Players, not places ultimately win football games


BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer called Monday night’s Ohio State-Virginia Tech game the most anticipated ever game at the Hokies’ Lane Stadium.

The 66,000-seat stadium has been home to some big games. And some big Virginia Tech wins.

Over the years, Virginia Tech has promoted it as a tough place to play, pointing to wins such as beating No. 2 Miami in 2003, No. 6 West Virginia in 2004 and No. 9 Miami in 2009 there.

In all honesty, Beamer seems to have looked right past the biggest game ever in Lane Stadium to fire up this year’s team and crowd. A 38-14 win over Boston College in 1999 that sent the Hokies to the BCS national championship game probably should remain at No. 1.

Like any stadium, it has been a more fearsome place to play when Virginia Tech has had its best talent on the field.

In the last three seasons when Virginia Tech won seven, eight and seven games and the Hokies have lost seven games at home, including four last year.

Going into Monday night’s game, Virginia Tech was 0-8 all-time against No. 1 teams. Its only other match-up against a No. 1 at home came against Miami in 2001 when it lost 26-24 after a receiver dropped a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass late in the fourth quarter.

For all the talk about biggest game ever and that sort of thing, the game still was not being called a sellout a few days before kickoff.

Part of that was a money grab by Virginia Tech, which did not sell single-game tickets for the game. Anyone who wanted to buy a ticket had to pay for a season ticket package, which meant some club level seats were still available close to game day.

Since Virginia is a new state for me to cover an Ohio State game in, one day last week I added up how many states there are in which I’d seen OSU play football.

The total is now up to 21 states: Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.

So, how does Lane Stadium rank on my personal list of great college football game-day experiences?

It’s good. But I can’t say it’s better or more intimidating than some of the other atmospheres I’ve seen Ohio State play in.

Remember, I’ve felt Wisconsin fans shake the press box at Camp Randall Stadium by jumping up and down when their team was beating Ohio State.

As far as a crowd getting into a game and staying into it for four quarters, it would be tough to beat the fans at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium when Ohio State played there in 2005.

It was one of the first “White Out” nights at Penn State, where almost the entire crowd was dressed in white. It was incredibly loud throughout the night. And both teams knew the direction of their season depended on this game.

Penn State, after several down years, was ranked No. 18 despite starting the season 5-0. It had a lot to prove.

Ohio State was ranked No. 6 after an early loss to Texas. Probably none of Jim Tressel’s teams ever had more talent than the 2005 Buckeyes, who knew a second loss would be the end of any hope of winning a national championship.

Penn State won 17-10, a victory that was secured when Tamba Hali sacked Troy Smith and forced a fumble with less than two minutes to play. Don’t know if I ever heard a stadium louder than Beaver Stadium was at that moment.

An example of a crowd that started out close to the highest level but faded fast was in 1998 at West Virginia, the last time OSU opened its season on an opponent’s home field.

The Mountaineers’ fans were fired up, some would say fueled up by a long day of tailgating, for what was then a rare night game.

No. 11 West Virginia took a 3-0 lead, but Ohio State ran off 20 unanswered points on its way to a 34-17 win and the crowd settled down in a hurry.

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Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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