An open letter to my SI.com overlords:
If any of you have hearts, you will consult your budget, grab a calendar and write -- in pen -- the following entry in the block for Sept. 5. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama in Atlanta at Georgia Dome, STAPLES.
That's Staples, like the store. Not Mandel. Sure, he outranks me, but throw me a freakin' bone here. This is going to be the first heavyweight match of the 2009 season, and it's going to be a doozy.
It's highly likely you didn't properly appreciate the Hokies' 20-7 win against Cincinnati in Thursday's Orange Bowl. First, you might have been asleep. Second, you may underrate the vanquished Bearcats, who overcame a rash of quarterback injuries and won the Big East with a wide-open offense that got flat-out shut down by Virginia Tech.
Cincinnati is no slouch, but Virginia Tech proved Thursday that the death of Beamerball was greatly exaggerated after the Hokies' season-opening loss to East Carolina. Thursday had all the key elements of a Frank Beamer-coached win. Virginia Tech blocked a field-goal attempt. The Hokies intercepted four passes. They had a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) snaking his way through the defense and into the end zone.
This season could have gone much differently. The Hokies had to replace 13 players who either were drafted or signed NFL free agent contracts. They lost 1,412 career tackles, 59 career sacks and 409 career catches. Their depth chart is riddled with freshmen, especially on offense. One of those, redshirt freshman tailback Darren Evans, ran for 154 yards and a touchdown Thursday.
The youngsters survived a season of growing pains and literal pain. Taylor, a sophomore, experienced numbness in his non-throwing shoulder after a collision in Thursday's first quarter. Taylor kept right on playing, inspiring his teammates in the process.
Thursday's win should inspire Hokies fans to start dreaming big for next season. Seventeen of Virginia Tech's starters have eligibility remaining, and those players will be older and wiser after surviving a rollercoaster year that began with a big plunge and ended with a splash.
So I implore you, editor-types. Please allow me to watch the Hokies ring in the new season against Alabama, which probably will be ranked in the top five. If Thursday was the sneak preview, Sept. 5 may be opening night for a blockbuster.