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No. 20 Virginia Tech preparing for big Labor Day opener against No. 19 FSU and its tomahawk-chopping fans

August 31, 2018

BLACKSBURG — They heard it during summer conditioning runs. They’ve heard it in practices in the indoor facility this fall.

Monday night, Virginia Tech will get to hear Florida State’s “war chant” and see the tomahawk chop.

“In the summer, on Mondays, we were running outside in sweatshirts and sweatpants, all black, getting ready for the heat in Tallahassee,” senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker said. “And while we were running, they were playing the chant song, the chop.”

The past two weeks, the No. 20 Hokies have practiced with artificial crowd noise being piped into their indoor facility.

“They’ll ramp up the volume, and we’ll just simulate a crowd, basically. You can’t hear,” sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson said. “It’s a loop of crowd noise. And then they’ll do the chant as well.”

While some players admit they’re sick of hearing the droning chant — popularized by the FSU marching band in the 1980s and adopted by the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s — others said the equally iconic and irritating chant has been a rallying cry of sorts for the Hokies this offseason.

“Yeah, it gets us pumped up,” senior offensive tackle Yosuah Nijman said. “It’s just a reminder of what we’re doing and what we’re doing it for, a reminder that all the hard work we’re doing is for something, moving toward something.”

The heat, crowd and chant are all part of what makes Monday night’s opener at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., such a daunting start. Those challenges further complicate the one of facing first-year coach Willie Taggart’s talent-laden roster in a conference game.

“I would say this: It would not be my first choice, quite honestly,” third-year Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “But I’m not going to pout about it. … If I was picking, I would probably not choose that.”

Big early games are nothing new for Fuente. His second game as the Hokies coach came against Tennessee in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway, in front of the largest crowd to ever attend a college football contest. Tech lost 45-24.

Last year, the then-No. 21 Hokies opened with a 31-24 win over then-No. 22 West Virginia at FedEx Field.

This will be Virginia Tech’s first season opener against a ranked conference opponent. It’s the fifth ACC opener with two ranked teams playing each other. The past three pitted Florida State against Miami in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“I think this game right here ... this is something you dream about your whole life,” sophomore wide receiver Sean Savoy said. “Being on this stage with millions of people watching and thousands of people being at the game, and just everybody from back home supporting you, it’s a dream come true for me.”

It’s the third time since joining the ACC that Tech will open with a league game and the first time since 2012, when it beat Georgia Tech 20-17 in overtime in Blacksburg. It also beat N.C. State to kick off the 2005 season.

“I love night games. I love big games,” Nijman said. “It gives me a feeling like you’ve got to put your best out there. Your family’s watching. Your friends are watching. They want to see you execute and play well. I love those games. I love games like this.”

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