- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.
Blacksburg, Va., is an awesome place to be.
I normally spend my weekends during the fall in stadiums across the Big 12, but I'd heard plenty about Lane Stadium and the atmosphere at Virginia Tech. As I headed to VT, I had pretty high expectations, yet my mid-November trip somehow exceeded all of them. Hokie Nation's hospitality was second to none, the food and festivities were top notch, and game day is filled with traditions that separate Virginia Tech from other college football atmospheres. Great food, great people and top-notch ACC football? I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Here are some of the highlights of my trip:
Best meal: Mustard Rabbit at Our Daily Bread Bakery and Bistro. I had several great meals during my time in Blacksburg, including a burger at Mike’s and a terrific Italian food sampler at Sal’s, but the Mustard Rabbit at Our Daily Bread was the most memorable meal. Not only was it terrific, it’s hard to find rabbit in Oklahoma. Whenever I return to Blacksburg, a return visit is a no-brainer.
— Brandon Chatmon (@BChatmon) November 17, 2013
Must-see sight in Blacksburg: The drill field on the Virginia Tech campus, including the two memorials. The War Memorial, a tribute to all VT alums lost in combat since World War II, and the April 16 Memorial, a tribute to the VT students and faculty lost in the campus shootings on April 16, 2007, are must-see experiences, and a simple walk around the beautiful campus, leaving you with a better appreciation for "Hokie Stone," is well worth the time.
Biggest surprise: The passion. Blame it on my own naiveté, but I landed in ACC country expecting football fans with some passion but nothing like I’ve gotten accustomed to in the Big 12. I was way off; Hokie Nation is as passionate as any fan base I’ve interacted with and has high expectations for its program. The disappointment over the lack of a national championship was expressed over and over again by Hokies fans.
Biggest difference from Big 12: The style of play in the ACC is just vastly different. The Big 12 is full of wide-open offense, high-scoring games and big plays. The Hokies have always taken pride in their defense, ranking among the nation’s best for the past decade. To sum it up, VT and Maryland combined for 583 yards in the Terps’ 27-24 overtime win. Baylor averaged 624.5 yards per game this season. So, umm, yeah, a lot different.
They said it: "I’m thrilled I decided to come back and play with these guys, thrilled to be a part of this team, and my decision to come here was a great, great decision."
-- quarterback Logan Thomas after a 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland in his last game at Lane Stadium.
If I could go back: There are so many things I didn’t get to do and places I didn’t get to eat at in Blacksburg. If I get the chance to go back, I’ll definitely grab a drink at Top of the Stairs and Bull and Bones. When it’s time to grab a bite, I’ll head to the Cellar and Cabo Fish Taco first before working my way down the rest of the list. Blacksburg is the ideal college town with plenty of places to grab a bite or a drink, so I can’t wait to return.
15hMax Olson and Jake Trotter