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May 18, 2012

Lightning strikes down 2012 Maroon-White game

By: Jimmy Robertson

Maybe this goes on at most college towns, but there is a recurring joke concerning spring games. In Blacksburg, when someone asks who won the game, the responder usually replies, “The Hokies.”

But this year, the winner donned neither maroon nor white. No, instead the winner of the latest installment of Tech’s spring exhibition game was Mother Nature.

For just the second time since Frank Beamer took over the reins as the football coach, the Hokies did not play in a spring game, as thunderstorms arrived shortly before kickoff of the Maroon-White game, forcing the cancellation of the event. The last time Tech did not play a spring game came in 2007 when Beamer called off the remainder of spring practice after the April 16 shootings.

“We tried,” Beamer said. “Our people were in touch with the National Weather Bureau [Service], and there were a bunch of people involved. There was more bad weather behind this one, and we looked at every situation – whether we could get in a couple of quarters and it didn’t look good for that. Or reschedule for tomorrow [Sunday], and it didn’t look good for that, or reschedule for Monday, and it didn’t look good for that.

“So in the end, we had to cancel it.”

The Hokies actually went through warm-ups as the 4 p.m. kickoff approached. But just minutes before kickoff, Tech officials decided to empty Lane Stadium, sending fans back to their cars and sending the players and the coaches to the visiting team locker room in the south end zone of stadium.

Tech officials waited for an hour before making the call to cancel the game.

“It’s very disappointing,” mike linebacker Jack Tyler said. “You’d love to play in front of all those people and your family and friends. But it’s one of those things that happens. I’m sure the coaches know who’s ready and who’s not and who’s improved because we’ve had 15 practices [actually 13]. It’s not like we’re missing anything too much. It’s more for the fans.

“The only thing that you miss is who’s going to show up on the big stage. Who’s going to play well in front of a lot of people? Who’s going to play well when the lights are on? But it happens, and you’ve got to move on.”

The day wasn’t a total washout for Beamer and his staff, as the Hokies won big on the recruiting front. Tech received verbal commitments from six prospects – all from Virginia, including one from one of the nation’s best quarterback prospects. NCAA rules prohibit Beamer from commenting specifically about players, but needless to say, he was ecstatic.

“We had a good day recruiting-wise," Beamer said. "I think it would have been even better if you see that stadium with 40,000 people in there for a spring game and see how they react to things. But most of them [the recruits] have seen games at Virginia Tech, so they know the great atmosphere we have here."

Beamer liked a lot from what he saw of his current group this spring. He praised Logan Thomas’ play and spoke highly of Antone Exum’s adjustment to cornerback, and he liked what he saw from the defensive ends who played some defensive tackle this spring. He also expressed cautious optimism about the one area of concern for most Tech fans – the offensive line.

“I think we got better,” he said. “I think we need to continue to go in a good direction. We need to continue to work on our toughness. I think we’ve got good athletic ability in that offensive line. I’m eager to see how good we can be.”

The staff met individually with the players the week following spring practice to discuss the spring and also to set goals for the summer.

“I think we’ve had a good spring practice, and I think we’ve seen good improvement,” Beamer said. “We’ll go from here, and the next thing we’ll be thinking about is Georgia Tech [the season opener].”

Spring game notwithstanding, the staff did hand out awards to individual players who excelled this spring. Here is the complete list:

Paul Torgersen Award (top newcomers during spring practice) – Offense: Michael Holmes; Defense: Ronny Vandyke

President’s Award (players who demonstrate the most outstanding leadership during the offseason program and spring workouts) – Offense: Andrew Miller; Defense: Kyle Fuller

Dr. Richard Bullock Award (players who show the most improvement during spring workouts) – Offense: Corey Fuller; Defense: Detrick Bonner

Frank O. Moseley Award (players who exhibit the most hustle during the offseason and spring workouts) – Offense: Randall Dunn; Defense: Jack Tyler

Coaches Award (players who had an exceptional spring) – Offense: David Wang; Defense: Alonzo Tweedy

George Preas Award (MVP’s of spring practice) – Offense: Logan Thomas; Defense: Luther Maddy

Don Williams TEAM UNITED Award (the offensive and defensive player who put the team first) – Offense: Matt Arkema; Defense: Antone Exum