Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer admits to lobbing a few grenades Virginia’s way over the years, but something about Cavaliers offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild‘s radio comments a few weeks ago rubbed him the wrong way.
At the end of a 12-minute interview, when talking about Virginia’s nine-game losing streak in the series, the first-year coordinator said: “UVa should not lose to Virginia Tech. I’ve been on both campuses, and I’m new to the area and I’m just giving you kind of an unbiased feel here.”
Beamer, a Virginia Tech grad, took it as a slight to the school.
“It bothered me, greatly,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t …
“I thought it was odd for an assistant coach to say that statement. If you feel that way that you shouldn’t lose to Virginia Tech, more power to you if you feel that way about your team. That’s your decision. But I had a problem with the ‘you’ve been on both campuses part’ of his interview. ‘I’ve been on both campuses and there’s no reason for us to ever lose to Virginia Tech.’ I have a problem with that statement.”
The younger Beamer, who is Public Enemy No. 1 in many UVa circles, has tweaked the Cavaliers from time to time over the years. He tweeted earlier this year that the Hokies’ attendance against Western Carolina, though not a sellout, was still the largest in the state that day. He did so without specifically mentioning Virginia, which hosted Oregon that afternoon.
“I’m sorry, but recruits follow me on Twitter, and if I can’t point out we had more fans in the stands than they did, I don’t think that’s taking a shot at UVa,” Beamer said.
Beamer tweeted good luck to the Mississippi State baseball team last summer right before it took on Virginia in the super regional, although he said that was simply wishing well the Bulldogs staff he got to know during his time as a coach at MSU.
A couple years ago, Beamer remarked before the spring game that UVa might get about 8,000 in attendance, which he called, somewhat condescendingly, “a nice little crowd.”
“Looking back on it in hindsight, 20-20, maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing for me to say,” he said. “I’ll say it. But it’s a rivalry. It’s a joke. I spent too many years around Steve Spurrier. That’s my problem.”
Fairchild’s campus comment, he thought, was different.
“We don’t go on the road badmouthing Virginia in recruiting,” Beamer said. “We’ve got plenty of positives to sell here at Virginia Tech, so that’s what we do on the recruiting trail. And if you lose a recruit, it hurts. But if you lose one, you move on. But Virginia’s got a great school, Virginia Tech’s got a great school, and I don’t know why a guy that’s lived here in Virginia less than a year needs to be taking a shot at our school. …
“Maybe I’m putting too much into it, but I just perceive it as you saying, ‘I’ve been on UVa’s campus. I’ve been on Virginia Tech’s campus, and there’s no comparison.’ And I don’t appreciate that, because we don’t negative recruit.”
Beamer, who said he he has a cordial relationship with UVa’s other coaches but hasn’t met Fairchild and doesn’t “have a desire to,” didn’t let the comment go. He played it for his running backs as motivation and sent a link of the interview to the other Hokies’ coaches.
“What they want to do, they can deal with it,” he said.
Despite all the extracurricular talk, Beamer said Tech’s focus is on what it needs to do to win the game, not Fairchild’s comments.
“We respect them. I hope they respect us,” Beamer said. “Talking is not going to win this game.”
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Here are a few more notes and quotes from Tuesday night …
– On the injury front, things don’t sound too optimistic that cornerback Antone Exum will be able to go this week. Both he and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said they hoped he could be a gametime decision.
“It looks like it’s going to be close. Doesn’t look great right now the first couple days,” Gray said. “You always prepare to be without him, and then if you’ve got him, it’s extra.”
Exum has been limited since spraining an ankle against Miami two and a half weeks ago. He missed the Maryland game, which was Senior Day.
“I can’t predict how it’s going to react the next couple of days, so all I can do is just keep rehabbing hard and then doing what I can in practice and then hopefully I can go on Saturday,” Exum said. “But maybe not.”
– Safety Kyshoen Jarrett (toe) was in blue Tuesday, although head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said he should be good to go for Saturday. Offensive lineman Mark Shuman was in blue as well. Running back Joel Caleb (quad) remained in a green, no-contact jersey. He wasn’t even in pads.
– Gray said losing senior cornerback Kyle Fuller for 4-6 weeks because of core muscle surgery was a tough blow.
“It was the darndest thing unfortunately for him, because he was having such a great year,” Gray said.
Fuller had surgery last week, but that was after a few weeks when the Hokies hoped the muscle would heal on its own. It never did, although Gray doesn’t second-guess the decision to wait and see if it would.
“It’s something that was unforeseen,” Gray said. “He’s never had it before. You don’t know what extent it is. It’s like, OK, I had a groin injury my whole career almost, and it’s something that I played through, so you think it’s something down in his groin area and it’s going to get better with time. It just never got better unfortunately.”
– Fuller and Exum’s absence has meant a larger role for redshirt freshman Der’Woun Greene, who comes in as the safety in the nickel package. The Portsmouth product, who played multiple positions, including quarterback, coming out of Woodrow Wilson High, started as a receiver at Tech before moving to corner midway through last year. He moved to safety in the spring.
He said Gray doesn’t give him much more advice than, “Do what you do.” Even though he’s young, expectations aren’t lowered.
“You can’t lose a beat,” Greene said, “because once you get in with that first team, they expect you to play like a first-team player. So that’s what that is.”
– Shane’s comments about Fairchild drew most of the attention Tuesday night, but he had very high praise for a couple of UVa defenders.
He called defensive tackle Brent Urban, who just returned from a leg injury, “a heck of a player.” The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban returned against Miami last week after missing four games and had two tackles for a loss.
“You watch him against anybody, he’s disrupting things up front,” Beamer said. “Whether you watch him against Miami or whoever, teams are having a hard time blocking that guy. He plays hard. He’s physical. He’s a load inside just because of his sheer size. There’s no question they’re a different defense with him in the game. … So he’s a load. And we’ve had to spend a lot of time trying to game plan for him.”
– Beamer had similar praise for middle linebacker Henry Coley, who leads the Cavaliers with 85 tackles.
“I talked to another coach in this league last week that had played Virginia and he felt like that’s the best linebacker they’ve played this year,” Beamer said. “And they’ve played Florida State too. He’s a stud versus the run.”
– Defensive line coach Charley Wiles thinks Virginia has plenty of offensive talent, it just comes down to turnovers. The Cavaliers have 25 turnovers in 11 games, tied for 106th nationally and 13th in the ACC.
“The quarterback [David Watford] is a dynamic athlete,” Wiles said. “Obviously, he’s got to take care of the football. You can’t turn over the ball. That’s the deal. But he gives them a dynamic at the position, now, because he can run. I know that’s what was probably the difference in the competition, was a guy who can take off. And he can. And he’s proven that. Just got to take care of the ball.”
– Exum might not play Saturday, but he still offered his thoughts about the rivalry. He doesn’t want to be on the team that lets Virginia Tech’s winning streak against Virginia end. Does he worry about that?
“No,” Exum said bluntly. “We won’t be that group.”