Hokies, Yellow Jackets tangle on big stage again
The stage always seems big when No. 10 Virginia Tech and No. 20 Georgia Tech meet.
It's no different this year. The game Thursday night in Atlanta will give the winner a leg up in the chase for the ACC's Coastal Division title, and may represent the biggest game yet for first-year quarterbacks Logan Thomas of the Hokies and the Yellow Jackets' Tevin Washington.
Both know the stakes are high, but they are trying to approach it as just another game.
''I think we should approach every game the same way, and I've done that thus far,'' Thomas, a redshirt sophomore, said Tuesday. ''I am superstitious a little bit, but there's nothing that I change throughout the week. So hopefully I stay the same.''
The Hokies (8-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) lead the division, but could fall behind either the Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2) or Virginia (6-3, 3-2) if they lose to either team.
Washington isn't quite as new to this particular stage. He relieved an injured Joshua Nesbitt last season when the Yellow Jackets lost 28-21 on a Thursday night at Lane Stadium.
Washington led them on a game-tying touchdown march leading to Orwin Smith's 9-yard run with 2:34 left, but David Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff for the winning TD for the Hokies.
Losing that game, Washington said, has stayed with him ever since.
''That's been motivation to me for a lot of things, through the whole offseason, up to this point now,'' he said. ''I'm just ready to go play Thursday and come out and give it my best shot.''
Thomas has plenty of motivation, too.
The Hokies' offense started slow this season, then played better as Thomas grew more comfortable. But managing just 14 points in their last game at Duke raised questions again.
''I think we kind of have that chip on our shoulder that we have to prove ourselves every week,'' he said. ''We're always doubted as an offense. The defense is always known, but we're always doubted as an offense. Yeah, I think it's about that time that we go out there and show what we're capable of. In the previous games we've shown we're capable of putting up a lot of points, putting up a lot of yardage, and hopefully that carries over to Thursday night.
''If so, I think some people will recognize what we can do.''
One of the keys for the Hokies will be hanging onto the ball for long stretches.
''I think keeping the ball and how you do it, whether you throw it or you run it, that's not the issue,'' Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. ''The issue is that you do it, and then come up with some points. You can't only just keep the ball away. You've got to get some points.''
The Yellow Jackets' triple-option is widely regarded as one of the toughest running games to stop in college football, but their passing game has shown plenty of explosiveness, too.
Washington has thrown four of the 10-longest completions in the ACC this season, and Georgia Tech started the year out by throwing for 365 yards in a victory against Western Carolina. In his last start, conversely, Washington ran for 176 yards in a victory against Clemson.
''Hopefully he got some confidence back,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said of his quarterback, whose rushing yardage was a school record at the position. ''I don't know that Tevin ever really lacked for confidence. But any time you play well, it's got to be a plus.''
Thomas, for certain, isn't shying away from his first game in the national spotlight.
''Both teams get pumped up for a night time game, jacked up and ready to go,'' he said. ''It's the only game on TV at the time. We're all in the limelight and this is where people see what you're made of.''
And, perhaps, where championships can be decided.
''This doesn't guarantee it for either one of us, but whoever wins it got a real advantage to win the Coastal championship,'' Beamer said. ''I think No. 1, you play like heck to try to get yourself at this time of year, in November, to be able to play for championships, and games mean something. There's no question whoever wins this one has the upper hand.''