As the New Year winds down to its final hours, it’s time to take a look back at the last 366 days. We in the newspaper industry like to make lists of top moments from the last year. I’m working on a top five for Virginia Tech right now.
Now, top moments doesn’t necessarily mean positive moments. Just big moments, whether good or bad, that shaped Virginia Tech football in the last calendar year. I think the biggest moment for 2013 will probably occur early in the New Year, whenever the Hokies’ coaching situation is settled (South Carolina offensive line coach/co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott is the latest hot rumor).
But that won’t count for the purposes of this list unless anything happens within the next half day (which it won’t). In the meantime, here’s some of the bigger moments from 2012 that I’ve pulled out. Which ones would you put in a top five and in what order?
- Missed opportunity in New Orleans: The Hokies missed their chance to break through on the BCS stage against a name opponent that Tech thoroughly outplayed for most of the night. Special teams mistakes, red zone troubles and Danny Coale‘s touchdown catch in overtime that was inexplicably overturned by replay made the Hokies uneasy in the Big Easy.
- New York state of mind: Running back David Wilson went to the New York Giants in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Hokies first first-round selection since tackle Duane Brown in 2008. Two rounds later, cornerback Jayron Hosley was taken by the Giants, reuniting the Tech teammates in the Big Apple.
- Kicker Cody Journell reinstated: The kicker who was arrested last December on a breaking and entering charge plead it down to a misdemeanor, completed 100 hours of community service and returned to the team in good standing over the summer.
- The Fuller family connection continues: It wasn’t a victory on the field, but it was on the recruiting trail when five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller committed to play at Virginia Tech, where his three older brothers had played. With Fuller, Wyatt Teller and Holland Fisher, the Hokies could have their highest-ranked recruiting class in the last decade.
- Journell comes to the rescue in the opener: At the time thought to give the Hokies a leg up in the Coastal (how untrue that would be), Journell made two late field goals against Georgia Tech — one to tie in regulation, one to win in overtime — to complete his comeback in the season opener.
- A no-show in Pittsburgh: The curtain was pulled back on the then-unbeaten Hokies, who were out-classed in all phases in a 35-17 loss the Panthers. It foretold problems that would plague Virginia Tech all season.
- Gio goes wild: Losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati could be brushed off as non-conference defeats. North Carolina was a league foe and ran all over Virginia Tech in a 48-34 win. Running back Gio Bernard ran for 262 yards, the most ever against a Frank Beamer-coached team.
- Biggest comeback for Beamer: Things looked bleak when Virginia Tech fell behind Duke 20-0 in the first quarter, but the Hokies scored the next 41 points. Receiver Marcus Davis had 144 receiving yards and two touchdowns and running back J.C. Coleman ran for 183 yards and two scores to complete the biggest comeback for Tech in Beamer’s tenure.
- Oh so close against Florida State: The Hokies were up 22-20 on the No. 8 Seminoles with 2:19 to play, but EJ Manuel drove FSU down the field, hitting Rashad Greene for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left to send Tech to another demoralizing last-minute loss.
- A scary moment for Michael Cole: In the third quarter of the Florida State game, safety Michael Cole stayed down at the end of a play, lying motionless on the field after attempting to make a tackle. He was immobilized and put on a stretcher, taken to a nearby hospital with what was later called a cervical neck sprain. He was released later that night but didn’t play again this season, with his football future uncertain.
- Bowl eligible … barely: The Virginia game will not be replayed on ESPN Classic anytime soon, with both offenses struggling to move the ball on a blustery, November day. But Antone Exum‘s interception set up another game-winning field goal by Journell — his second during the regular season — to give the Hokies a 6-6 record and get them into a bowl for a 20th straight year.
- Exum treats kids to a Best Buy spending spree: An underdog selection, but a good story nonetheless. With a $470 Best Buy gift card at his disposal, part of the Russell Athletic Bowl swag, Exum spent it on three kids he met in the story. The story went viral on Twitter and the cornerback was lauded for his generosity.
- Offensive issues on display in the bowl: The Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in overtime of the Russell Athletic Bowl, but the season-long offensive shortcomings were on full display, with Tech gaining only 196 yards. Players and coaches celebrated afterward, but there was a foreboding feeling regarding the future of the coaching staff, which could get an overhaul in the offseason.
Any I miss? Feel free to go off the board. Again, looking for a top five.