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November 5, 2009

Bowl-bound! Independence for Tech

By: Jimmy Robertson

In the spring of 1984, Doug Waters started the Hokie Huddler, a publication devoted to the coverage of Virginia Tech athletics. The publication has changed names and formats over the course of 25 years, and this year, we want to celebrate the silver anniversary of the publication by taking a look back at what transpired at Virginia Tech in 1984.

This month, we’re celebrating Virginia Tech’s terrific 1984 football season and the Hokies’ bid to the Independence Bowl. The Hokies finished the regular season with a 9-2 record, and here is an excerpt of a story about that Independence Bowl bid written by Mr. Waters in the Nov. 27, 1984, issue of the Hokie Huddler:

Bowl-bound! Independence for Tech

By Doug Waters

After early losses to West Virginia and Virginia that left Virginia Tech at 2-2, the Hokies have rebounded to an 8-3 finish and a bid to the Independence Bowl that coach Bill Dooley accepted Saturday night.

Tech, which entered the season full of optimism after 1983’s 9-2 record, equaled the previous season’s losses through the first four weeks, including the 26-23 loss to Virginia that snapped a four-game win streak over the Wahoos.

After missing out on a bowl bid following its 9-2 record, Tech’s bowl chances seemed dim this year with seven games to go.

But a close win over Temple and a rout of highly regarded Vanderbilt, combined with the Hokies’ near victory at Clemson, earned Tech a bowl trip.

“This football team certainly deserves a bowl bid,” Dooley said at a Saturday night press conference after being called by Independence Bowl officials at 5:58 p.m.

“This team was faced with a great deal of adversity. We were 2-2 early in the year. When you’re faced with adversity, it’s a true test of character. This team didn’t fold. At 2-2, a lot football teams would’ve folded their tent right there.”

Tech will play Air Force, the defending Independence Bowl champion, Dec. 15 in Shreveport, La. Dooley had known that all week, but bowl committees were not allowed to extend invitations until 6 p.m. Saturday.

The invitation was made by telephone at the well-attended press conference by Dr. Cecil Lloyd, Independence Bowl chairman, and Dooley accepted.

Tech President William Lavery spoke briefly and said, “This is another exciting day in the history of this university and the athletic program.”

Lavery was interrupted by an unexpected ring of the telephone at 6:04. “I hope they haven’t changed their minds,” he cracked. It turned out they were calling so Dooley could address a press conference in Shreveport.

Asked about getting a bowl bid with an 8-3 record after not getting one following last year’s 9-2 mark, Dooley repeated what he has said before: Tech was in line for three bowls last year but was nosed out in the final week by just the wrong combination of wins and losses by other teams.

Coach Bill Dooley takes the Independence Bowl's telephone call while Tech President William Lavery (seated to Dooley's left) and a large press centingent listens in.

“It was very rare, what happened last year,” he said.

This will be Tech’s fifth bowl appearance. Tech lost to Cincinnati 18-6 in the 1947 Sun Bowl, lost to Miami 14-7 in the 1966 Liberty Bowl, lost to Mississippi 34-17 in the 1968 Liberty Bowl, and lost to Miami 20-10 in the 1980 Peach Bowl.

This will be Dooley’s eighth bowl – six at North Carolina and two at Tech. His postseason record is 1-6.

Air Force-Virginia Tech will be a classic match-up of strength against strength. Dooley’s Hokies have the top-rated rushing defense in the country, while Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry’s Falcons run a wishbone offense that had Air Force ranked third in rushing heading into this past weekend.

Tech has not faced a wishbone team this year. In fact, the last true wishbone opponent was Appalachian State, where DeBerry was the offensive coordinator in 1979 when Tech outlasted ASU 41-32.

Tech has never played Air Force and Dooley has faced the Falcons only three times, his first three seasons at North Carolina when the rebuilding Tar Heels lost all three games.

Air Force beat Mississippi to win last year’s Independence Bowl.

The Tech players will resume practice later this week and will leave for Shreveport on Dec. 12, a Wednesday, the day Tech’s fall quarter exams end.

This will be the ninth Independence Bowl, which was established in 1976 as a tribute to the United States’ Bicentennial. It is the first bowl of the postseason and has good support in the Shreveport area.