Sandwiched between the magic of Virginia Tech’s unprecedented ascension into the world of college football’s elite and its run toward college football’s National Championship were two largely nondescript seasons. From 1997-98, guided by quarterback Al Clark, the Hokies were good enough to keep their bowl streak alive. While 1997 was largely forgettable, the 1998 season was an underrated season of deeply emotional ups and downs that set the stage for a magical 1999.
The 1997 season started fine enough, with a 59-19 win at Rutgers. With the graduated J.C. Price returning to Blacksburg as a fan doing a pregame Hokie-Pokey with the Marching Virginians on Chicken Hill, Virginia Tech stomped Syracuse 31-3. The Hokies then improved to 4-0 with wins over Temple (23-13) and Arkansas State (50-0), rising to No. 14 in the national rankings.
But dreams of yet another magical season came crashing down on a beautiful sunny Saturday in Blacksburg, when unranked Miami of Ohio stunned the Homecoming crowd 24-17. Lose to a mid-major? At home? That hadn’t happened in the 12 previous games. That’s not supposed to happen! We’re… Virginia Tech! And this wasn’t even Miami of Miami fame…this was Miami of Ohio!
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