Local Va. Tech fans hope to cheer team to Sugar Bowl victory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

As 2005 rings in, Joe Jones will make a resolution to watch Virginia Tech win more football games. He hopes that the Hokies help him follow it when they battle Auburn in the Sugar Bowl in the magical land of Mardi Gras.

&uot;I haven’t been to a game this year,&uot; said Jones, a member of the Tech class of 1986. &uot;I was thrilled that my team got to go to the Sugar Bowl.&uot; Jones played tight end for the Hokie squad that went to the 1984-1985 Independence Bowl.


Email newsletter signup

&uot;Those guys are bigger, stronger and faster,&uot; he said, &uot;but the competitor in me wishes I could get back out there and play. I always keep an eye on the tight ends, and Jeff King has done a great job for them this year.&uot; A native of Pulaski, King snared a first-down pass in the closing moments of the Hokies’ Dec. 4 win over Miami to secure the victory. He was named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference First team.

After graduation, Jones worked as a graduate assistant coach. Starting his own coaching career at the same time was a man named Frank Beamer.

&uot;He was a super guy,&uot; Jones said of Beamer, who was recently voted the ACC Coach of the Year. &uot;He always treated me very well.&uot;

Last season, Beamer’s squad started off 6-0, taking home a pair of Big East victories. They fell to West Virginia, but bounced back to beat Miami 31-7. Unfortunately, the squad lost three of its next four games, and fell 52-49 to California in the Insight Bowl.

After moving to the ACC before this season, Tech got off to a tough start, falling 24-13 to USC, which would eventually move to the top of the BCS rankings. The Hokies whomped Western Michigan and Duke by a combined 104-17, but allowed N.C. State to slip past for a 17-16 loss on Sept. 25.

&uot;We thought that there was going to be another repeat,&uot; said Chris Voltin, a sophomore Hokie and graduate of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. &uot;When we beat West Virginia, we got pretty pumped.&uot; The Hokies scored a 19-13 upset of the sixth-ranked Mountaineers, then beat Wake Forest, Florida A&M, Georgia Tech , North Carolina, Maryland, and, on Nov. 27, their local rival Virginia.

&uot;That was huge,&uot; Voltin said. &uot;We had all the momentum going into Miami.&uot; It worked; the squad held on to beat the Hurricanes, 16-10 to wrap up the ACC title in their inaugural year.

&uot;It was insane that night,&uot; Voltin said. &uot;There were firecrackers and fireworks going off. I was sitting on the front porch of my fraternity house, and there were a lot of people out in the front. I can’t describe how crazy the town gets on game days.&uot;

&uot;If you’re not at the games, there’s nothing to do,&uot; said Britney Bishop, a Tech fresh(wo)man. &uot;You get up early and go tailgating, and then come back late at night to eat dinner. When you’re in the bleachers, you’re always yelling. You’re pumped from beginning to end.&uot;

Local Hokie fans hope that the team stays that way during their first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1999-2000, when they fell 46-29 to Florida State (the Hokies won the 1996 game, beating Texas 28-10 in their only other Sugar journey).

&uot;I’ll be watching on TV,&uot; said Jack Fowler, his desk at J-an-J Auto Sales decorated with Tech magnets. &uot;I’m glad they went to the ACC, because I get to go to a lot of away games. I went to games at Georgia tech, Wake Forest and the University of North Carolina, and there were about 15,000 Tech fans at each game.&uot;

For those that would rather join Jones in the stands, Travel Dreams of Franklin is offering a Sugar Bowl package. For $645 a person, the offer includes two nights at the Omni hotel in New Orleans and tickets to the game. For more information, call 569-9250.

&uot;We were able to do in 12 months what Virginia couldn’t do in 52 years – win the ACC championship!&uot; said John Harrell, a 1963 grad. &uot;When I was there, we were struggling to win a few games, and now it’s one of the top programs in the country. They have a great quarterback and they’re a terrific defensive team. It’s been great watching them this year.&uot; Quarterback Bryan Randall was named the ACC’s Most Valuable Player, and linemen Darryl Tapp, Jim Davis and Jonathan Lewis as well as backs Jimmy Williams and Vincent Fuller represented Tech on the All-ACC team.

&uot;As far as their chances go, I think they’re excellent,&uot; said 1977 alumnus Jerry Canaday. &uot;The way Beamer has brought this team around and the way they’ve played this year cannot be reproduced.&uot;