In a game that defied description, Virginia Tech (2-1) fell to Old Dominion (1-3) 49-35 in front of 20,532 fans at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. Instead of trying to explain the action, we’ll take a look at some of the numbers behind the performance.
632: Yards allowed by Virginia Tech’s defense on Saturday. That’s the most yards that the Hokies have ever given up with Bud Foster at the helm as the defensive coordinator. It’s also the second most yards that Virginia Tech has ever allowed since 1987 (as far as records date back on Hokiesports.com), only being bested by the 649 yards that the Hokies surrendered in a 55-28 win against Maryland in 1993.
Old Dominion quarterback Blake LaRussa torched Virginia Tech’s inexperienced secondary the entire game through the air to the tune of 495 passing yards. Maryland’s Scott Milanovich is the only opponent to pass for more yards when he tallied 498 in the same game in 1993. LaRussa finished the night 30-for-49 for those 495 yards and four touchdowns.
$650,000: Salary of Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder. Compare that to the $3,250,000 figure that Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente makes. While that’s just a fun number to compare, it doesn’t take away the fact that the Hokies were outcoached and outplayed on Saturday.
The biggest (and most effective) coaching decision of the game came after the first series when Wilder replaced starting quarterback Steven Williams with LaRussa. LaRussa of course went on to have a historic day passing the football. Foster’s defense gameplanned for the mobile Williams all week long, only to be thrown into a loop when LaRussa made his way onto the field. Credit to the Monarchs for attacking the entire game and really putting pressure on the Hokies, putting an exclamation mark on the win when Jeremy Cox rambled into the endzone from 40-yards out with 1:34 to play. Another jarring stat that falls on the shoulders of the coaches and ultimately shows a lack of discipline from the players? Virginia Tech: seven penalties for 95 yards. Old Dominion: two penalties for 10 yards.
29: Points that Virginia Tech was favored by heading into Saturday’s game. ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the Monarchs a 1.8 percent chance to win. The Hokies have been no stranger to stunning upset losses over the years. The 29-point spread was only the third largest spread that ended up resulting in a loss. Virginia Tech was 35.5-point favorites when Temple beat them 28-24 in 1998, and JMU was a 33.5-point underdog when they upset the Hokies 21-16 in 2010. In fact, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Virginia Tech has been on the losing end of three of the biggest upsets ever in college football according to point spreads.
In all three instances, the Hokies held leads, but allowed huge runs by the opposition to pull off the upset. In 1998, Temple scored 28 of the final 35 points. Both JMU and ODU scored the final 14 points of the ballgame. However, those teams in 1998 and 2010 went on to respond from those embarrassing losses and have successful seasons. Which brings me to my last number…
1-0: Virginia Tech’s record in ACC play. I couldn’t go through the entire article without mentioning SOMETHING positive. While the loss hurts, and it will be replayed in the minds of Hokie fans for years, it means nothing in the quest to play for a spot in the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech is still 1-0 in the ACC and will have a chance to rebound right away next week on the road at Duke in a pivotal Coastal Division matchup.
In 1998, after the loss to Temple, the Hokies went on to finish the year 9-3 and defeated Alabama in the Music City Bowl. In 2010, Virginia Tech rattled off 11 straight wins following an 0-2 start at the hands of Boise State and JMU. The Hokies won an ACC Championship and ultimately fell to Stanford in the Orange Bowl. The fanbase will be panicked, but Virginia Tech’s season isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. However, this is probably the biggest adversity that Fuente has faced since taking over the program. Will this loss be a sign of things to come, or will Fuente right the ship and lead the Hokies through troubled waters like they’ve done in the past?
We’ll just have to wait and see. Kickoff from Wallace Wade Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Saturday and can be seen on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.