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Friday, September 13, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Noon start. Out-of-the-way locale. Minimal buildup.
Is this where it happens for Virginia Tech? Is this where the course for the 2013 season really gets set?
History suggests there’s a good chance of that, actually.
After two games where the outcome seemed preordained, the Hokies travel to East Carolina today. It’s their first matchup that should give Fearless Forecasters participants pause. It was easy to click Alabama in the opener, simpler still to select Tech against Western Carolina in Week 2.
This one? You probably had to think about it. At least a little.
In college football, the moment of inspiration can happen almost any week. An offense with no identity can discover itself, leading to a new method of operating the rest of the way. A player mischaracterized on the depth chart can emerge, morphing from standby to season-long star.
We know little about Virginia Tech this morning. Even the things we think we know are merely assumptions. How can we be sure that the stellar defensive effort against Alabama wasn’t just an adrenaline-fueled mirage that evaporates when the lights aren’t quite as bright?
And conversely, how do we know whether Logan Thomas will ever truly blossom, that the mistakes he made last season are destined to continue?
We don’t. But we should have a better idea after today.
Week 3 typically doesn’t get the credit it deserves around here for its ability to shape a season.
Naturally, focus on the opener is lengthy and intense. The second game is framed by the coaching presupposition — whether accurate or not — that teams show the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Week 2, then, serves as the “here’s what we really meant” showcase.
Week 3 has no such status. But with few exceptions, it’s been a pivotal one in recent Tech history. Last year, the Week 3 bludgeoning at Pittsburgh — noon start, sparse crowd, minimal buildup — alerted everyone to some real problems in Blacksburg that wouldn’t be easy to fix. It took nearly two months before the Hokies came back with a defensive performance worthy of their reputation.
In 2010, the Hokies entered Week 3 still smarting from one of the most shocking losses in their history — James Madison’s 21-16 victory at Lane Stadium. These same Pirates paid a visit, snagging a 17-7 lead in the first half.
But the Hokies rallied to win 49-27, and in the process discovered that they had a little bit of fortitude. This launched their run of 11 straight victories, an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl berth.
In perhaps the closest comparison to this year, the Hokies entered Week 3 in 2009 with a 1-1 record forged against the eventual national champions (Alabama) and an opponent that couldn’t keep up (Marshall). Week 3 found Tech trailing Nebraska late before a miraculous connection between Tyrod Taylor and Danny Coale set up a touchdown catch by Dyrell Roberts that won it, 16-15.
The Hokies didn’t win the ACC that year, but they did close the season with five straight victories, including a 37-14 stomping of Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. It was a strong season, and Week 3 might have been its greatest highlight.
One glance at this year’s schedule — with trips to Georgia Tech and Miami looming — suggests that a Week 3 game at ECU won’t be the highlight, regardless of outcome. But what happens today easily could set in motion the events that lead to success or failure in those bigger games.
It’s worth watching, in other words. Noon start, out-of-the-way locale, minimal buildup and all.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday