“How ’bout that [butt]-whupping?” Foster said with a grin on his face.
It was a boisterous moment from a coaching staff that doesn’t often gloat. But after a week of hearing about Virginia’s resurgence and how the Hokies hadn’t beaten anyone of consequence to merit a No. 5 Bowl Championship Series ranking, this latest blowout win over its in-state rival — this one 38-0 — meant a little more to Virginia Tech, which clinched the ACC Coastal Division title.
“The guys definitely took it as a slap in the face,” quarterback Logan Thomas said of all the attention paid to Virginia this week. “Nobody was really talking about us, and they were all talking about Virginia and how good Virginia was gonna play and how well they’re gonna do. We kind of took it as a slap in the face and we wanted to play hard and make the outcome the way it was.”
It all started last weekend, when the Cavaliers shocked many ACC observers by defeating Florida State in Tallahassee. Then the latest BCS ratings were revealed and, after a wave of upsets, the Hokies suddenly found themselves with a remote chance of making a run to the BCS championship game if things fell right.
That led ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to criticize the Hokies’ strength of schedule on national television and say they had advanced too far in the polls without beating a team of consequence. Virginia, meanwhile, became media darlings because of its remarkable turnaround under Coach Mike London.
“It seemed like everywhere you looked it was Virginia Tech didn’t deserve to be where you are and they’re on upset alert. Everybody’s picking U-Va. in the papers,” said wide receiver Danny Coale, who delivered a fiery speech to his teammate in the team’s Charlottesville hotel before the game.
Added running back David Wilson, who finished with 153 yards and two touchdowns: “It was real weird. In the past years, we’ve been handling business with U-Va. They have a couple good wins and they have a great team, but just to hear them taking us out was motivation for us all week.”
All that perceived disrespect didn’t just galvanize the team’s stars, though. Even complementary pieces got in on the fun, which was perhaps the most impressive part of Saturday’s rout.
Wide receiver Marcus Davis finished with 118 receiving yards, his most since Virginia Tech’s season-opening win over Appalachian State. Linebacker Jack Tyler, a former walk-on from Oakton High, had a key fourth-down stop with Virginia inside the Hokies 10-yard line and then recovered a fumble before halftime.
In the second half, two players got their first career interceptions — cornerback Detrick Bonner and defensive end J.R. Collins — an apt ending for an injury-marred defense that allowed just 30 rushing yards and forced four turnovers.
And so as Virginia Tech walked off the field, senior safety Eddie Whitley took Foster’s renowned lunch pail — a symbol of the Hokies’ blue-collar approach to defense — and began filling it with grass from the Scott Stadium field. Next week, he said, they want to collect some grass from Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, as Virginia Tech can avenge its only loss of the year against Clemson in the ACC title game.
But if the slights of the past week were already forgotten, fellow safety Antone Exum made certain everyone was aware Virginia Tech’s motivation on this day.
“It’s still our state,” he said emphatically.