Virginia Tech senior receiver Danny Coale remembers the same storyline from a year ago – the senior class had a chance to finish the season as the winningest in school history.
Now it’s his turn.
Winning at Virginia Tech has become as much of a tradition as defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s storied lunch pail – so much so that the four of the past five senior classes – including this year’s – have reached the 42-win mark in their careers. The winningest class in school history is currently the 2007 class, which finished 42-11. The Class of 2008 went 42-12 and the Class of 2010 went 42-13. This senior class is currently 42-11 heading into Saturday’s Dr. Pepper ACC championship game against Clemson.
Not only would a victory on Saturday break a school record for the most wins in a four-year span by a senior class, the 2011 seniors would also become only the second group in school history to win consecutive outright conference championships, and the redshirt seniors would go to their fourth BCS bowl game and fifth bowl overall.
“I guess it's kind of like a big brother/little brother type of thing,” starting safety Eddie Whitley said. “You don't want to disappoint the guys that's been here before you. And they put their hard work into it. And we just want to keep the winning tradition going as much, as far as we can. And that's probably basically the whole thing, is we just don't want to let the alumni that's put their work in in trying to get this program to where it's at right now, we don't want to put them, let them down.
“So that's probably the biggest thing is just knowing that the guys out there that paved the way for us to get where we are at now and give the opportunities that we have to play in big-time games and things like that, we don't want to let them down. So that's probably the reason that we just keep topping each other year in, year out.”
Senior receivers Jarrett Boykin and Coale have certainly done their part along the way. Coale is best remembered for an 81-yard catch against Nebraska in the waning moments of the teams' 2009 meeting that set up Dyrell Roberts’ clinching 11-yard touchdown catch in the 16-15 victory. Boykin’s 39-yard touchdown reception gave the Hokies the lead for good in the 40-31 win at NC State last year, the team's biggest comeback under coach Frank Beamer.
They are the top two at Tech in both all-time receptions and receiving yards.
“I think it comes down to a few things,” Coale said of the program’s recent senior success. “But I think there's an expectation around here that when you come, in you're being recruited into a program that's had a lot of success, that prides itself on excellence and winning and getting to championships.
“So when it's your turn to be called upon and you want to add to that winning, you don't want to be the class that lets down that tradition. So I think there comes high expectation coming in here, and it's something that we pride ourselves on. It's something we expect to win, and we work really hard to do that. That's kind of the mentality of the program around here.”
Boykin enters Saturday’s game 127 yards shy of becoming just the fourth player in ACC history to have three seasons with 800 receiving yards. Boykin now has 54 catches, two away from breaking the school record for catches in a season (55 by Ernest Wilford in 2005).
In last year’s ACC championship game, Coale had six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown against Florida State. He needs six more catches to break Wilford’s record.
“Yeah, I'm proud of a lot of our seniors classes here lately, but this crowd does have a chance to go out as the winningest senior class ever,” Beamer said. “We've been fortunate to have a lot of good kids through here and to be able to win a lot of football games, and you don't do that without good players.”
Or high expectations.