by Jim Alderson, 9/6/02
Tiger bait? Not exactly. That famous cheer was what I heard early Sunday afternoon from good-natured LSU fans as my group made our way to Lane Stadium. It brought the same smile to my face that I had earlier as we got to know and tailgated with some really terrific Tiger faithful. I always enjoy meeting fans of the other team during my football travels, and these folks have moved to the top of the list in providing good company. When was the last time we saw any Rutgers fans in our house, much less thousands of them?
We had been alerted Saturday by our advance scout and clubhouse owner Larry that we were in for quite a surprise when we hit our parking lot Sunday morning, but it really was quite the spectacle to pop over Price’s Fork Road and observe that forest of LSU recreational vehicles. Yikes. I have been to East Carolina four times and haven’t seen that much purple.
We pulled into our customary location and quickly discovered that we were only slightly less outnumbered than Custer at Little Big Horn. We fared quite a bit better than Custer, however, as within minutes of climbing out of the car we were shaking hands with LSU fans who were glad to meet us and relate that the mountains in our neck of the woods were a very different and spectacular change of pace from the bayou. We were among friends and the tailgate was on.
It is always good to meet those from other areas and discover those little regional nuances that come from other parts of the country. There were some LSU fans that took quite a shine to our habit of mixing copious amounts of horseradish into our Bloody Mary mix [the tradition of the Gameday morning Bloody Mary does seem to be universal], and I certainly perked up when one of their great fans showed up with plates of food. These people know how to eat at football games!
Needless to say, we got along famously, and the closest thing we had to a riot was when I began pounding on the side of an RV demanding more andouille, boudin balls and crawfish jambalaya. It will be interesting to compare at our next home game when a similar huge invasion of visiting fans shows up and the RVs have been replaced by tail fins, the color purple by primer gray and the spiced shrimp by pickled pig’s feet [on a related note: some Hokies need to be made aware of the difference between poking fun at our next guests and trash-talking about how badly they will be beaten. Remember, the Weauxf Gods are watching, and this is no time to curry their disfavor].
There is just one little item I would like to bring up in case one of the LSU fans with whom I conversed Sunday morning happens to be reading [and he just might, since he was well aware of TSL]. I elicited howls of laughter from this gentleman when he asked me which team would win the game and I replied Tech by ten. I admit it, I was wrong. Thanks for the shrimp, though.
I was wrong, as we all know, because Tech won by eighteen. And Tech won by eighteen due to one of the most awesome displays of Beamerball we have seen in some time. For all of the summertime yammering about who would play quarterback, this game was won in the tried and true Tech fashion of defense and special teams. Tech’s defense shut down the LSU running game, and then brought a fierce pass rush that eliminated the possibility of LSU QB Matt Mauck having time to find a deep receiver.
Couple that with a clear superiority in the punting game that gave Tech superior field position all day, and you will win some football games. I was amused while watching my tape of the game at some of Nick Saban’s facial expressions as one thing went wrong after another. I imagine he was surprised by the ferocity displayed by Tech’s defense, but he had to have known and prepared for what was coming on special teams. When you know it is coming, and you prepare for it, but it still happens, it must be very demoralizing. Gotcha, Nick.
Frank Beamer and his coaching staff clearly were a step ahead of their LSU counterparts. The intensity of staff preparation during the summer for this game must have been remarkable. I got a big laugh from a certain Offensive Coordinator as he left the field after the game when I jokingly suggested that perhaps next time they shouldn’t show the entire package during the Arkansas State game. I have a feeling that Frank Beamer didn’t altogether follow his own edict of one game at a time, this time, and ‘Win Number Two’ was paramount on the minds of the staff from the time they got back from vacation. The LSU game plan had been thought through very well.
It was necessary, because this was a game that Tech just about had to win. A loss here might have seriously damaged the psyche of a young team facing a difficult schedule, not exactly what one desires when you look at the teams that await. It was also a must-win game because, for a change, it was a very tough OOC game. Tech has taken much heat over the years for the perceived softness of its OOC, some of it justified. For a team with national aspirations to lose when it finally played a national-caliber game would have created a perception hole that would have been very difficult to climb out of.
There have been many program-defining victories for Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech program over the years; the Hoos in 1990, Miami in 1995 and Texas that same year pop to mind. This was another. It was a huge game for Tech, and one that really needed to be won, and was. Life is going to remain tough in College Station in a couple of weeks, but a big OOC win has been obtained against a very good LSU team.
Speaking of LSU, they are to be congratulated for having the guts to schedule this game when a couple of the so-called ‘national powers’ much closer to Blacksburg than Baton Rogue will not.
It was a great day and a great win. Hopefully, we will see LSU around here again one of these days. I hope all of those great fans with whom I was fortunate enough to meet and tailgate come back, and bring their gumbo pots.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.