Virginia Tech once dominated on the road, but not anymore.
The Hokies have lost their last seven games away from Lane Stadium, and now face one they can't lose if they hope to extend their bowl streak to 20 seasons. They play at Boston College on Saturday.
Virginia Tech (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered this season 27-5 in conference road games, and has lost all three league road games this year. The Hokies' 48-34 loss at North Carolina on Oct. 6 ended a string of 13 consecutive victories in the Tar Heel state, and now they have no margin for error. One more loss and their bowl streak will end.
Cornerback Antone Exum thinks even modest postseason hopes will be motivation enough to end the slide.
"I don't think that will be an issue," he said, "just for the simple fact it's one of those games we have to win. Whether it's at Boston College, Tech, the practice field, parking lot, we're going to have to win the game. I think guys will be energized and ready to play because they know what's at stake."
The Hokies' other league road losses came at No. 11 Clemson and Miami, and they also lost at Pittsburgh and to Cincinnati at FedEx Field this season. Players have offered theories, ranging from taking Pitt lightly, to playing good teams, and playing in front of crowds that didn't seem passionately connected to either team.
Even the crowd at the Washington Redskins' home stadium, which presumably would have been very slanted in the Hokies' favor, left players feeling as though they were far removed from their fan base.
Sophomore safety Kyshoen Jarrett doesn't think any of the reasons are acceptable.
"I don't even know what it is as an overall team," he said. "I don't know if there is like a mental block. I don't know why there would be. We go through the same routine whether it's a home game or an away game, because the coaches, they want to make sure our heads are in the game at all times."
Even with the Eagles in the midst of a very poor season (2-8, 1-5), and the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics in season, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas thinks fans will show up on Saturday. This rivalry stretches to the teams' time in the Big East, and they have twice played for the ACC title.
"Last time I played there, the fans were in the stands ready to go," Thomas said. "I kind of expect that to be the same when we go play them this week because we've kind of developed a rivalry with them the past couple of years. Their fans always love to see us come into town, kind of like our fans like to see them come into town.
"If they don't show up, then that's fine. We've still got to go handle our business."
Coach Frank Beamer hopes they do. He remains puzzled by how it all turned so quickly.
"Before that streak, I thought we had a pretty good streak of wins away from home," the coach said of the seven losses in a row, which include the final two games of last season. "We really don't do anything different. We have talked this season about mental toughness and physical toughness away from home. I think there's something to that.
"Other than that, I think the effort has been good. We just haven't gotten it done."
The Hokies have been among the elite teams in the country for more than a decade, and were picked to win the ACC's Coastal Division again this year. They also tend to draw an opponent's best effort.
"I think we've played some good football teams away from here and got teams who played extremely well against us," Beamer said. "Again, we haven't played as well as we need to, that's for sure."
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