Hokies visit Wake with eye on bowl eligibility
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — The only thing standing between Virginia Tech and a 22nd straight bowl berth is the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Yet coach Frank Beamer is wary of slumping Wake Forest.
The Hokies (5-5, 2-4) will earn bowl eligibility with a victory over the Demon Deacons (2-8, 0-6) on Saturday.
Beamer calls Wake Forest — the only team winless in ACC play — a “very dangerous football team” because three of their conference losses came by reasonably close scores.
The two-touchdown-favorite Hokies are coming off their 17-16 upset of No. 19 Duke. They say the focus is on themselves — not on extending the nation’s second-longest active bowl streak, one that began in 1993.
“I think everyone knows how many games you have to win to be eligible for a bowl, but ... the only thing we can control is how we play this week,” Beamer said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
Wake Forest, meanwhile, is simply looking for signs that things are indeed improving.
Any trace of positive momentum generated by closer-than-expected home losses to Boston College and Clemson was wiped out during last week’s 42-13 loss to North Carolina State that extended the league’s longest active losing streak to six.
First-year coach Dave Clawson called it “probably our worst defensive effort of the year.”
“If we show up in the next two weeks like we did at N.C. State, it’s going to be hard to feel like it’s going forward,” Clawson said.
Some things to know about the Hokies’ first visit to Winston-Salem since 2011:
MEET YOU AT THE QB: Bud Foster’s high-pressure defense could have a big day against Wake Forest’s porous offensive line. DEs Dadi Nicolas, who ranks third in the ACC with 7.5 sacks, and Ken Ekanem helped the Hokies ring up four sacks against a Duke team that entered having allowed four sacks all year. The Demon Deacons have given up an ACC-worst 37 sacks.
TECH’S TAILBACKS: J.C. Coleman is back as the starter at tailback for the injury-riddled Hokies, who have lost three running backs this season. The latest to go down was freshman Marshawn Williams, who suffered a knee injury in the Duke win. Coleman, who started the opener against William & Mary before he was replaced, rushed for 95 yards against Duke.
THE SERIES: No ACC school is closer to Virginia Tech than Wake Forest but the teams are playing for just the fifth time as conference rivals. The Hokies have won five straight in the series — the last three by at least 20 points apiece.
OFFENSIVE OFFENSE: It’s been a struggle all season for the Demon Deacons to move the ball and it doesn’t figure to get any easier against Virginia Tech. Wake Forest has the worst offense in the Bowl Subdivision, averaging just 204.6 total yards, and no team rushes for fewer yards than the Demon Deacons (34.1 ypg). “On offense,” Clawson said, “there is no relief.”
0-FOR-THE-HOKIES: Receiver E.J. Scott spent four years at Virginia and was never part of a team that beat the Hokies, losing four games by an average of 18 points. He transferred to Wake Forest for his final season as a graduate student and would like to end that streak during his final home game. “Not too good memories,” Scott said of those Virginia-Virginia Tech games. “I’m trying to change that my last time going against them.”