Hokies seek redemption; Bearcats want validation
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)
Only one of them can get what it wants when the teams meet Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
The Hokies (3-1) were knocked from the Top 25 by a 35-17 loss to then-winless Pittsburgh on Sept. 15. Only nine days earlier, the Bearcats (2-0) had manhandled the Panthers 34-10 in their Big East opener.
The Hokies think the matchup gives them a chance to show that one was an aberration.
''It would just show that that's not the football team that we are,'' cornerback Antone Exum said this week. ''If we come out and do our jobs against Cincinnati and are able to get a victory there, then it would show that maybe that Pittsburgh game was a fluke. Maybe we just weren't ready to play that day.''
The loss to Pittsburgh cost the Hokies their ultimate goal for the season - playing for the national championship - but they remain in control of their path to a spot in the ACC championship game.
The game is their final tuneup before they dive into conference play next weekend at North Carolina, and Exum said they need to build confidence by following last week's victory with a better performance.
''I think we're close,'' he said. ''It just comes down to how we practice and being consistent.''
The Bearcats will have something to say about that, too.
Cincinnati is coming off an open week, and used it to try to work out a tendency to turn the ball over. The Bearcats had six giveaways in their last game, a 23-7 victory against overmatched Delaware State.
The sloppiness was team-wide, but quarterback Munchie Legaux had four of the turnovers.
''We got to do a better job of taking care of the ball.'' Legaux said. ''It starts with me as a quarterback, the running backs running with the ball and also the receivers chinning the ball.''
The game also is a chance for Cincinnati to carry the banner for the Big East, just like Pittsburgh did against the Hokies. There's a perception, Legaux thinks, that the Big East gets little respect.
''We want to show we can compete on a high level with any conference in America. The Big East get overlooked a lot,'' he said. ''... We just want to go out and execute and play our game.''
Legaux is the key to that. The 6-foot-5, dual-threat threw two touchdown passes against Pitt and also ran for 117 yards, including a 77-yarder. He threw two interceptions and fumbled twice last game.
Quarterback play, while key, is not the only critical element, Bearcats coach Butch Jones said.
''We have to clean some things up on defense. We can't have self-inflicted wounds. We can't turn the football over,'' he said. ''We have to tackle well. We have to give us a chance and an opportunity.''
The Hokies hope they got they taken care of last week when they beat Bowling Green 37-0.
''It definitely felt good to come out and play well,'' linebacker Bruce Taylor said. ''It was still a bunch of little things that we could have done better. It's never as good as you think it is, because when you go back and watch the film, it's like, `We could have done that better' or, `We could have done this.'
''So just going out there and trying to play a complete game. Until we do that, we can always be better. But it does feel good to keep them out of the end zone or keep them to no points,'' he said.
Follow Hank Kurz Jr. on at www.Twitter.com/hankkurzjr