BLACKSBURG, Va. — Among all the current players and coaches associated with the Virginia Tech football program, no one has more firsthand knowledge of the rivalry with Miami than Bud Foster.
The longtime Hokies defensive coordinator was there during the lean years, when Virginia Tech lost 12 in a row to the Hurricanes. Then Foster helped forge a turnaround during the mid- to late 1990s as Virginia Tech strengthened its foothold in the national landscape.
The defining game in that stretch, in Foster's eyes, was in October 1995, when both schools were members of the Big East Conference. The Hokies won, 13-7, in the third week of the season and didn't lose again on the way to beating Texas in the Sugar Bowl to finish 10-2.
Virginia Tech won its next four games against the Hurricanes in a matchup that has had plenty at stake — between 2000 and 2005, they played four times when both were in the top 10 — but perhaps not as frequently as the ACC might have expected since both joined the league in 2004.
Saturday night's meeting at Hard Rock Stadium will be the teams' first meeting in which both were ranked since Nov. 20, 2010, when the No. 14 Hokies beat the No. 24 Hurricanes, 31-17. A victory this time around for Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1 ACC) would steer the Hokies, No. 13 in the first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, toward the inside track for the ACC Coastal Division title.
No. 10 Miami (7-0, 5-0) can clinch the ACC Coastal by beating the Hokies combined with Georgia Tech defeating Virginia. The Hurricanes, winners of five national titles between the 1983 and 2001 seasons, have not won as much as a division crown since joining the ACC.
"It's going to be exciting," Foster said. "We've got a history with Miami, particularly starting back with the Big East and all that. We had a lot of battles with those guys, and we've had a lot of battles here in the ACC. I know Miami's a talented football team. A couple of those guys were on our staff here before, and I know how they're going to be after how the game turned out last year. I know they're going to be ready to play their best football."
Foster was referring to Hurricanes offensive line coach Stacy Searels and offensive quality control analyst Greg Nosal. Searels served as Virginia Tech offensive line coach in 2014-15, and Nosal spent three years as a graduate assistant for the Hokies, who battered Miami, 37-16, last season during a Thursday night showdown at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies registered eight sacks, a season high, and limited Miami to 42 rushing yards. The Hurricanes lost the next week at Notre Dame but since have reeled off 12 consecutive victories, the longest active streak in major college football.
"They look like what Miami should look like," said Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech's second-year coach. "They're big and athletic and well-coached and certainly have guys that can make big plays on you if you're not careful."
Virginia Tech has been especially attentive this season when it comes to ball security. The Hokies have committed just six turnovers, tied for the fifth-fewest in the country.
They've gone 11 consecutive quarters without a turnover, including not putting the ball on the ground once despite a driving rainstorm during last week's 24-3 dismantling of visiting Duke.
Virginia Tech's most recent turnover came in the first quarter of a 23-10 win at Boston College on Oct. 7, when Josh Jackson threw an interception. It was just the fourth interception this season for Jackson, a redshirt freshman. Jackson is ranked 16th nationally in passing efficiency (153.9) and last week eclipsed Hokies legend Michael Vick for the most passing yards by a freshman in Virginia Tech history. Earlier this season, Jackson passed Vick for the most passing touchdowns by a Hokies freshman. Jackson (2,032 yards, 17 touchdowns) also threw 99 consecutive passes without an interception to start his college career, the second-longest streak in school history.
"Maybe there's a realization of how important it is," Fuente said of the Hokies, for the most part, avoiding turnovers. "Maybe there's some pride in taking care of the ball that maybe was a little lacking. The biggest thing is, to me, it's one of the most important statistics, and obviously this week we're playing a team that has done a fantastic job of taking the ball away."
The Hurricanes lead the ACC in turnover margin (plus-1.43) and are sixth in the country in that category. They're also tied for 25th nationally in turnovers gained (16). In its most recent game, Miami forced four turnovers in a 24-19 win at North Carolina.
"It's a big game, especially for the Coastal," Jackson said. "It would be very big for us to get a win down there. We've got to go 1-0 and do whatever it takes to do that."