changed for the better once I arrived at the College Football Hall of Fame. It had recently moved to Atlanta and the new digs were impressive. I only had about two and half hours to tour the facility and didn’t make it all the way through. Admittedly, given my interest in college football, I probably spent more time on the exhibits than most. The HOF is so inclusive it even had the helmet of my alma mater, Mercyhurst University. Alas, that was the only piece of Hurst memorabilia in the place. I highly recommend a side trip to the HOF when in Atlanta.
2015 was supposed to be the year for Georgia Tech. They were a dark horse darling in a lot of the preseason polls. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, you still have to play the games which they did, badly. For some reason, their option offense just wasn’t explosive in 2015 the way it had been the previous year. They limped into the game at 3-6. The Hokies weren’t much better, coming into at 4-5 and desperate for a win to remain bowl eligible for legendary coach Frank Beamer’s final season.
Georgia Tech was looking to be the spoiler and jumped out to a 14 point lead after Georgia Tech actually threw a touchdown pass followed by a Hokie fumble. The Hokies battled back, scoring the tying touchdown right before the half. With five turnovers between them, it was proof that in this case, past performance was a good indicator of future results. Despite the shaky play, the game was still entertaining. The Hokies immediately fell behind again after QB Brewer threw a pick six at the start of the 3rd quarter. Little did the Rambling Wreck faithful know that was the last points that they would score. Virginia Tech surged back behind a dominant defensive performance. The Hokies made the Yellow Jackets cough up the ball and four plays later Beamer’s boys punched it in. However, they botched the extra point. I looked at my son and we both knew that was just the kind of door the Hokies had left open all year.
With Bobby Dowd Stadium rocking and only five minutes left, the Yellow Jackets put together a short drive that flipped the field position. Their defense then stopped a Hokie offense desperate to run out the clock, giving the Yellow Jackets one more chance. They were steadily driving down the field and were just out of field goal range when an absolutely boneheaded unsportsmanlike penalty buried the offense. They did not convert the 4th and 27 and the game was over.
The student body at Tech is about what you’d expect – a lot of average boy/girl living next door kids. I didn’t see a lot of Bro’s or girls in cocktail dresses in the stands. It is a school where academics come first and you could tell these kids were just happy to be away from the books. The only annoying thing during the game was some of the fans ripping on Virginia Tech for having a turkey as a mascot. It is not as if their bee, Buzz, is particularly intimidating. I guess it is not surprising that a bunch of engineers struggle with the concept of irony.
There was little not to like about the Georgia Tech experience. The only thing that was disappointing was that their normally exciting option offense was shut down by the Hokies. Otherwise, everything about my time in Atlanta and on the campus at Georgia Tech was a pleasant surprise. The traditions alone make it a worthwhile visit but with the College Football Hall of Fame just down the street and the potential to see the option run like a well-engineered machine, I say that Georgia Tech and its Rambling Wreck is a must see.