2007 Monday Thoughts: East Carolina

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Saturday was an emotional day for the Hokie Nation, and fortunately, the
Virginia Tech football team, coaches and fans got through it with a victory. ECU
is a good, well-coached team that will make some noise in Conference USA — they
might even win it — and they threw the Hokies a couple of curves that slowed
Tech down. In the end, VT got a win, and though there are reasons for concern,
getting the W was the end result.

I did close to a dozen radio interviews leading up to the game, and in almost
every one, I was asked how the emotion of the April 16th buildup would affect
this team. Would it inspire them to achieve greater heights, or would it be a
distraction that weakened them? My answer was always the same: “We don’t
know. Until they get out there and actually kick off and start playing, we won’t
be able to tell. In the end, though, emotion only takes you so far, and you have
to execute the game plan to win.”

Time will tell for sure, but as far as Saturday goes, I think I got my
answer. I thought the Hokies looked a little listless. VT was beaten in the
trenches, which wasn’t so surprising on offense but was surprising on defense.
Branden Ore and the running game didn’t look sharp. In some ways, VT didn’t look
ready to play, and that’s understandable.

I don’t recall the month of August ever being this hard to get through. The
pre-first game buildup is always a lot of work and hysteria, as the media ramps
up and fans scramble for tickets and information, but this year, it was
particularly difficult. Virginia Tech beginning its fall semester was a national
story that drew coverage; the team is highly ranked and has high expectations;
the ECU game had the biggest build up of any season opener in a long time, and
tickets were hard to get, causing emotions to run high among the fans. Around
the TSL office, the work load was uncharacteristically heavy, and it was hard to
stay ahead of things. All this and more led to an August that was an exhausting
sprint to the September 1st finish line.

The hubbub built to a climax, and that climax wasn’t the game itself. The
climax was 11:44 a.m. on September 1st, when the pre-game ceremonies honoring
the 32 victims of the shootings began. So many people were so spent by the time
those ceremonies