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November 14, 2011

Hokies hope past November successes continue

By: Bill Roth

November, as you know, is the big month for both politicians and football teams.

Both work hard, scheming to defeat foes all year, but sans a November victory, there’s not much salvation other than the conciliatory ‘we put up a good fight’ speech from the loser.

In today’s world of college football, the big games are back-loaded toward the end of the season. That helps build drama and television ratings during key sweeps periods, and it makes for a thrilling end to the regular season. It also means that slip-ups are costly.

Since joining the ACC in 2004, Virginia Tech’s November record would be the envy of most college teams, and many politicians as well. Frank Beamer’s teams have compiled a 24-2 mark in November, with the only losses coming at Miami in 2008 and at home to the fifth-ranked Hurricanes in 2005. As a result, the Hokies have found themselves in the ACC title hunt each year, as is the case in 2011.

With games against Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia looming, the Hokies know they control their own destiny in the chase for the Coastal Division crown. What’s different this season, though, is the guys in Atlanta and Charlottesville can make the same claim.

Georgia Tech finished 6-7 last year and was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division in the preseason ACC media poll. But the Yellow Jackets, despite a two-game stumble at UVa and Miami, have the look of their outstanding 2009 team that won (then later vacated) the ACC title. You saw Georgia Tech’s awesome potential in the Jackets’ win over Clemson in Atlanta.

Defensive coordinator Al Groh’s unit held Miami to 262 yards of total offense, and has allowed more than 211 passing yards in a game just once – in the Jackets’ win over Clemson. On the other side of the ball, that offense is a yard-churning, clock-grinding unit that frustrates opponents on a weekly basis.

Virginia Tech in November since joining ACC
2004: 3-0
2005: 2-1
2006: 4-0
2007: 4-0
2008: 3-1
2009: 4-0
2010: 4-0

The winner of the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game has won the Coastal Division every year, and the same could happen again this fall. The Hokies, as you know, haven’t lost a true road game since a 28-23 loss at Georgia Tech in 2009 and their 11-game road winning streak is both a school and ACC record.

By the way, the Hokies are 16-5 in ESPN Thursday night games all time, including a 2-0 mark at Grant Field vs. Georgia Tech.

November is fun because the stakes are higher, making each game and each play more intense. Beamer’s teams have been nearly unbeatable in November, but the Hokies have to do it again to win the ACC in 2011.

Learning about Lisfranc

The Hokies, as you know, are shorthanded on defense heading down the stretch.

The team has lost two key linebackers for the season with the dreaded Lisfranc injury. Both Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor, important players on Tech’s defense, had surgery to repair the injury.

“It’s a sprain of the mid-foot, where the mid-foot meets the forefoot,” Tech Associate AD for Sports Medicine Mike Goforth said, explaining a Lisfranc injury. “If you were to look at it in the hand, it would be where the hand meets the wrist.”

Lisfranc injuries are named after French physician Dr. Jacques Lisfranc, who, in the early 1800’s, noticed French soldiers were suffering foot injuries after being thrown from their horses. This resulted in the foot getting caught in the stirrup, causing an injury to the mid-foot. It’s been known ever since as a Lisfranc injury. No Hokies have been thrown off horses, but the injury is essentially the same.

“It’s usually what they call an axial load coming down from the back of the foot,” Goforth explained. “Basically, splitting the joint by the pressure applied.”

The end result is surgery.

“It’s what’s called a ‘tight-rope procedure,’” Goforth said. “They put a filament-type device around the joint and synch it tight. It’s an innovative procedure.”

Goforth said both Gouveia-Winslow and Taylor can start underwater rehab in about six weeks and should be back for limited work in the spring.

Foot injuries like this aren’t as uncommon as you’d think. Goforth said Bryan Randall and Macho Harris both had the injury, but didn’t miss much time. Other players like Brett Warren, Lorenzo Williams and Cam Martin all missed a season because of it.

