Sunday, October 7, 2018

Our Trip to Blacksburg -- Some Thoughts...

My three boys; Jimmy '08, Brady and Conor (son-in-law) and my Dad, Jim Small (former Detroit Tiger) made the trek to Blacksburg yesterday to see the Fighting Irish take on the Hokies.  Here are my random thoughts about our experience:
  • We spent Friday night at the home of 2x NASCAR Truck Champion, Todd and Janet Bodine.  They were world-class hosts.
  • We left their home in Mooresville, NC around 11:30 AM for the 2+ hour drive to Blacksburg
  • We parked in the middle of campus (for free) -- about a half to 3/4 mile walk away from the Stadium.  (This turned out to be a big mistake after the game)
  • It's a beautiful campus, located on a great piece of real estate.
  • Our tailgate was wonderful -- Janet Bodine is a great host and cook!  We just hung out for the next four hours telling stories.  The VT Student Center was next door -- so we had access to restrooms.
  • One of the guests at our Tailgate was former college football coach Augie Tammariello -- Augie got his coaching start with Lou Holtz on the staff at William & Mary.  He also coached with Joe Paterno and Marv Levy.  He ended his coaching career as the head coach of the Louisiana "Rajin' Cajuns" for six years before pursuing a successful business career.  Augie now has a weekly radio show talking football...
  • We were treated very well by the Virginia Tech fan base -- that however changed as we walked to their stadium...
  • Believe it or not -- our most trouble came from female Hokie students (who let us know with their chants) that they weren't so happy we were here...
  • The experience of getting into Lane Stadium -- left plenty to be desired.
  • It's not so easy for a first time visitor to figure out where the gates are -- and to handle the rush of people -- it was intense!  See photo below -- this is the scene at Gate 1 an hour before kick-off;
  • To get to our seats -- the Notre Dame section was up in the far corner -- we had to traverse a long, steep and winding concrete ramp system that seemed to never end.
  • Then, you need to strap on your mountain gear as you climb stairs "straight up to the sky"
  • Once inside -- you saw a sea of orange and maroon stripes -- pretty cool, from our perch high atop Lane Stadium.  Though you did feel as if you leaned too far forward you would tumble for minutes down to the field below...
  • The Notre Dame gold helmets are always a sight to be seen at a night game!!!
  • We sat in front of a couple of Va Tech fans who were great.
  • The pre-game presentation at Lane Stadium was quite special.
  • I didn't realize they had two marching bands -- and all of the cadets!  More than 1,000 members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets marched into the Stadium prior to the game -- IMPRESSIVE!
  • The Virginia Tech Regimental Band -- (aka 'The Highty Tighties") marching precision was incredible.
  • The Highty Tighties played the pre-game show.
  • About 15 minutes or so, before game time, three skydivers jumped out of a plane with one of them having a camera on their helmet -- and we watched their journey into the stadium on the video board.  The jumpers wore light suits with pyrotechnics streaming from their feet and a couple of very large flags -- an American flag and a Virginia Tech flag.
  • Two of the jumpers hit their spots -- while the other missed his and crashed into the overhead camera system ABC had set up for the game.  Looked pretty bad from our view point.  I'm not sure if it took the camera out of commission for the game or not? 
  • Then, the Va Tech faithful started gearing up for "Enter Sandman"
  • They start with a "Let's Go Hokies" cheer that is very, very loud.
  • Then, the video board takes control of the frenzy -- playing a cool video about making noise and the fans clap in unison to music...
  • Then, up pops a video of the band Metallica -- talking to the crowd.
  • Then, the song starts and the place goes nuts -- fans begin jumping up and down, with the stadium sound system at full blast.
  • The Hokies run onto the field and it's game time.
  • The game environment was loud -- but not as loud as what we experienced last year in Miami... 
  • Fireworks went off during the National Anthem and as the team entered the field.  Fireworks and cannon shots (LOUD) were used throughout the game when the Hokies scored.
  • It was HUGE that we drove down the field to score that first TD -- the ND fan section was going crazy.
  • Then we follow it up with a 3-out and we drive down the field for a 2nd time -- leaving with a field goal.
  • The Hokie fans behind us were in a semi-state of shock with what was going on -- and the place was much quieter...
  • Then, things started to change in the 2nd quarter -- in not a good way...
  • The Julian Love fumble recovery TD was HUGE -- but, then they go down the field and score before halftime -- the HOKIE Nation was going nuts!
  • I will admit, I wasn't feeling good about our chances at halftime -- the ND fan section was concerned...
  • The "other" Virginia Tech band -- "The Marching Virginians" played their halftime show.
  • When they were done -- they unveiled the name of their new football practice facility with former Coach Frank Beamer on the field with the donor.
  • A 97 yard run -- that I called in advance (my son Jimmy will confirm) -- WAS ENORMOUS!  Took the wind right out of the sails of the Hokie crowd...
  • Then, we started to pour it on...  What a second half performance.
  • Ian Book -- made some huge throws and missed a number of huge throws.  He's a player and we'll go as far as he can take us.  
  • The Notre Dame section took over the noise in the Stadium in the 4th quarter with multiple LET'S GO IRISH chants!
  • The Lane Stadium crowd started emptying out around the 9 minute mark -- fun to see...
  • We stayed until the very end -- singing the Alma Mater with the team and fans.
  • What a win!
  • Now, here's where you can learn a lesson from us if you ever go to a night game at Lane Stadium.  DO NOT PARK in the middle of CAMPUS.
  • We literally got stuck in a traffic grid lock, like I've never seen before.  It took us 71 minutes to drive two blocks -- NO EXAGGERATION!
  • Thank goodness we won the game!
  • As we were sitting in the traffic -- multiple Hokie fans approached, us at our car window, to congratulate us on the win...  A cool scene.
  • Wearing GREEN -- is what we should always do at ALL NOTRE DAME GAMES -- no matter what the sport.  You knew when you saw someone in green, they were a ND fan.  We saw plenty of fans wearing green.
  • It took us 3 1/2 hours to drive the 50 mile drive from Blacksburg to our hotel in Wytheville, VA.  We rolled into our hotel after 2:30 AM this morning...
  • We have a very good football team -- I can't wait to see what happens these next seven weeks.  

Ian Book Talks Big Road Win Over Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Coaches & Players On Loss to ND

Coach Kelly Talks Big Win Over Virginia Tech

Impressive Road Win for Our Fighting Irish!

Sitting here in my hotel room in Wytheville, NC -- we just got here -- three hours after Notre Dame's impressive win over Virginia Tech...

It was a long day -- but, WORTH IT!!!

"Exit Sandman" Notre Dame 45 -- Va Tech 23

The Fighting Irish just scored the most points ever by an opponent in regulation -- in a game at Lane Stadium.  It's also the largest margin of victory for a road win by Notre Dame over a ranked opponent since 1966.

Think about this!