It hasn’t taken long for things to go from good, to bad, to worse in Blacksburg.
Just over a month ago, Virginia Tech knocked off (what seemed like at the time) a tough Georgia Tech team at home on Labor Day and seemed poised for a big season.
Since then, the Hokies have wins over Austin Peay and Bowling Green and losses to two Big East teams and North Carolina.
Their 3-3 start is the worst this team has opened a season since 1992, the last time Tech didn’t make a bowl game.
And, with three losses in their last four games, it marks the team’s worst stretch since a 1-4 finish to the 2003 season (the one win was a 24-23 OT victory over Temple. It was also the last time Tech lost to Virginia).
So yeah, things are bad. When the offense is clicking, the defense can’t stop anybody (see North Carolina). When the defense is firing on all cylinders, the offense can’t pick up a first down (see Cincinnati). This team just can’t seem to put a complete game together.
As if things weren’t already bad enough, the team’s 19-year bowl run (only Florida and Florida State have longer streaks going) is in serious jeopardy.
Looking at the schedule, Boston College and Virginia look like they should be victories. Duke and Miami are toss-ups (yes, Duke — they’re 5-1) and Florida State and Clemson will be very tough to beat.
Granted, I think there are definitely three, maybe four wins in there, giving Tech enough to keep the bowl streak going. But for a team that’s had eight straight 10-win seasons, that’s still going to be considered a down year — to say the least.
But let’s not focus on the bowl streak for a second and focus on the now. This team — or, this program, for that matter — is at a crossroads if I’ve ever seen one.
The fan base has, for a while now, voiced its disapproval of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring (who hasn’t called the plays since 2010, by the way). Frank Beamer's loyalty to his staff has long-since been considered his Achilles' heel, and it might be time for him to make a serious change, if for nothing else than to prove that he's committed to winning a national championship.
It also became clear, primarily over the past two seasons (both teams won 11 games, but lost in BCS bowl games), that 10-win seasons aren’t cutting it for a fan base that’s been desperate for a national championship for over a decade now.
So now, with Tech sitting at .500 midway through the season, it’s time for us to find out what this team (and this fan base) is made of. The players have expressed their dissatisfaction with their performance to this point, but will it be enough to jumpstart a win streak?
As far as the fan base goes, dissatisfaction doesn’t quite seem to cover the emotions many die-hard Hokies are feeling at this point. It’s not just the players who will have to dig deep now to recover from such an awful start — for fans of the team, fully supporting Tech from here on out (while perhaps difficult) will be instrumental in the team’s success.
It might sound like an overstatement, but remember — these are 18-22 year-old kids we’re talking about. You think they don’t read about how “terrible,” (or, “average,” rather) they are on Twitter? Fan support can go a long way.
Of course, if Jim Weaver would just put the headsets and clipboards in the hands of the fan base, this team would go 14-0 every season.
I poke fun, but in all seriousness — this team will need support (support, not coaching) down the stretch if they’re going to make any noise at all in the Coastal Division.
It’s gut-check time for Virginia Tech football as a whole — time to find out how this program responds.