From the Voice's Mailbag

Not really a question, but a follow-up to Mr. Reilly's comments regarding booing of the punter. I agree it is not fair to boo a player. He is not getting paid to play. But I feel some people were upset with Coach Beamer's decision to continue with the same punter who had struggled the previous four games and was really struggling during the Clemson game. Thus, the booing was directed toward Coach Beamer. Most fans and myself are not at practice, so we only see what happens during the game. However, it was very obvious that a change was needed before the Clemson game. Players play and coaches coach and sometimes coaches have and will face criticism from the fans for their decisions. Some positive and some negative.
Dennis Sargent, Lebanon, Va.

Going into the week of the Clemson game, Scott Demler had the better week punting in practice, as Coach Beamer mentioned. That’s why he picked him for that game. Subsequently, he did make the change to Michael Branthover. I just know how the booing affected our punter, and the guys on our team. It did not have a positive effect.

I'm a longtime reader of your articles and listen to you and Mike every Saturday on the Hokie Nation radio station when I'm not in the stands. Thanks for your articles and broadcasting every week. I agree with you that Logan Thomas' performance (vs. Miami) was perhaps the best by a Virginia Tech quarterback. One arguable exception is Mike Vick's end-of-game heroics in Morgantown back in 1999. Vick was a one-man team in the last 90 seconds and got the ball close enough for Beamer Ball to kick in and win the game in the last second with a Shane Graham field goal. Vick's stats that night weren't his best; nor did they come close to Logan's stats against Miami. However, Mike Vick's high performance throughout the 1999 WVU game in which we trailed, and especially those last 90 ticks, propelled his team and our Hokie Nation into the national championship that year. What a game – unequalled.
Semper Fi – GO HOKIES!
Scott Ryan, ’77, Myersville, Md.

Certainly, the subject is debatable. I think you could argue any number of Michael Vick games, and the WVU game was memorable because of what it eventually led to later that season. But I still think Logan’s overall performance against Miami was slightly better.

I heard your question to Coach Beamer about the Hokies playing West Virginia in football, and I heard the groans from the audience in the background. I understand Coach Beamer’s statement, although I disagree with his logic. I never had a problem attending games in Morgantown and had good times there, especially when we won. Regardless, I’d like to see the Hokies play Navy in years we don’t play Maryland because they are closer to us. What do you think of that? I’m curious. I know we have to have the occasional Arkansas State on there, but if you could pick three teams to play non-conference, who would they be and why? Thanks.
Rita, Columbia, Md.

Tech AD Jim Weaver has talked with Navy’s Chet Gladchuck, who has stated that Navy has no interest in playing football against Tech in Lane, at Annapolis, in Baltimore or in DC. Personally, I’d like to see games with Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn or Georgia since they are drive-able for our fan base and are good intersectional foes. However, the ACC may expand on its eight-game schedule meaning there could be even fewer non-league games.

Since the Orange Bowl will have the last pick in the BCS this year among the at-large teams, I’m guessing the Big East champ will be there to play the ACC champion. If you had to guess on possible bowl matchups today, where do you think we’ll go? Or at least, what are the possibilities? Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Dan Phillips, Lorton, Va.

It’s way too early to know for sure, but as a long-range forecast, here’s a hunch: if Tech wins the ACC, the Hokies would likely face the Big East champ (West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pitt or Louisville) in the Orange Bowl. If Tech doesn’t win the ACC, its options could be the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Auburn or South Carolina?) or the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando (vs. Notre Dame?). It’s too early to call at this point.

Dear Bill,
You said Logan’s pass to Danny was in the air longer than a ‘non-stop flight to Rio De Janeiro,’ which was funny and really hit home for me. Where do you come up with that stuff? As someone who has flown to Rio for work several times, I know the flight from New York is about 10 hours. I just got back from Tokyo and that flight was about 14 hours (business class, of course). But maybe Logan can throw one longer than a plane ride to Narita? That would be funny, too. Keep up the great work.
Mike Hamilton, Philadelphia.

Thanks for listening. I’ll talk with Logan and see if he can throw it even farther!