No. 24 Virginia Tech looks to play role of Avengers again after last year's loss to Pitt
It was the film no one at Virginia Tech wanted to watch.
When the coaches made the defense sit down this week to watch film of last season's 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh, linebacker Tariq Edwards said it was "disgusting," and he didn't even play.
The No. 24 Hokies (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) hope to make amends Saturday at Lane Stadium.
"We want to stop teams from running the football, and to see them constantly be able to run the ball and score off it just looks horrible, like the whole game," Edwards said of the film session. It showed the Panthers carving up the Hokies' defense with 254 yards rushing and 283 yards through the air.
Moreover, the victory was the fourth straight for the Panthers in the series.
But this season is about showing that the Hokies have learned and moved on.
Virginia Tech has won five straight and made it back into the Top 25 for the first time in more than a year this week after avenging another bad loss by beating North Carolina 27-17. A year ago, the Tar Heels won 48-34, and both blowouts came during a stretch that saw the Hokies lose six of eight games.
Many of the names on the backs of Virginia Tech jerseys are the same as last year, but comparisons end there.
"I think they're doing things a little different this year," said Pitt coach Paul Chryst, whose team has won three in a row since losing to No. 6 Florida State in its first game as an ACC program. "You can use last year as a reference point, but you certainly have to concentrate this year. There are a lot of similarities personnel-wise. They're playing fast in the back end and aggressive up front. They're physical when they run the ball, and they can create havoc, turnovers and sacks.
"I think they're playing really confident, and they should be."
The Hokies' confidence is especially strong on the defense side, where they rank fifth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 264 yards per game, and are first in interceptions (13) and tied for first in sacks (19).
The Panthers, meantime, are coming off a bye week, and it was time much needed. Quarterback Tom Savage spent it healing from a concussion after he was sacked seven times by Virginia two weeks ago. He's been cleared to play.
The Hokies' Top 25 ranking is just a pat on the back on a journey to bigger goals.
"We're in the Top 25, but we're used to being in the top 10 and for me it doesn't feel any different than it has all year," redshirt senior quarterback Logan Thomas said. "Going out here, we're going to prepare the same way. We're going to practice hard the same way. We're just going to keep playing.
"I guess we've cracked it, but the way we feel is we still have a lot of work to do."
That work includes playing for an ACC championship.
Thomas last week tied a career-high with three touchdown passes, and became the Hokies' career leader in passing yardage. The QB said every week he and his receivers spend in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense means more understanding, better anticipation and, hopefully, more firepower.
"I'm starting to understand it pretty well," he said. "The things that we're doing, it kind of fits into my game. I'm able to go through my progressions a lot faster, get to the open the guys.
"The more I do it, the better I'll be at it."
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