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OT: Richmond Times-Dispatch: National security lacking for Hokies.......


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Interseting column by Bob Lipper of the Richmond(Virginia) Time-Dispatch about Virginia Tech football:


National Security Lacking For Hokies



Virginia Tech's Hokies are in cactus country to saddle up in something called the Insight Bowl tonight, but what they really need are some lower-case insights. As in: What happened? And: Where do they go from here?

I'll confess I still haven't got enough credits to graduate from Beano Cook U., but it strikes me the short answer to the first question is: Tech wasn't as good as everybody thought - and hasn't been for awhile. As for Part 2, projections are a little trickier. But my best guess is that as the Hokies lost their way to Bourbon Street this year, they're not bound for Easy Street, either.

It's become fashionable of late to accept the proposition that Tech is a national power. John Swofford did it when he swallowed hard and welcomed Tech to the ACC. Network talking heads do it. This paper does it. Not to dis the homies here - and, look, there's no shame in being good and not great - but the fact is that Tech isn't among the elite. It isn't Oklahoma. It isn't Michigan. It isn't Southern California.

National powers don't drop four games annually - as the Hokies have the past three years. Or finish a measly one game above .500 in their own league over that stretch. Or - never mind Miami - go 2-7 against Pitt, West Virginia and Syracuse.

Or save their worst football until after the leaves turn.

The stretch-run fade that plagued the Hokies in 2001 and 2002 staged a rerun this season. Tech began 6-0 and ended 8-4. The defense buckled. The passing game sputtered. The coaching staff bungled sideline decisions and handled the Bryan Randall/Marcus Vick quarterback tussle clumsily. Hokie-dokey, the year was not.

Frank Beamer has a new restaurant in Christiansburg, but he's in danger of developing a stale product at Lane Stadium. Once cutting edge, the defense is just another strike force now - and with lesser talent. The offense could use a spandex transfusion to stretch rival defenses.

Ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll, Tech front-loaded its schedule with softer fare before tackling gristle. Then the same defense that was lit up for 493 yards by Pitt last season and 604 by Syracuse surrendered 123 points and 1,768 yards over its closing four games.

Why the downturn? Beamer's been touting recent recruiting classes, but the fact is that Bud Foster's unit no longer boasts dominating defensive ends such as Corey Moore and John Engelberger or a killer defensive tackle such as David Pugh or a vacuum-cleaner linebacker such as Ben Taylor or heat-seeking cornerbacks such as Ike Charlton and Anthony Midget.

That or atmospheric changes in Blacksburg have guys low-balling their ability.

Foster went public a couple of weeks ago with biting observations that Tech's roster was infected with selfishness. That's the now. Looking ahead, the Hokies still have a simmering quarterback dilemma, their meal-ticket tailback is gone and so is the only receiver (Ernest Wilford) who prompted rival secondary coaches to hit rewind while screening game tapes.

All told, of seven Hokies to make first- or second-team all-Big East, five were seniors, junior tailback Kevin Jones is leaving, and junior cornerback DeAngelo Hall is contemplating an early exit to the NFL as well. Last June, people sized up Tech's reputation and figured it'd be entering the ACC as another Florida State. Instead, it looks at the moment like another Clemson.

"I never thought I'd be 8-4 and going to a bowl game and feeling the way I do," assistant coach Billy Hite said recently.

Given the trend, it's a sensation he might find appealing down the road.

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