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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame

By Justin Cates | October 10
Win probability ND

Well that was certainly something. Another classic college football game that ended with the Hokies on the wrong end of the score despite leading by eight points with about four minutes to go. I'll save the negativity for later but man, haven't we seen this movie before?


Braxton Burmeister

To say Braxton put it all on the line against Notre Dame may well do him a disservice. He played an efficient and at times thrilling game in which he got hurt — to the point that his arm went numb during the second half — then came back to throw a key pass and race for a touchdown on the ground to give Tech a lead late in the fourth quarter. It should have been enough. If nothing else, it put Burmeister into a strange pantheon of Hokie quarterbacks who laid it all on the line time and time again in an effort to lift Tech to victory. Al Clark, Logan Thomas, Michael Brewer, even Jerod Evans all put their body on the line for the team and BB3 did the same but wasn't rewarded with the win.

The performance gave hope in some respects but you have to wonder what the long term cost of the physical beating will be. A number of those quarterbacks mentioned above limped to pretty bad win/loss records by the end of everything. Much of Braxton's legacy remains to be written but these kind of games simply aren't sustainable.

The Atmosphere

Once again Lane Stadium was rocking on a Saturday night. The students were in their seats a full 30 minutes before kickoff. There was a long day of tailgating before that and special events including a day long on site broadcast by The ACC Network. Loads of alumni were in town and former players — along with recruits — filled the sidelines. It was exactly what you want in a college football environment right up until the end result. Yes, you've heard that exact sentiment in this space before and you'll probably hear it again. Oh what could have been.

There's Still Plenty to Play For

At the risk of sounding foolishly optimistic — don't worry we'll take care of that in a minute — this was a non-conference game and Tech still sits tied for first place in the ACC Coastal with next week's opponent Pittsburgh. On paper that isn't a terribly favorable match up for the Hokies, but we all know it's a fools errand to project results in the ACC beyond the next 10 minutes. This Tech team has proven capable of beating every team on their schedule even with some brutal losses sprinkled in.

Anything can and likely will happen in college football. That's especially true in this wacky and wonderful conference which is reason enough to keep watching.



I'm going to lump my negative observations into one long entry. I've moved beyond the initial anger and frustration of yet another completely avoidable loss but I've got some grievances to air. Much like so many parents across time I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

Much like the North Carolina game to open the season, there were glimpses of the old Virginia Tech program in this match up. There was tough defense including an interception return score. The crowd was loud and the stadium full. It was another big game under the lights that gave the fan base glimpses of what once was and could be again. But don't let the glimpses fool you, what you see now isn't that. That program we all fondly remember is long gone.

I won't go so far as to say that Justin Fuente is entirely to blame, but he is the big whistle and he most certainly hasn't fixed anything that he was hired to address. I've been watching Hokie football for over 30 years and with the exception of a few rogue seasons here and there, these last few years have been nearly as dark as anything I've seen. In the early nineties blowing close games or getting taken behind the woodshed was largely expected. It happened with such frequency that the family across the street from me as a child got fired in the great coaching purge following the 1992 season. I mean, only the Dad got dismissed but almost overnight my playmates were gone and I had a strange lesson in the harshness of the coaching life.

Now there are expectations, high ones at that, and a genuine belief that success is not only likely but probable. Even the media foolishly believes it as they see fit to rank the Hokies after a couple of weird early season wins each year. They fawn like so many of us truly believing that this ill-fated experiment is finally yielding results.

I've tried to remain positive and most weeks my big, dumb brain manages to convince itself that this is the game where they finally turn it around. Surely this will be the return to glory that we all pine for. All the talent so often evident will put it all together and move the needle. Instead we're met with perpetual disappointment almost regardless of the result.

After the game I spoke with several people who've followed the program for the same amount of time as I have or longer and one thought jumped out at me. Some of this current crop of coaches almost seem like they're teaching a class instead of coaching football. Clearly that comment was mostly directed at Justin Fuente and it's probably unfair, but it's understandable and my friend can't be the only person who feels that way.

At the end of the day whether right or wrong, this isn't an academic exercise. Virginia Tech football means something to people and so it stands to reason that it hurts when things go so consistently bad. I know the players care and I would never not support them. Like the song says, "Win or lose we'll greet you with a glad returning, you're the pride of V.P.I."

There are some incredibly tough and passionate people on this team. That extends to the coaching staff and it would be a shame to lose many of the assistants on all sides of the ball. But wins and losses are much like a nifty play-calling wrinkle. When it happens too often it stops being a wrinkle and turns into a tendency.

There are much bigger things in life to be worried about. That's always the case. This is however a sports website and so that's where the focus is. Overreaction or not, I can't blame anyone for being over the way things happen to Tech football in 2021. The tendency now is to play not lose lose which almost guarantees it. I'll keep writing and tuning in, but I'm over it too. Something has to change.

Class dismissed.


My Dad graduated from Tech in 1981 and I’ve been attending Virginia Tech sporting events since I first moved to Blacksburg in 1988. I myself graduated in 2008 with a Communication degree. During my time as a student I was the Sports Director for WUVT and helped establish and run Planet Blacksburg, an independent student-run news website. I’ve since written for numerous publications including SBNation, Inside The ACC, and Sports Illustrated's AllHokies. Currently, I host The Justin Cates Show in addition to other contributions here at Sons of Saturday and various other sites as the need arises. I now live in a fortified compound in upstate New York with my wife and numerous animals. The smell of popcorn makes me think of Cassell.

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