BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Outside the interview room, Virginia Tech punter Vinnie Burns held his head in his hands. Inside, athletic director Jim Weaver
glumly listened as his bleary-eyed coach Frank Beamer expressed his dismay with the Hokies' 17-16 loss Saturday to North Carolina State.
Buck up, people. This is what you wanted. Don't act so surprised that this is what you got.
Virginia Tech wanted out of the Big East and into the ACC, the land of milk and television money, but television money comes with television games.
There's a reason TV executives weren't demanding more air time for Rutgers or Temple, just two of the Big East opponents the Hokies (2-2) once used to
fatten their record.
Virginia Tech wanted out of the Big East and into the ACC because Blacksburg, Va., sits in the middle of the ACC's geographic footprint. Great. The
road trips were longer in the Big East and the rivalries were flimsier, but the games were easier.
Leaving the footprints of Syracuse and Connecticut to walk with Miami, Florida State and -- yes -- N.C. State showed courage and ambition on the part
of Virginia Tech. It also showed fiscal sense, what with the ACC making more money for its members than any conference in the country.
Maybe in the long run, after two or three recruiting cycles come and go, the payoff on the field will be worth it as well.
"You want to be in a conference like this," Burns said. "You want close games. The Big East was a great conference, but when we joined the ACC, we
expected to be in a lot more close games."
The problem is, a team can lose close games.
The Hokies were abandoned by their normally fearsome special teams Saturday, missing two field goals and dropping the snap on a punt. Kicker Brandon
Pace's second miss, a 43-yarder, came on the game's final play and would have beaten N.C. State (2-1) had it not floated right. Burns' dropped snap
came in the third quarter inside the Hokies' 10, allowing N.C. State to score three plays later for a 17-10 lead.
Still, this was the kind of conference game -- at home, against an unranked opponent -- the Hokies would have won in the Big East. In the Big East,
unranked opponents don't have defenses that can run like the N.C. State defense. The Wolfpack sacked pitiable Hokies quarterback Bryan Randall 10
times, including one stretch when he dropped back 12 times and was sacked on eight of them.
"Boy is your defense relentless," Beamer told Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato after the game.
In the Big East, an unranked opponent might have had a tailback like T.A. McLendon, or a kicker like John Deraney, or a defensive weapon like Manny
Lawson. But an unranked opponent in the Big East wouldn't have had all of the above.