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Notre Dame Football: Virginia Tech is... ALF

They’re not as great as you think you remember.

Remember ALF? Sure you do, everyone knows ALF! Beloved character from a cherished television program of the same name from the 1980’s. ALF is one of THE trademarks of the decade, obviously the show was one of the most popular/highest rated shows during that time right? That’s the funny thing about nostalgia and a clever gimmick. It makes people remember things differently than they really were —much like the team that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are about to square off against — because Virginia Tech is ALF.

The Gimmick

Beamerball! It’s a phrase most college football fans of the last 30 years are pretty accustomed to hearing whenever pundits talk about the Virginia Tech Hokies. In his 29 years as the head coach, Frank Beamer’s teams had a reputation for scoring points off special teams plays.

The idea of Beamerball is that his teams had an ability to score points at any time. A pick six? That’s Beamerball! Blocked a punt out of the endzone? Beamerball! Punt return for a touchdown? Beamerball! Virginia Tech blocked 138 kicks during Beamer’s 361 games as coach, his teams scored 55 special teams touchdowns. Coupled with Bud Fosters stingy defense (ranking in the top 15 in points allowed, and fewer than 20ppg, more half the years this century), they carved out a reputation known throughout college football, and made Virginia Tech one of the premier names in the sport.

Certainly with such a prolific gimmick and name recognition, Virginia Tech has produced some impactful and meaningful seasons on the college football landscape in recent years...


The Nostalgia

When I think about the modern college football offense, I cannot help but think about Michael Vick as the shepherd who changed the game. While there were certainly dual threat quarterbacks before him, no one quite had that blend of passing acumen and game changing running ability. One of the great tragedies of the Heisman Trophy, is that in his redshirt freshman season, he finished behind Ron Dayne and Joe Hamilton. (The greatest of course is Rocket not winning it in 1990, followed by Tommie Fraizer in 1995...the list goes on but I digress.)

He once did a front flip into the endzone from four yards out between 3 defenders, I mean...

I mostly remember Virginia Tech as a ranked team, a nearly constant presence in the AP and Coaches poll, finishing the season ranked in 17 seasons between 1993 and 2011. They pulled off an undefeated regular season in 1999, and had the lead against Florida State in the championship game, before ultimately getting their doors blown off in the fourth quarter to lose 46-29. Even still, to play for a national championship in the BCS/CFB Playoff era is an impressive feat and an undefeated regular season is nothing to scoff at.

This is a scoff free zone.

The Reality

ALF was canceled abruptly after just 4 seasons. It never cracked higher than 10th in the Neilson Ratings and while it did win a PRESTIGIOUS Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award, it never sniffed an Emmy. The reality is ALF was a pretty mediocre show, one that few people actually watched and is only remember because it starred a puppet with a fun name.

Virginia Tech is a lot like that. Michael Vick started two very special seasons in Blacksburg, and he lost a combined two games. Since re-joining the ranks of the FBS in 1965, Virginia Tech has never had a season, outside those two with Michael Vick, with fewer than two losses. In Frank Beamer’s 29 seasons as head coach he had 3 or more losses a surprising 24 times. Virginia Tech has basically been a 10-3 football team for most of this century. That’s fine, it really is.

They displayed a commendable level of consistency for a very long period of time. The way Virginia Tech is revered by the college football media though, is slightly curious to say the least. The reality is that they’ve basically served as a resume building win that better teams have used since they joined the ACC. Keep in mind this is all looking at Virginia Tech in a macro past tense way. If you zoom in on the program since 2012, you get the following:

What to expect?

I feel like I have undersold Bud Fosters role as defensive coordinator when discussing Virginia Tech. Unfairly, I now have to show why the legendary defensive coordinator’s defense is going to ultimately spell another disappointing season in Blacksburg.

Through seven games in the season, Virginia Tech has played four power-five opponents: Boston College, Duke, Miami and North Carolina. They have given up an average of 39 points to those four — 35 points being the lowest total surrendered. They are getting gashed by big plays, and are allowing ten of more than 40 yards(86th in football) and five passing plays of more than 50 yards! Fosters defense is still getting after the quarterback, with 15 sacks in their last 3 games, so it’s incumbent on the Irish offensive line play well. If the line does play well, big plays are to be had against their back end if Notre Dame is willing to take the shots downfield.

Offensively for VaTech, it really runs through dual threat QB Hendon Hooker. Neither Deshawn McClease or Keshawn King have shown to be anything more than JAGs from the running back position. Both are sub 5 yards per carry guys, who’ve padded those stats against Furman and Rhode Island. VaTech has ridden a 3-0 record since Hooker became the starter. They’ve run for 631 yds in his three starts and almost a full yard per carry more than the four games before. The Irish should be able to shut down the Virginia Tech running game, and with it, their offense.

This is a game that Ian Book should be able to find some comfort in throwing downfield and, putting aside the post Michigan hand-wringing, there is no reason the Irish don’t roll against this mediocre Virginia Tech team.

The Hokies should be no problemo.