Next in a Road to CFB series of first-hand matchday experiences at stadiums across the country:
Pick the right game to get to Blacksburg and you’ll find yourself in the middle of the most exciting game day in the country. That may be a controversial statement to some, but a Virginia Tech football game day is crazy.
Sold out crowd at Rocks Lane Stadium
Virginia Tech 17, #10 North Carolina 10
I can’t attest to how Jumping Lane Stadium gets a noon kickoff against Richmond or Middle Tennessee, but I can assure you there’s no better place than when the Hokies host a rival. class. Heisman preseason contender Sam Howell and the 10th-ranked UNC Tar Heels traveled to Virginia Tech to open the 2021 season.
The people of Blacksburg don’t like UNC. Most countries thought the UNC was a bit overrated. With a bit of bad taste in their mouths, Virginia Tech and their fans were chomping at the bits to bring these guys down.
The result is an explosive atmosphere and a sold-out crowd.
Virginia Tech Football Game Day: Pregame
Blacksburg is quite an accessible town if you drive and live a bit nearby. It is nestled in the hills which makes for a beautiful drive. But once you get there, it’s a great college town. Parking outside the main lots is just a little…anywhere? Local elementary schools only charge about $10 and it’s not a terrible walk to the stadium.
Pro tip: If you want to explore downtown Blacksburg first, don’t park south of the stadium. I did and logged over 25,000 steps that day. Rough.
Downtown Blacksburg is one of my favorite college locations in the country. It touches the campus, has only local restaurants and many bars and shops. Downtown is a must when you are in town. Head to Sharky’s – they have cheap beer and a good selection of really good food. I had a pulled pork sandwich with local barbecue sauce and it was outstanding.
Tailgating is everywhere. Upscale, thrilling, lively, it ticks all the boxes. This week, students left tailgating early, and for good reason.
Virginia Tech Football Game Day: Lane Stadium
There are a few places in the country where it’s better to have your butt in your place long before kick-off; Ohio State, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech. Arrive early.
The student section had already filled to the brim 90 minutes before kick-off. These guys were serious about making it the best environment of the week. Spoiler alert: They made it.
The Virginia Tech campus is made of the same brick. It was originally a military school (and still has a strong military influence, like Texas A&M) and the campus is beautiful. Lane Stadium was built with the same gray bricks and stones used all around campus. I’m a sucker for tying a campus together.
The stadium is cozy and quaint, but it can really hold over 66,000 people, close to the top 25 capacity in the country. You hear every bit of this 66,000, this place is strong.
The climb to the upper decks is quite difficult, but navigating the stadium is easy. It’s clean, spacious, and overall a great place.
Yes, Enter Sandman deserves its own section. Nothing in the world compares to the hype surrounding the team’s entry from Virginia Tech. On the ESPN broadcast, the advertisers walked away. They just let the stadium vibe roll:
It was the perfect storm: first time with fans back in the stands since 2019, hosting a ranked opponent, the game was Friday night prime time, nationally televised, beautiful day. “Electric” doesn’t do it justice.
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The crowd sings the song while jumping. It shakes the upper deck an plot, so if you’re a little uncomfortable on the roller coaster, this isn’t the seat for you. The team runs out, the fireworks and pyrotechnics go on and everyone cheers. When the music finally stops, the stadium carries the song through to kickoff.
You can see on the show how shaken UNC coach Mack Brown is. I would hate to be an adversary walking in this environment. The Hokies victory was assured before kickoff.
I didn’t get a video, because that wouldn’t have done it justice. Enter Sandman is something every sports fan should experience at least once.
Virginia Tech Football Game Day: The Atmosphere
I have already spoken of the noise and excitement of this sold-out crowd. The game went Virginia Tech’s way, with the Hokies winning 17-10. The crowd caused serious disruption, dragging UNC into false starts and forcing timeouts.
What I haven’t talked about yet are the fans. You’re neck and neck with a group of sweaty people who’ve been drinking all day and yet there’s been no fight. No arguments. Everyone was having a great time, including me and my dad.
We didn’t sit down once. There wasn’t even really room for all of us. But that just adds to the experience. Everyone was really friendly, chatty and happy to be there. 10/10 Virginia Tech fans.
And to top it off, we had a field rush. It was so good to be back in real college football.
As is the case with all small college towns, outbound traffic is less than desirable. The roads of course cannot handle 66,000 people exiting at once and to make matters worse some of the more accessible ramps leading to the freeway are closed. It was a little frustrating.
The police bring back anyone who has tried to park remotely in the city center – successfully, I might add – which defeats the purpose of remote parking.
But when you’re coming down from the buzz of a game day like this, even a minor inconvenience doesn’t matter.
Game Day Notes
Stadium: B+. It’s really nice, what can I say? If you sit in the visitors’ stands, you will have a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. The walk to the top is brutal so I can’t give it a perfect rating.
Tradition: A+. Enter Sandman. The end.
Atmosphere: A. One of the best. Up there with my LSU, Texas A&M and Florida State experiences. I got sucked in and turned partially to the Hokies now. Results may vary, of course.
Tailgating:B. Pretty good. It’s not that sea of tents like the SEC but the tailgates are high and I appreciate that.
Fans:B. Fans are super nice and love their Virginia Tech Hokies. They are passionate and loud. Nothing really above and beyond some other places, but when you don’t have a “that guy” anywhere in sight (you know that one – running into people, way too drunk to be gambling , shouting in your ear), it’s a good sign.
Extracurricular activities:B-. Blacksburg itself is a great college town. Downtown is one of my favorite college spots. But it’s also very far from the big subways. You’re not just passing through Blacksburg.
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