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July 10, 2012Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
To get our contest started, publisher Jason Stamm recalled his first trip to Lane Stadium, in 2008 to watch the Hokies take on Western Kentucky. For full details on the contest CLICK HERE
The 2008 season was a big one for Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers were in their first season as a Football Bowl Subdivision member, in year two of their jump from the Football Championship Series. But WKU still wasn't eligible for post-season play.
That season was the second of a two-year transition to the Sun Belt Conference.
But the Hilltoppers' schedule made nearly each game seem like a playoff-caliber game. First WKU played at Indiana and at rival Eastern Kentucky. But the next stretch included games at Alabama and Kentucky.
As the editor of the Rivals.com site covering WKU, InsideHilltopperSports.com, I was on the field for each game. And with my relationship with the program, I had a seat reserved on every plane, a room reserved at each hotel with the team. My publisher paid for each, of course.
The game I'd looked forward to even more than Alabama was Oct. 4 at Lane Stadium to take on Virginia Tech for an afternoon game.
The Thursday before the game, we took five charter buses through the Cumberland Gap, arriving in Bristol, Tenn. At 12:30 a.m. and having time for a roughly six-hour catnap before heading north on I-81 towards Blacksburg.
We arrived at Lane Stadium at 2:30 p.m. to give the Toppers time for a walk-through and check out the stadium. Driving past the baseball field, I wasn't sure if the game would be played in a stadium or a fort, with the stone finish.
It seemed like Virginia Tech was basically a few miles southwest of nowhere. Driving there from the interstate, you see mountains, farms, lots of cows, a parking lot and then, BAM! a 70,000 seat stadium.
The football field, just like every other athletic field there, is ridiculously nice and plush. During the walk-through, I checked out the infamous tunnel the Hokies enter the field through. Inside, there's a rock of 'Hokie Stone' that is above the entryway that the players smack on their way out, as well as plexi-glass boards with star players' names over the years on the tunnel walls.
We walked through the tunnel, where outside the stadium, stood the football offices and the weight room. Inside, you could make out VT quarterback Tyrod Taylor getting swole.
After the walk-through, all of WKU's team and traveling party was escorted by campus police through the campus with 'Hokie Stone' buildings, around the expansive drill field, to the memorial for the 2007 shootings.
It was a somber experience. The memorial stood in front of Burruss Hall, the administration building, while Norriss Hall, where the worst of the shootings occurred, was back and to the right of Burruss.
The story we also put together for InsideHilltopperSports.com was picked up by Yahoo! which was pretty cool as well.
With lodging tough to find, our stay would be at The Roanoke Plaza hotel, which was being remodeled and would soon be a Sheraton.
On Game-day, we left the hotel for the 40-minute or so drive to Blacksburg at 10:10 a.m. Of course, with traffic, a few minutes were added on.
I'd chosen sleep over more time to get ready and therefore, missed out on time for breakfast. When I got to Lane Stadium, my stomach was ready to eat itself.
I headed up to the press box, which wasn't easy to find, but was ridiculously nice, in hope of food. It had yet to be served. From the glassed-in press box, I saw a stand on the concourse in the corner of the stadium for turkey legs.
It made sense. After all, I figured the Hokie bird is essentially a turkey. Though the legs were $9, they were plenty worth it. They were each a pound of meat that the woman at the stand told me were put in a deep fryer at 4 a.m. and taken off at 10:30 that morning. The meat still looked more like ham than the white, turkey meat I expected.
Virginia Tech is unlike any other stadium I had ever been to. The crowd, though not as big as other BCS schools, was very loud, as attested by then-WKU Coach David Elson and the players. On homecoming day, it was also interesting that the crowd sang the 'Hokie Pokie' at the end of the third quarter.
After a game filled with positives, we left, on the team buses at about 6 PM and drove straight back to the BG. I'd see Nebraska and Tennessee among other opponents over the next few years, but the school that had Michael Vick's No. 7 still waving on a flag was my favorite.
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