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Stanford didn’t let it go to its head

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By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 You knew it was going to be a long night when you saw the helmets.

Those orange hats Virginia Tech broke out for Monday’s Orange Bowl weren’t as bad as the ones Miami wore against the Hokies during the regular season – you know, the green ones that looked like they should have been buzzing around something left in the barnyard – but they were bad enough.

If you have to look in the Nike catalog to find a psychological  edge, you’re in trouble to start with. And besides, wasn’t like Tech was Notre Dame breaking out the green jerseys.

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to athletic uniforms, which is one reason I’ll be whole-heartedly rooting against Oregon and its elementary school coloring contest-inspired wardrobe next week. I don’t think you will find anything better than meat and potatoes uniforms such as Alabama or Penn State, Nebraska or Texas, teams who look the same now as they did in 1972.

I was glad to see the Hokies scrap those ugly unies from last year and settle on the simple block numerals, shoulder accent stripes and plain white pants this season (Boise State game notwithstanding. Yecch.). Even the occasional wearing of the white helmet wasn’t too bad.

But going carrot-top was too much.

It’s like eye-black. When it goes from being quasi-useful to just make-up, you’re grasping. See: Brandon Carter. Six-foot-6, 330 pounds, all-American in high school and at Texas Tech, still felt the need to paint himself up like a small-time pro wrestler or a B-movie bad guy to look intimidating (Google him. You’ll be amused).

“C’mon Killer, pregame’s starting.”

“Wait fellers, my nose is all shiny, my hair just won’t do and I’m not done with my eyes. Go tell the trainer I’m all out of Maybelline.”

That’s why he was only signed as a free agent, spent the year on the practice squad and played in zero games this year for New Orleans before being released. Look like a clown, play like a clown.

But I digress.

Watching the second half of the Tech game unfold Monday night was about as much fun as sitting on a nail, pointy end up. Having managed to drive 80 yards in less than a minute to kick a field goal and pull to within a 13-12 deficit at halftime, Tech was a catch at the Stanford 3 away from tying the Cardinal at 19 in the third quarter.

Two plays and 97 yards after an interception there, all Tech saw was taillights.

Stanford, making a serious statement to have synchronized shifting added as an Olympic sport, picked the Hokies apart the final 30 minutes, giving the ESPN broadcast crew plenty of opportunity to gush over the Stanford luminaries standing on the sidelines.

Late in the contest, the outcome decided long before, the Cardinal offense, in a splendid display of choreography, shifted nine guys into three completely different offensive formations before pulling off a zero-gain run up the middle.

From the top, boys: And ready-two-three and set-two-three and shiftand shiftand shift-two-three.

Toying. Stanford was toying with Tech.

I would not have wanted to be on the other end of the seething, unwavering glare coming from Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster after the play. I’m sure Jim Harbaugh’s neck nearly caught fire.

Blame the loss on Tech’s running into a superior opponent again on the biggest stage. Blame it on being matched up against college football’s hottest coach and the hottest quarterback out there. Blame it on an overall weak ACC exposing its best team as being just real good.

I blame it on the helmets for no other reason than, well, they weren’t maroon.

When Tech used to come out  of the tunnel in maroon pants and white jerseys, I would think  to myself, ‘Look like Temple, play like Temple.’

Monday, the Hokies looked like Syracuse.

Sure, going to a BCS bowl is a lot better than getting stuck with a trip to the Pork-The Other White Meat Bowl, but it would be really cool to pull one off, especially against a top-5 team.

I think back to all the hand-wringing done by Tech fans before the BCS matchups were announced, and I can only silently shake my head.

Maybe UConn wouldn’t have been such a bad draw after all.