Fifteen Years Ago

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It’s a game mostly forgotten in Hokie football history. No Virginia Tech fan
ever reminisces fondly of the 45-23 whipping the Hokies received at the hands of
a Tennessee team led by a quarterback named Peyton Manning, in the creeping fog
at the 1994 Gator Bowl. It was the biggest stage the Hokies had played on at
that point in their history, and they flopped miserably. This game was a
miserable experience all the way around, so, hey … what say we relive it?

The Hokies finished the 1994 regular season 8-3, but it was very different
from the 8-3 record they had posted just a year earlier. Tech was ranked 15th in
the nation in the coaches’ poll and 17th in the AP poll, but the truth is, they
were fading fast.

Tech had started ranked 21st in the country, based on a 9-3 record in 1993,
an Independence Bowl title, and 14 returning starters, including senior
quarterback Maurice DeShazo. DeShazo had directed a high-powered offense in 1993
and had thrown 22 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions. DeShazo’s 22 TD
passes still stand as a Virginia Tech single-season record, despite the advent
of 12-game seasons and conference championship games that have seen the Hokies
play as many as 14 games in one season.

But 1994 was a different story. At the end of 1993, Tech offensive
coordinator Rickey Bustle had left the Hokies for the same position at South
Carolina, and the Hokies hired well-traveled and well-respected Gary Tranquill to
replace Bustle.

The Tranquill experiment went poorly, to say the least. Under Tranquill’s
system, DeShazo took a huge step backwards, throwing just 13 touchdowns against
13 interceptions in 1994. DeShazo hit rock bottom in the last game of the 1994
season, against Virginia in Blacksburg, when he threw five interceptions and
directed a Tech offense that turned the ball over an incredible eight times in a
42-23 humiliation.

As soon as the final whistle blew on the 1994 regular season, Tranquill
departed Virginia Tech to join his “old pal” Nick Saban at Michigan
State. Saban had taken over the reins of the Spartans, and one of his first
moves was to offer Tranquill $115,000 a year to be his offensive coordinator,
well over the $68,000 a year Tranquill was making at Tech.

Tranquill offered to stay through the bowl game, but Frank Beamer told him
“thanks, but no thanks.” Beamer spoke highly of Tranquill as Tranquill
exited the program, but the truth is that Tranquill was