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Seeking respect

Beating Alabama would do wonders for Virginia Tech

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Posted: Monday December 28, 1998 06:35 PM

  Beamer and the Hokies are looking for national respect when they face Alabama in the Music City Bowl Erik Perel/Allsport

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Frank Beamer has no illusions about what beating even a struggling Alabama can do for his Virginia Tech Hokies.

"We keep talking about this ladder to the top of the college football world," Beamer said Monday. "I'm not sure we wouldn't be taking about two steps, not one step or half a step, but about two steps.

"If you can beat a team as prominent as Alabama, if you get that done and that name appears first in the papers Wednesday morning, I think we'd be taking about two steps."

Virginia Tech (8-3) is a five-point favorite Tuesday afternoon against Alabama (7-4) in the inaugural Music City Bowl, sponsored by American General Financial Services.

Beamer knows that his Hokies, of the Big East Conference, have earned some national respect as one of only nine teams in the country to earn a bowl bid in each of the last six years. The Hokies turned in back-to-back 10-2 seasons in 1995 and 1996 and beat Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl.

Alabama, even after two years of NCAA probation, is a 12-time national champion and has played in more bowls (48) than any other program.

Beamer has spent time talking to his Hokies about Alabama's proud tradition and what an opportunity they have Tuesday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

"It's special. It's different. You know you're flat in the big time. I think our players feel that way," he said.

One reason Beamer is talking up Alabama -- back in a bowl after going 4-7 last season -- is Virginia Tech's 0-10 record against the Crimson Tide. The teams haven't met since 1979, but Alabama won the last five meetings by a combined 246-44.

"That says it all," Beamer said.

Coach Mike DuBose has his own hands full trying to return Alabama's program back to competing for national titles. Scholarship losses the past two years severely limited his depth, keeping the Tide from playing as physically as he wants.

DuBose wants to stick with the running game, and Shaun Alexander against Virginia Tech's defense. The junior, who is thinking of turning pro, rushed for 1,178 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Too many times this season, Alabama gave up on running when defenses lined up to stop Alexander, DuBose said.

"There's times we just have to call the play and run the play," he said.

But Virginia Tech's defense allowed only five rushing touchdowns this season. They also ranked second nationally with 23 interceptions.

"As a defensive-minded coach, I enjoy watching them," DuBose said. "They remind me a lot of our 1992 team and a lot of Tennessee's football team this year. It doesn't matter which position, you see speed."

Virginia Tech counters with quarterback Al Clark, who might be as healthy as he has been all season despite some aching ribs. He missed four games this season with a sprained foot.

"If he's full speed, we've got a chance to win," Beamer said.

 
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