By Kevin McGuire
September 3, 2012
The Virginia Tech Hokies will open their 2012 season at home tonight against Georgia Tech with one of the many reasons we love college football to set the tone. The Hokies look to have another solid team ready to go this season, with Logan Lloyd under center, a dependable running game supporting him and a traditionally stingy Virginia Tech defense and special teams units under the guidance of Frank Beamer.
But before we get to tonight’s ACC opener between Hokies and Yellow Jackets in Blacksburg, let’s take a trip down memory lane with a look at one of the greatest moments in Virginia Tech history.
Today we look back on Virginia Tech’s 1999 victory at West Virginia (November 6, 1999).
Frank Beamer had been well on his way to transforming the way we look at the Hokies as a football program. In his first season with the school, 1987, Virginia Tech won just two games. They won three games the next season and for the next few years there was little hope that Virginia Tech would develop in to a national power of any sort. Back to back winning seasons in 1989 and 1990 were followed by two years of decreasing win totals but things started to turn around in 1993 with a 9-3 season. Since then Virginia Tech has not had fewer than seven wins in a season and the Hokies have won at least ten games in all but four seasons since 1995.
But you have to look at that day in early November 1999, with the Hokies having their most successful season in school history and nearly seeing all of their hard work be washed away in Morgantown. Then Big East rivals, West Virginia looked to snap Virginia Tech’s national championship dreams.
Virginia Tech had won every game to that point, including victories against in-state rival No. 24 Virginia (31-7), No. 16 Syracuse (62-0) and Pittsburgh. All that seemed to stand in the way of a dream season was Miami, still considered the true power in the Big East, and a decent Boston College team. West Virginia was overlooked as the Mountaineers were struggling with a season filled with losses to East Carolina, Maryland, Syracuse, Navy and Miami. But West Virginia seemed to have what it took to rise to the occasion against their better opponents, losing to Miami 28-20 the week before in the Orange Bowl.
No. 3 Virginia Tech, with first-year starting quarterback Michael Vick leading the way, made the trip to Morgantown and was on the brink of disaster, down 20-19 with time quickly slipping away. Then, the most important drive occurred in the Vick of time…
The Hokies escaped with a critical win on a crucial day. Earlier in the day BCS No. 2 Penn State had been stunned by Minnesota at home. The Penn State loss practically dropped the Nittany Lions out of the championship hunt (Penn State would go on to lose the next two games as well), and Virginia Tech had an open road to New Orleans for a BCS Championship Game match-up. All that was needed were wins against No. 19 Miami (43-10), Temple (62-7) and No. 22 Boston College (38-14).
Virginia Tech’s dream season ended with a loss to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, but the overall impact of Virginia Tech’s 1999 season gave the Hokies entry to be considered among the top college football programs in the country.
But what would have happened if Virginia Tech did not come back to beat West Virginia? The Hokies would have certainly dropped out of the championship hunt along with Penn State. Frank Beamer still would have had some recruiting chips to sell with putting together a solid season, but how would the Hokies have rebounded in those games against Miami and Boston College, knowing that BCS hopes were pretty much dashed? What if they lost to Miami?
If that happened, Miami would have gone on to win the Big East conference championship outright. Rather than heading to a big time bowl game the Hokies would have gone to the Gator Bowl, which is not terrible but it certainly does not open eyes the way a BCS bowl does.
The following season Virginia Tech went 11-1 again, their only loss to Miami in a match-up of two of the top three teams, 41-21. If Virginia Tech had come up small in 1999 then the talk about how Beamer could not win the big game would be a little louder. Sure, he can put together a nice program but they’ll never win anything with him. Heck, some people may still say that today. But if history had been changed in 1999, just how respected would Virginia Tech have been in the polls in 2000? Would they have started at eleventh in the nation?
Who knows where Virginia Tech would be today without coming back to beat West Virginia that day in 1999. Would they be in a position of power with the Big East and be invited to join the ACC? Maybe. Or would they have been left behind by Miami? Would Miami have even left? Some things probably would have happened anyway, so we may be reaching when discussing the impact and significance of this one day in November 1999.
But what if?
About the Author
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) is a college football journalist and host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. He resides outside of Philadelphia.