Virginia Tech's roller-coaster start has brought games that matter back into focus.
The Hokies (2-1) open Atlantic Coast Conference play Saturday against Georgia Tech (3-0). Like the Hokies, the Yellow Jackets are a perennial contender in the conference's Coastal Division.
The Hokies are coming off a 28-21 loss to East Carolina, which followed their equally stunning victory at Ohio State. Their disappointment was a wakeup call.
"We expect to win every game," quarterback Michael Brewer said. "Obviously that didn't happen this past week, and there's some things we need to correct, some mistakes we need to correct, and we'll do that.
"Now the big picture: we want to win our side and make it to the ACC championship, and this is the first step to do that."
The Yellow Jackets are also playing their first league game, and they feature coach Paul Johnson's triple-option ground game, which has given many teams fits. Georgia Tech ranks 15th nationally with an average of 306 yards rushing per game. The Hokies have allowed just 254 yards rushing in three games.
Virginia Tech brings a four-game winning streak in the series into the game, but has a number of younger players on defense, which makes getting ready more challenging, coach Frank Beamer said.
"Georgia Tech is just different from anyone else we'll play, and it's tough," said Beamer, who is 19-3 in conference home openers. "It's not what the coaches know. It's what you can get your players to react to, and having a lot of new guys on defense, if they played against it a couple times, I think it helps.
"But we got some guys there that are new to the deal, so got to coach 'em up. Coach fast."
The Hokies' last four victories in the series have been by an average of seven points, and the Yellow Jackets are eager to put those in the past. Two years ago, Virginia Tech tied the game with seconds left in regulation and won in overtime. Last season, three turnovers helped greatly in a 17-10 road win.
"They've had our number the last couple of years," Johnson said Tuesday.
Any chance the Hokies had of taking this game lightly surely evaporated last week. Riding high after the win at Ohio State, they quickly trailed 21-0 and allowed East Carolina to throw for 427 yards.
Beamer made sure they knew, in their disappointment, that their goals are still achievable.
"We've talked about us getting better as a football team," Beamer said. "We don't put blame. We found out what went wrong, figure that out, correct it and hopefully play better this week. So that's where we are, and certainly our players understand how important the first ACC game is.
"And since it's against Georgia Tech, I think it's even more important."
Making sure everyone is looking ahead, and not back, is key, Brewer said.
"We can't hang our head and feel sorry for ourselves and let it affect this next week, this week of practice," he said. "That's done with. It's over. We've already watched all the film. We're starting on Georgia Tech and that's the main focus now."
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