Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer walked into his weekly news conference Monday afternoon armed with a list of facts, and none had to do with the fact that his team had finally returned to the national polls after more than a year spent unranked.
While their 5-1 record is beginning to earn the Hokies some recognition, it’s also a reminder of what happened the last time they were ranked: They got mauled at Pittsburgh, 35-17, in a game many players deemed the worst of the 2012 season, a notable distinction considering Beamer finished that campaign with his worst record in 20 years.
Coincidentally, the Panthers are scheduled to visit Lane Stadium for the first time in 11 years Saturday. Virginia Tech hasn’t defeated Pittsburgh since 2000.
“This is a team that we’ve had a hard time beating,” Beamer said. “They’ve gotten us the last four times and going back and checking, Alabama hasn’t done that. LSU hasn’t done that. Texas A&M hasn’t done that. Clemson hasn’t done that. Florida State hasn’t done that. Miami hasn’t done that. But Pittsburgh has.”
This, it seems, has removed some of the luster from Virginia Tech’s new status. The Hokies are currently No. 24 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the coaches’ poll after their 27-17 victory over North Carolina on Saturday, their fifth straight win after losing to No. 1 Alabama to start the season.
It’s the first time Virginia Tech has been ranked since it started 2-0 last year before its trip to Pittsburgh. Going unranked for 19 consecutive polls marked the most time Virginia Tech had spent outside the top 25 since 2003-2004, when it fell out of the national polls for nine weeks.
Not that the distinction seems to matter at this point.
“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,” 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.”
Thomas noted Tuesday that the strained abdomen that has limited him in practice the past two weeks is now “95 percent” healthy. He’s still dealing with lingering issues from a sprained foot suffered at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26.
Wide receiver Willie Byrn pegged himself at “85 percent” healthy and expects to be available again Saturday. He played through a sprained MCL against North Carolina, finishing with a career-high 123 receiving yards.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Coach Paul Chryst announced Monday that quarterback Tom Savage has been cleared to play Saturday after suffering concussion-like symptoms in a 14-3 win over Virginia last month. He was sacked seven times by the Cavaliers in that game.
But Savage, a 23-year-old transfer who previously played at Rutgers and Arizona, wasn’t a part of last year’s game between Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. That, though, doesn’t mean the Hokies have forgotten the experience.
“Watching that game, it’s kind of disgusting just to watch it,” linebacker Tariq Edwards said. “Just like last week, watching us against UNC [last year]. Just watching how both teams ran the ball on us and that’s one of the first things. 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.”