The Virginia Tech Hokies hit the road again this weekend to take on a battered Boston College team that will be looking to make its final home stand.
Tech and BC have played every year since 1993, except in 2004, with the Hokies holding a commanding 14-6 advantage over the Eagles; two of those wins came in ACC Championship games, but this Saturday’s matchup won’t be nearly as prestigious.
The Hokies enter the game at 4-6 in a must-win situation if they hope to keep their 19-year bowl streak alive. While Tech is favored heavily in the match, one can’t ignore the 0-7 elephant in the room that is the Hokies' losing streak away from home.
Head coach Frank Beamer isn’t exactly sure why the Hokies fortunes on the roadhave been so poor, but thinks some small part of it may have to do with toughness.
“Really, we don't do anything different,” Beamer said. “We have talked this season about your mental toughness and physical toughness away from home. I think there's something to that. But other than that, I think the effort's been good.
"We just haven't gotten it done. I think we played some good football teams away from here and got teams that played extremely well against us away from here. But again, we haven't played as well as we need to, that's for sure.”
While BC may not be considered a good team this season, it’s not hard to imagine that the Eagles, a long-time rival of the Hokies, would love to play spoiler and end Tech’s bowl streak.
“I think Boston College is a typical, very physical football team,” Beamer said. “Very big up front both ways. Defensively, they make you drive the field, keep things in front of them. They execute extremely well and their quarterback is throwing the ball for a lot of yardage — I think completing 57 percent of his passes, 16 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Just a very well-coached, tough football team.”
Though the Hokies lost last Thursday, they should be carrying some confidence this week as they did put out one of their best performances of the year, nearly toppling No. 10 Florida State. Tech’s focus will be on trying to keep that momentum, as consistent play has evaded the Hokies all season.
Boston College ranks poorly in nearly every statistical category save for passing yards where they rank 32nd overall nationally. BC’s quarterback Chase Rettig has had an up-and-down year, showing flashes of brilliance with 2,803 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, but has been inconsistent in his play.
The Hokies will look to get some serious pressure on Rettig to force him to make mistakes, similarly to their attack of FSU’s EJ Manuel. The Eagles don’t offer much in the ground attack, ranking 122nd nationally in rushing yards per game, so Tech should be able to focus on shutting Rettig and his go-to receiver, Alex Amidon, down.
Tech’s offense should be holding its head a little higher going into the game against BC, as it totaled 385 yards against the Seminole’s No. 1 ranked defense, with quarterback Logan Thomas throwing for 298 yards.
“We’re confident because we’ve done so many things well,” Thomas said. “We haven’t put it all together. I guess that’s what it’s all about — putting it all together. Everybody has seen flashes of our offense being almost unstoppable and then you’ve seen times where we can’t even move the ball.
“That’s just the consistency thing. That’s what makes it encouraging, because when we are playing well, we’re playing hard, physical, intense, and we are extremely tough to stop.”
While Thomas did throw two pivotal interceptions last week, he should be able to focus on his passing against BC.
The Eagles have one of the nation’s worst run defenses, which should allow the Hokies to establish a solid ground attack. Notably, against FSU, Thomas had his rushing attempts cut in half, leading to his best passing yardage total of the season; with that in mind, BC will have to respect the air attack, putting even more pressure on their struggling run defense.
Thomas will surely see his share of rushing yards, but if the offensive line owns the line of scrimmage and the tailbacks shoulder most of the load, he won’t have to worry about carrying both the rushing and passing attacks like he has in previous games.
"Logan takes a big enough pounding as it is right now,” Beamer said. “And we don't want to ask him to have to run the ball 20 times a game. We want some other guys to be able to carry the load as well, tailback wise. But at the same time, whatever gives us the best chance to win is what we're gonna do. If that means running Logan a bunch, then we're gonna run Logan.
“A lot of our runs with Logan are decisions where he has the decision to give it, keep it, throw it or whatever it might be. He's got a lot of decisions he that makes before the ball is snapped and after the ball is snapped and it just so happens that a lot of those have been him keeping the ball."
The Hokies and Eagles kickoff Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on The ACC Network.