Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Despite its season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech hasn’t given up its dream of playing for the national title this season.
“It’s still a goal of ours,” said quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “We still want to get to that national title, but we have to take it one game at a time and deal with the team we have each week.”
For the next two Saturdays, the Hokies have a chance to knock off two more teams ranked among the top 20 in the Associated Press Top 25, starting this weekend with No. 19 Nebraska and Sept. 26 against No. 20 Miami -- both home games. The Hokies struggled to get their offense going in a respectable performance against a stingy Alabama defense, but turned around and ran all over Marshall in a 52-10 drubbing. Odds are Virginia Tech’s true identity lies somewhere in between, and Nebraska -- a program that appears to be on the rise under Bo Pelini -- is a fitting opponent to prove it.
“We took it personally when we lost to Alabama,” said tight end Sam Wheeler. “We wanted to come out and show the nation that that game, we weren’t ourselves.
“This week we’re playing a team that’s just as good as our first game. Their defense is the same, it’s just different athletes on the team. We feel that if we come out these next two weeks and prove ourselves, and we play to our ability the best games we can play, then that shows something about this team. That shows that we can bounce back, and we’re going to fight for it the rest of the season.”
So far, Virginia Tech’s offense has performed at both ends of the spectrum. In their 34-24 loss to the Crimson Tide, the Hokies totaled only 155 yards of offense. In their rout of Marshall last week, Virginia Tech amassed 605 yards of total offense -- the most ever under offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. Freshmen running backs David Wilson and Ryan Williams became the first running back combo in school history to each eclipse 160 yards rushing in the same game. Virginia Tech had 444 rushing yards.
Taylor said he is hoping that the Hokies’ performance on the ground last Saturday forces Nebraska to respect their running game early, and that will in turn open things up in the passing game.
“I believe it’s going to help us a lot,” Taylor said. “They’re going to have to play more people in the box. We’re going to throw the football. That’s the game plan, to try to stretch the field and of course get the running game going, but it’s going to open up some holes in the passing game.”
If it does, a win would keep Virginia Tech in the forefront of the national picture and could be used as a springboard heading into a critical Coastal Division matchup against Miami.
“Anytime you can beat a program like that, it means something,” coach Frank Beamer said. “There’s no question it means something. But I’m going to tell you, it’s going to be a challenge for our team to beat this crowd right here. You that video on on these guys, and you want to turn it off.”
The landscape of college football has changed, though, and now the Huskers find themselves looking up at the Hokies. When asked this week if the program is closer to where it needs to be in the national picture, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said they’re getting closer, but not where they want to be yet.
“Every week is a measuring stick,” Pelini said. “We have to measure ourselves according to where we want to be and how were executing. It’s the way it is. You have to measure yourself every day. Are you improving every day? Are you getting better every day? Are you competing to be the best every day? You have to make improvement and this week is just the next step.”
Beamer said Nebraska is back, and that last year’s 35-30 road win over the Huskers won’t be a factor in this game.
“They went through a bit of a tough spell there, but they’re back now,” Beamer said. “I think they’re a better football team than what they were last year, and I think we’ve got the potential to be a better football team than what we were, but I think it remains to be seen if that’s going to take place.”