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The Hokies have been the favorites in each of their last four meetings with the Panthers, and lost each time.
Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage has thrown for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
BLACKSBURG — To start his weekly news conference, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer rattled off a list of accomplished teams that don’t currently have four-game winning streaks against the Hokies.
It included Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Clemson, Florida State and Miami.
The same can’t be said of Pittsburgh (3-1, 2-1 ACC), which comes to Lane Stadium today to face Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0) having beaten the Hokies in its last four matchups, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is tied for the second-longest any team has had against Beamer.
“I think facts are facts,” Beamer said. “And this is a football team that’s talented.”
Florida State and Miami both managed at least four-game winning streaks against Beamer, although that was early in his tenure, back when both schools were winning national championships.
Since 2001, the beginning of Pittsburgh’s four-game winning streak against the Hokies, the Panthers have cycled through coaches and are 90-74, with only three nine-win seasons, making Tech’s struggles more puzzling.
“They’ve always had good players,” Beamer said, trying to make sense of the streak. “I think Pennsylvania’s a great state for football. There’s toughness in their players, and that’s what you’re used to finding in that area. And they’ve always had good coaches.
“When you put those three things together, you’d better be ready to play a heck of a ballgame.”
The drought is somewhat misleading. Three of those wins came in the early 2000’s, back when both Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh were still in the Big East. It was so long ago, receiver Larry Fitzgerald figured prominently into two of those wins.
Only last year’s matchup — a decidedly one-sided affair in which the Panthers trampled the Hokies at Heinz Field 35-17, exposing Tech’s numerous flaws for the first time — involved both of the teams’ current coaching staffs.
Still, the fact remains that Tech has been ranked and a clear favorite in each of its last four matchups against Pitt and lost every time. Coincidentally, the Hokies re-entered the rankings this week, coming in at No. 24 after a year-long absence that began with (guess what?) the loss at Pittsburgh last season.
The Hokies struggled across the board in that game. The offense committed four turnovers, a forgettable performance but not one entirely out of line with that group’s showing the rest of the year.
Things have changed since. Quarterback Logan Thomas has made up for the Hokies’ lack of a ground game, completing 38 of 53 passes (71.7 percent) for 514 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in ACC games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina the last two weeks.
Tech’s defense seeks its own redemption from last year’s Pitt game. The Panthers ripped the Hokies to the tune of 537 yards, having equal parts success on the ground and in the air.
Pitt has had turnover on offense since then. Quarterback Tino Sunseri, running backs Ray Graham and Rushel Shell and receiver Mike Shanahan are gone.
But their replacements have been plenty capable. Quarterback Tom Savage has thrown for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games, hooking up with the ACC’s most prolific receiving duo, Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, who have combined for 44 catches, 870 yards and seven scores.
Freshman running back James Conner, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound bruiser, has 353 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Consider the latest stop on the Hokies’ October revenge tour. Tech avenged a similarly lousy defensive performance last season against UNC with a 27-17 win last week, holding the Tar Heels to 10 points until the final minute.
Tech’s defense is currently ranked fifth nationally, giving up 263.7 yards per game, although the Hokies know the kudos they’ve received is fleeting.
“If we lose a game, nobody’s going to think we’re a good defense,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “We’re on top top of the pedestal, and we’d like to stay there.”
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