__Underdog Tribe travels to Blacksburg to take on 17th-ranked Hokies__
How do you top a thrilling double overtime victory? Try going on the road and defeating an FBS, formerly Division I-A, powerhouse. That’s exactly the task that awaits the Tribe this week as the College travels to Blacksburg Saturday to face Virginia Tech for the first time in over 20 years.
p.The Tribe is riding a high after squeaking out a victory over Liberty University last Saturday, giving the team back-to-back wins for the first time in two seasons. It’s a good thing, because the College will need every advantage it can get to pull off an upset of goliath proportions against Tech.
p. “When you are playing the big dogs, it’s always a great feeling,” junior cornerback Derek Cox said. “It’s like you’re playing your big brother, you get a chance to try to show them up. We’re going out there with goals of doing what Appalachian State did. We’re approaching it like business.”
p. Appalachian State University, an FCS (formerly Division I-AA) powerhouse, shocked the college football world three weeks ago after upsetting the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor. Michigan was ranked fifth in the nation at the time. Virginia Tech enters Saturday’s contest ranked 17th.
p. So what are the College’s chances of pulling off the upset? Last season the Tribe battled the University of Maryland to a 27-14 loss. Maryland went on to garner a top-25 ranking and bowl berth at the season’s end. Will the Tribe be able to hang with Virginia Tech as well?
p. “Usually, even when we’ve played other [Division I-A teams] over the years, you kind of look at the tape and say ‘we probably can do this,’ ” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “You look at it with Tech, and we are still looking. They do a great job of getting to the football, especially defensively. They really run to the football.”
p. The Tribe enters the game boasting one of the FCS’ top offensive attacks, but averages of 353.7 yards passing per game and 47.3 points per game seem unlikely to hold up against the swarming Tech defense. But that won’t stop the College from throwing everything they have at the Tech unit.
p. “They have a really good defense,” junior quarterback Jake Phillips said. “They have a lot of athletes, some big guys. We aren’t going to worry so much about laying back. We are going to go right at them, play our game, and give them our best shot.”
The Tribe holds an 18-39-4 overall record against Virginia Tech, last defeating the Hokies 27-15 in 1976. Coach Laycock has faced Tech six times in his tenure at the College but has yet to record a win against the formidable Tech squad.
p. The College will be without its top two rushers, as junior running back DeBrian Holmes is out for the season and redshirt freshman running back Courtland Marriner continues to rehab from a hand injury suffered against VMI. Senior Tony Viola will see most of the time in the backfield. Viola’s enthusiasm and hard-nosed running will give the Tribe an added momentum boost at Lane Stadium in front of the largest crowd the team will face all season. Viola stepped in for the injured Holmes in last Saturday’s win over Liberty and performed well, rushing for 57 yards on 15 carries.
p. “I think [playing Virginia Tech is] exciting, I think our players will be excited about it,” Laycock said. “That’s one of the reasons we have always wanted to play a I-A type program like this. It’s part of the player’s college football experience to be able to go into that environment and experience that environment. If you’re a competitor and you love to play the game and you like all that, then you’ll really enjoy being in that type of environment and competing in that type of environment. And I think our players will be looking forward to that.”
p. An athletic department official at the College with knowledge of the deal told The Flat Hat that the one-game contract between the two schools calls for Virginia Tech to pay the College $200,000.
Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The game can be viewed streaming live over the internet at ACCSelect.com.
p. __Sports Editor Jeff Dooley contributed to this report.__