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Eye on the Nation: Virginia Tech again suffers a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loss

Four seasons removed from East Carolina’s upset of the Hokies, Old Dominion took the honors of upsetting the ACC power.

Virginia Tech v Old Dominion Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The noon slate of college football games had little fanfare. There weren’t any standout upsets—or even upset alerts—with teams in the AP Poll. I guess you could count Michigan’s shellacking of Nebraska as an upset, but as mentioned last week, the Cornhuskers are no longer in the good old days.

Things were quiet on the college football front. Things were too quiet.

When the 3:30 slate of games came by, we had some drama. The No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies went on the road to Norfolk, Va., to face Old Dominion. Normally, the big Power 5 school gets to host games against the smaller, lesser talented team. In this case, the script was flipped, as the Conference USA institution played host for the afternoon. SB Nation’s own Matt Brown wrote about why the Hokies traveling across the state made sense.

This should’ve been an easy game for Va Tech—they were 28.5-point favorites after all. However, things were anything but. With a tad under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs tied the game up at 28. About three minutes later, the underdog hosts had the lead.

Virginia Tech rallied back to tie the game at 35 all, but the wheels fell off the wagon in a hurry. Old Dominion took a touchdown lead with 5:11 left in regulation, and then got the ball back with a couple minutes left after the Hokies turned it over on downs near the Monarch red zone.

Clock management and strategy were wild on both sides. ODU threw an incompletion with 2:33 remaining. Passing the ball is a viable strategy, but when you have the lead and need to run off clock, throwing incompletions gave the Hokies hope. On the flip-side, Virginia Tech one-upped ODU’s decision-making by not only having an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against them, but following that up by immediately calling a timeout. To make matters worse: that was their final timeout.

Old Dominion, instead of kneeling with the game in the bag, dialed up a legitimate run play after the Hokies burned their final timeout. To keep up with the wonkiness already transpiring in Norfolk, that run by Jeremy Cox went the remaining 40 yards to the house.

When the clock hit all zeros, Old Dominion toppled Virginia Tech, 49-35.

Bad losses happen. Whether you’re on the football field or walking through life, you’re going to get handed an “L” at some point. The Michigan Wolverines, for example, got dropped by Appalachian State at home in 2007. Then the following year, they lost to Toledo at home. Minnesota, in their final game ever at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 2008, got blown out by rival Iowa. For the Gophers, they also lost their rivalry trophy, too.

The difference though is that Virginia Tech is a lightning rod for upsets. In 1998, the Hokies found a way to squander a 17-point lead at home to Temple. The Owls were 0-26 in Big East road games, and had a freshman quarterback in that game. By season’s end, the Owls were an uninspiring 2-9. A comparable upset in today’s world would be like Rutgers coming back to stun Penn State or Michigan. There is a very very very slim chance of it happening—but it could.

In 2010, the bad-upset bug struck the Hokies again. As it had before, it happened when they were huge favorites. James Madison walked into Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., and walked out with a win. Just like Michigan, Virginia Tech lost to an FCS program. And then in 2014—a week after the Hokies beat Ohio State in The Horseshoe—they lost to East Carolina.

Virginia Tech is a good football program. Whether it’s Frank Beamer or Justin Fuente as head coach, the teams are always more than competitive. However, regardless of who is on the sideline coaching, the Hokies still often find a way to lose a game that they have absolutely no business losing.

But, that’s life.