Final Score: Virginia 14 Virginia Tech 17
Weather: Sunny but very cold; Ticket Price: Free
“Worth the Trip” by Tree
With “Enter the Sandman” blaring and the Virginia Tech fans shaking Lane Stadium, the Hokies stormed Worsham Field. At this moment I realized that games in Blacksburg were special. Attending a game there should be on every fan’s college football bucket list. At a capacity of a 65,115, Lane stadium was not as large as many stadiums, but you would not know it by the noise. Like the best college stadiums, it is located on campus within easy walking distance of the dorms. Students never seem to struggle to get tickets and the alumni represent as well. They go so far as to loyally wear the Chicago maroon and burnt orange. The two colors were chosen because no other college had that combination. Not a big surprise considering the color scheme is about appealing as a bright vomit of Kraft Mac and Cheese with a merlot chaser. The fans however embrace it wholeheartedly, screaming their Hokie cheer with unbridled enthusiasm. Va. Tech fans are also extremely friendly and there is a strong tailgating scene at the games. A Hokie is basically turkey. But if you ask Tech student, he/she will simply say “I am.” The only bad thing about Va Tech is that it is located in Blacksburg. It is not that Blacksburg is an awful place. On the contrary, it is your typical, quaint college town. The bad thing is that the hotels in Blacksburg charge an egregious rate all the time. Full disclosure: I have a son at Va. Tech so I speak from experience. The best bet for lodging is to drive the 45 minutes to Roanoke and get a hotel there.
As enjoyable as the environment was at the game, getting in and out of Blacksburg was awful. I have spent more than one nightmarish drive stuck in traffic on I-81. On the plus side, with good planning, a gorgeous autumn drive down the Blue Ridge Mountains could be part of the experience. Once off the interstate or Skyline drive, the path to the stadium was clearly identified.
The Hokies came in to this game at .500 and needed a win to secure their 20th consecutive bowl game. The game was against their ACC rival, Virginia and for the rights of the Commonwealth Cup. I had already seen Tech lose at UNC and Miami that year and for my son’s sake, I was not hoping to see a third. However, Tech continued to be maddeningly inconsistent. They dominated the yardage, but turnovers and big plays kept the Cavaliers in the game. It was 7 – 7 at half time. UVA went ahead 14-7 thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. The Hokies finally put together a nice long drive from the 15 and eating nearly eight minutes off the clock. The teams traded drives including Tech missing a 46 yard field goal attempt. However the miss would not haunt the Hokies as UVA’s quarterback threw an interception three plays later giving Tech excellent field position on the Cavalier 24 yard line with 3:30 left in the game. The Virginia coach must have been counting on his defense making a stop, but the Hokies ran three straight times, running critical time off the clock and getting the first down. That pretty much cinched it, as Tech made a 29 yard field goal to win it. The Cavaliers were forced to use their last two time outs to ice the kicker. I was guessing UVA’s coach wished he had used them a little earlier in the drive.
This was a late November game that I went to with my son, Trent. He’s the one who is a Hokie and I was taking him back to campus after Thanksgiving break. First off, we got off to a late start to the game from home outside of DC. We were making great time until we ran into a traffic jam on I-81 which ate up any cushion we had. Additionally, I did not have a ticket to the game and was trying to hook up with a buddy who had an extra ticket. Of course, my son had no idea where to park on game day. I don’t blame him as I have found that current students at all colleges generally have no clue on how to get to the stadium, where to park, and how to get tickets. They only know the process from a student perspective. We ended up parking on the other side of campus and we had to separate as my son had left his ticket in his dorm room. I, meanwhile, had to coordinate with my friend Tim to get his ticket. The plan was to join him at his tailgate, but the best I could hope for was to get to the stadium at kickoff. Thanks to cell phones, I was able to connect with him and he slipped the ticket through the fence. I did get in for the kickoff but I didn’t get the full “Enter the Sandman” effect as I had just got through stadium security.
My seat was on the Tech side about halfway up right around the end zone. It was a cold day, but luckily the sun shined on me most of the game. My son was not so lucky having gotten an end zone seat way up high. I had suggested he wear something warmer than his Virginia Tech wind breaker but he insisted he would be fine. As I spied him dancing a jig through my binoculars, I could tell that was a dance to stay warm rather than one of enthusiasm. He admitted afterwards that he pretty much froze the whole game. We then walked into town and had hit a sub shop. I was not in a hurry, preferring to let the traffic clear out. So, I left nearly three hours after the game ended thinking my drive would be free and clear. Interstate 81 had other ideas. I sat in traffic two hours just to get to Roanoke. Virginia Tech in a nut shell: it will be a great time at the game, but the before and after probably won’t be a picnic.