MORGANTOWN – It’s been 16 years since Virginia Tech arrived in Morgantown in 2005.
The two teams have played once since then – a clash in 2017 at a neutral venue – as a once-flourishing rivalry fell apart. That’s the motivation for West Virginia heading into today’s game at Puskar Stadium.
More so, the Hokies come into the game ranked 15th in the country, giving the Mountaineers an opportunity to make a statement.
“I really feel like we’re ready,” said linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo.
“The rivalry definitely adds a little more push to that. For a ranked team, we are delighted to welcome them to our building and (we want to) win back the (Black Diamond) trophy, of course. “
Mountaineers are positioned in troubled territory. A questionable Week 1 game against Maryland revealed flaws, while Long Island’s 66-0 loss last weekend highlighted the team’s strengths.
Yet questions remain.
Many of them reside in attack, as the Mountaineers have struggled to establish the same solid running game as a season ago. The squad were weakened by play on the offensive line, with head coach Neal Brown repeatedly stressing the need to improve play at both tackling positions.
Still, there are 10 games left in the season – plenty of time to turn the ship around.
“First two games, you’re kind of bringing out that nervousness,” said wide receiver Sean Ryan. “We faced each other at camp every day so that’s what we’re used to. I feel like there is a lot of potential in this attack and I’m looking forward to big things this season.
Mountaineers will seek to answer these questions today, but it will come with great difficulty. Virginia Tech enters after winning its first two games of the season, including the season opener against No. 10 North Carolina.
Quarterback Braxton Burmeister has been the focal point for the Hokies, as his athletic abilities make him a threat in several ways. He leads the team with 94 rushing yards in addition to 311 yards and two touchdowns in the air.
Defensively, Virginia Tech ranks first among ACC teams in interceptions, as well as third in total defense. Defensive end Amare Barno is a threat up front, leading the team with 3 1/2 tackles for a loss, while the team secondary is among the strongest in the Power 5.
“They really like to identify your weaknesses and attack them, that’s something I’ve seen,” Chandler-Semedo said. “What they showed against North Carolina and what they showed against Middle Tennessee were both very different, but they were both very successful at what they did because they are went exactly to their weaknesses. “
Whatever the outcome today, mountaineers understand that they are still a work in progress.
“We have a great running back in the backfield; we want to play for him, ”Ryan said. “We want to block for him, we want to create big plays for him and give him some momentum. We have a great quarterback that we’re trying to build and put him at ease and get back to the things we love to do and the things we’ve been successful in… I think the loss (of Maryland) has brought us closer together. ; it showed us a lot of things we need to work on as a team.