Frank Beamer was unequivocal in his remarks about last year’s North Carolina game, calling it a “pounding,” a “hammering” and a “hammer job” in the first three minutes of his weekly press conference Monday.
Needless to say, the 48-34 loss the Hokies suffered in Chapel Hill last season is fresh on everyone’s mind with North Carolina coming to town this week.
“They just hammered us,” Beamer said. “So they certainly got our attention and our respect on that deal.”
The Tar Heels ran for 339 yards, getting 262 from running back Giovani Bernard (who’s now in the NFL), in last year’s rout. No individual had rushed for more yards against a Beamer-coached Virginia Tech team.
North Carolina also returned a kickoff for a touchdown, snapping the Hokies’ 19-year streak of not allowing one, and scored 48 points, the most ever in the history of the series.
“You definitely remember games,” Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said. “It was a tough one for us. … But last year is out of the way. We remember the loss. We don’t want to take a loss like that again, and I think that’s going to help motivate us and get us better for this upcoming week.”
North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC) isn’t coming in on a high note, however. The Tar Heels lost their opener 27-10 at South Carolina. They dropped their ACC opener at Georgia Tech two weeks ago, blowing a 20-7 lead in a 28-20 loss. And last week, they fell 55-31 to East Carolina at home, giving up 603 yards to a team that Hokies beat 15-10 in Greenville a few weeks ago.
Given how unpredictable college football has been this year, Beamer doesn’t see that as a sign that UNC won’t be competitive come Saturday.
“I can’t tell you the reason,” Beamer said. “But you better be ready to play every Saturday. We learned that last year. When you think things are about right, that’s when they’re about to go wrong, so you better be ready to play each week.”
A win this week would put the Hokies in a favorable spot in the ACC Coastal standings. They’d have head-to-head wins against division rivals Georgia Tech and North Carolina, generally considered along with Virginia Tech and Miami as the four contenders. The Hokies play at Miami on Nov. 9.
“We really don’t care about that,” Thomas said.” We just try to go out and handle our business every week. For me, I don’t mind flying underneath the radar. You can put Miami up front, Georgia Tech up front, UNC up front, it doesn’t matter to me. We’re going to come out every week and prepare the same way and just try to keep getting better just because any week in college football is a special week for somebody.”
Here are some more notes and quotes from Monday’s press conference:
– First, some housekeeping items. Virginia Tech’s Oct. 12 game against Pittsburgh in Lane Stadium will be a noon kickoff. It will be televised by ESPNU.
– Three Hokies earned recognition by the ACC for their performances against Georgia Tech. Right guard Andrew Miller earned Offensive Lineman of the Week honors, defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins earned Defensive Lineman of the Week honors and cornerback Brandon Facyson earned co-Rookie of the Week honors.
Miller, from Bassett, had 11 knockdown blocks and graded out at 87 percent.
Hopkins was credited with a team-high seven tackles, five of which were solo stops against Georgia Tech’s option offense. He was also in on a key fourth-down stop late in the game.
Facyson, as I wrote about Sunday, finished with three tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and two pass breakups.
– There is no new news yet on cornerback Antone Exum‘s possible return this week. The senior cornerback, who had offseason surgery for a torn ACL and bone fracture, is in Pensacola, Fla., meeting with doctors soon. He hopes to be cleared in time to prepare for Saturday’s game.
Beamer said he hasn’t spoken with defensive coordinator Bud Foster or defensive backs coach Torrian Gray for how the Hokies would integrate Exum back into the lineup when he’s cleared.
“I think the first thing is, OK, when is he coming back?” he said. “And then let’s talk about the other parts.”
– Virginia Tech was plenty beat up after playing three games in a span of 13 days. Beamer gave the players Friday and Saturday off before returning to do light work in Sunday’s practice. Monday is a game planning day, with no practice.
The players needed the rest. Thomas showed up to Monday’s press conference in a walking boot because of a mild foot sprain. He said it’s fine and shouldn’t hinder him this week. But coupled with the abdominal strain he played through last week, he’s one beat-up quarterback.
“Everything I’ve done has been to myself,” he said. “It hasn’t been anything done to me. I just kind of planted funny on my foot, which made it pop. And my ab, I think I overstretched or something. Maybe I’m just getting old.”
“He’s tough,” Beamer said. “He fits toughness to a T. He’s that guy.”
Beamer said a lot of guys are banged up. Center David Wang snapped the ball with his opposite hand all of last week in practice because of a shoulder injury. He had to come out for a stretch last Thursday. Beamer said receiver Willie Byrn is “a little gimpy” after suffering an MCL strain in his knee. Both he and Thomas rehabbed together this weekend.
“I’ve got a bunch of tough-guy stories for you,” Beamer said. “And I like that.”
– At least one player found it tough to fill his free time over the weekend.
“Saturday I kind of got bored,” Miller said. “I didn’t really know what to do with myself, so I ended up doing some drills by myself. But it was definitely needed for our bodies to recover.”
– Kicker Cody Journell received a threatening phone call after missing a 25-yard field goal against Georgia Tech that would have put the game away. The senior has had his struggles lately. He missed two field goals and an extra point at ECU, with another field goal miss negated by a penalty. He was then suspended for the Marshall game for a violation of team rules.
Journell informed Virginia Tech about the threat midday Friday. It was then relayed to both the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg Police Department, who spoke with Journell and associate AD for football relations John Ballein. Unspecified precautions have been put in place.
Beamer said that’s the first case he’s heard of someone threatening a player.
“It’s something that you just don’t think about or should think about at the college level, pro level, high school level, whatever,” Beamer said. “Guys are out there doing their best, playing as hard as they can play. There’s no room for that as far as I’m concerned. …
“I’ll say this: that wasn’t a good Hokie fan. That was somebody else that wants to try to give your program a bad name. That wasn’t a good … the Hokies fans I know, that wasn’t them .That was somebody else.”
Beamer said he’s still not concerned about Journell’s kicking struggles.
“We went back out Sunday and every one is right down the middle, good height,” he said. “He just didn’t quite follow through on that second one. But the thing about Cody, he knows what went wrong. Some guys, they’re missing and they can’t figure it out. But he knows his rhythm, he knows his kick, and I feel good about it.”
– North Carolina runs an up-tempo offensive attack like East Carolina and Marshall again. The Hokies didn’t have to play shootouts in either of those contests, but they think they can if forced to.
“As our confidence is rising, I think we’re going to be able to do so,” Thomas said. “These guys, they’ve gotten a lot better the past two weeks — against ECU, against Marshall and this past week against Georgia Tech — I think their confidence is building. I think they understand how the offense is going now and I think we can start throwing a few more things at them as well. Like I have been saying, once these guys get their confidence, they’re going to be very good and big weapons for us, and they’re starting to do so now.”
– Virginia Tech is 4-1 this year, which isn’t only incrementally better than last year’s 3-2 start from a record perspective. But Thomas thinks things are different.
“I think when things got tough last year, we just kind of started becoming individuals,” Thomas said. “And this year we’ve stuck together as a group and as a team and when things get tough, we’ve just been able to rely on each other to get us out of jams.
“We’ve been able to do so thus far, and I think that’s just one of the big reasons is we’re all so close that we understand each other and we’re all willing to put it on the line for each other.”