Go Tech Go: The Inside Story Behind the Rise of VT Football, Part 11

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A year of living dangerously

The year 1982 marked the debut of liposuction, Disney’s EPCOT center in Orlando, the newspaper USA TODAY, and the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Comedian John Belushi died, the movie E.T. was a hit, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller LP debuted.

But in Blacksburg, some things didn’t change. Virginia Tech still teamed great defense with an offense that was as exciting as a sack of hammers.

Coach Bill Dooley’s run-first offense was great for players such as tailback Cyrus Lawrence, but held little interest for the region’s blue-chip quarterbacks. “No high-profile quarterback wanted to play in Dooley’s system,” said defensive back Derek Carter, who along with fullback Tony Paige and linebacker Mike Johnson, formed the beginning of Virginia Tech’s DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) High School pipeline. “The only reason Erik Chapman signed with Virginia Tech (in 1983) was because he was a DeMatha guy, and he knew Tony, Mike, and me.”

The Hokies led the nation in rushing defense (49.5 yards per game), but averaged just 314 yards of total offense (153 yards passing) per game.

“The defensive players did get a little frustrated with the offense,” Carter said, “because so many of our losses were close ones in low-scoring games.”

As a redshirt freshman Carter played wide receiver, but defensive coordinator John Gutekunst told him he would catch more passes on defense than offense.

“And he was right,” Carter said. “I caught four passes as a freshman in 1981. The next year, as a defensive back, I intercepted five.”

Bill Dooley’s formula wasn’t good enough to land a bowl bid in 1982, but Virginia Tech did record its third consecutive winning season, finishing 7-4. The Hokies played the first night game in Lane Stadium and notched one of the most exciting comebacks in school history with a 22-21 win over Duke and its creative offensive coordinator, Steve Spurrier.

They beat Richmond,