Go Tech Go, Part 28: Not So Great ’88

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1988: A year of the Million-Dollar Man, Big Horses, and Persistent Cab Drivers

Nothing captured the changing fortunes of Virginia Tech’s fortunes more than what happened on September 3, 1988, when the Hokies traveled to Death Valley to play godforsaken Clemson. A mere two years earlier, Virginia Tech swaggered in, waved the Tigers down their hill, and then beat them 20-14.

But now, before a crowd of 80,500, few of the key players from that Hokies team remained. Apparently, Tech’s new crop of players figured, “Well, we heard it worked in ’86. Let’s try it one more time.”

“I remember the last time they came here they were waving at us to come down the hill before the game,” Tigers tailback Terry Allen said. “Today we were watching them, waiting to see if they would do it again. We wanted them to do it, and they did. It got us fired up.”

Coach Bill Dooley wasn’t a fan of the antics the first time, and Frank Beamer certainly wasn’t a fan of it now. When he took a closer look at which players were doing all the gesturing, he saw it was the second-stringers.

Clemson won 40-7.

Development of a coach

In 1988 Tech faced a brutal schedule featuring four Top 10 teams, six Top 20 teams, and eight teams with winning records. The Hokies finished 3-8, beating East Carolina, Cincinnati, and James Madison.

Against No. 7 West Virginia, Virginia Tech blocked a punt for a touchdown, recovered four WVU fumbles, and intercepted two passes. Sure win, right? On top of that, the Mountaineers were penalized 13 times for 107 yards – and yet the Hokies still somehow lost 22-10.

The following week, Virginia Tech nearly upset No. 8 South Carolina, losing 26-24 in Lane Stadium. Gamecock Collin Mackie’s 23-yard field goal with 6:43 left was set up when Hokie true freshman punter Kelly Fitzgerald bobbled senior Steve Hale’s first imperfect snap of his career. Derrick Frazer blocked the kick, and the Gamecocks recovered at the Hokies’ six-yard line.

Earlier in the game, with the Hokies leading, Hale had bolted downfield on punt coverage when a USC player clipped him and rode him into the ground. Hale came up with a massive clump of dirt and grass stuck in his facemask; on his way to the