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The Hokies recognize the challenge they face against Alabama but aren't ready to surrender before the first snap.
The Roanoke Times | File April
Quarterback Logan Thomas predicts Virginia Tech will show “a different team than you are used to seeing” when the Hokies take on two-time defending national champion Alabama today (AP Photo/ The Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry)
Friday, August 30, 2013
BLACKSBURG - The leadup all offseason to Virginia Tech's season opener against No. 1 Alabama has focused on by how much, not if, the Crimson Tide will win tonight's game.
The Hokies are tired of hearing about a preordained Alabama victory.
"I can't really say the truth," defensive end James Gayle said when asked what he thinks, aware of the kind of bulletin board material it could provide, "but I'm tired of it.
"They're coming off a strong season last year and the national championship, so respect should be given. I just feel like we're not getting much on our end."
Virginia Tech will have its chance to respond on the field tonight, although it faces a tall task against the two-time defending national champions.
New offensive coaches and injuries aplenty leave numerous question marks for the Hokies, who are a 21-point underdog at some places, the first time they've been on the wrong end of a line that big since 1991.
Head coach Frank Beamer, who suffered through his worst season in 20 years last fall, has done nothing to dampen the hype around Alabama, calling it the best team the Hokies have ever played. History suggests a tough time. Virginia Tech is 0-7 all-time against the nation's No. 1 team, with Beamer being 0-6.
The players don't want to hear it.
"Maybe it's my background, coming from wrestling with [Tech] coach [Kevin] Dresser," center Andrew Miller said. "And one of his main sayings is, 'Never take a backseat to anybody.' And that's something I never do."
"I don't think anybody's really intimidated," linebacker Jack Tyler said. "Football's football. I think everybody's here for a reason. They wanted to play prime-time college football. And that's what this game's going to be. And everyone's excited for it. I don't think I see intimidation in anyone's eyes. I think I see a dog that's ready to pounce and to win a game."
What kind of dog?
"I was going to say a small dog but I didn't want to make us sound too weak," Tyler joked.
Still, the odds are against Virginia Tech pulling it out. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster likened the game to Hokies' 2004 opener, when they were unranked and facing unanimous No. 1 Southern California. Expected to be a blowout, the Hokies actually kept the game close, losing 24-13 in Landover, Md.
Although it was a loss, it foreshadowed what was actually a successful season, when Virginia Tech surprised many by winning the ACC.
"This game is not going to make or break our season," Foster said. "It'll be a great measuring stick for us. But I think our kids, we've got a lot of pride too. We've had a great tradition here. I think we'd like to uphold that tradition."
Quarterback Logan Thomas, who refined his mechanics in the offseason under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, wasn't making guarantees about the outcome, but he doesn't think the Hokies will be the pushover many are predicting.
"I can't put words in y'all's mouth or whatever, but I think y'all going to see a different team than you are used to seeing here at Virginia Tech," he said. "I think y'all are going to be writing about a chance of us having a superior season."
Beamer, for all he's talked up the Tide, made it clear that despite all the praise he's heaped on Alabama, his team isn't giving up before even taking the field, even though the Hokies are playing a team that hasn't lost a non-conference game since the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah.
"We're not conceding anything now," he said. "We're not going down that path."
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