Fauber: ‘Hoos, Hokies need to make statements

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech were sitting at the opposite ends of the proverbial spectrum following their respective football games last Saturday.

The Cavaliers, a team hungry for success after several lackluster seasons under head coach Mike London, have been a nice surprise in the ACC early this season and continued to raise some eyebrows with their 23-21 upset of then-No. 21 Louisville last weekend.

Virginia Tech, on the other hand, practically extinguished all of the positive energy surrounding the program following the Hokies’ upset of Ohio State two weeks ago by getting thoroughly dominated for nearly the entirety of last Saturday’s game against East Carolina in an eventual 28-21 loss.

Though the results for both U.Va. and Virginia Tech were polar opposites last week, both sides are in a position where they need to make important statements today.

For the Cavaliers, they have to prove that the team they have appeared to be in the season’s first three weeks is indeed the team that college football fans can expect to see throughout the 2014 season.

Virginia opened the season by giving a top-10 UCLA team all it could handle before the Wahoos fell 28-20. And though the Cavaliers came up short on the scoreboard, their performance — fueled by what is emerging as a very good and very underrated defensive unit — against the Bruins was a victory in many other ways.

U.Va. followed the loss to UCLA by thumping Richmond, and it continued to build on its momentum with the win over Louisville, avoiding a fourth-quarter collapse by turning a critical Louisville turnover into the game-winning field goal.

The win over the Cardinals snapped Virginia’s 10-game losing streak against FBS competition, as well as its 11-game slide against the ACC. The question now is whether or not the Cavaliers can overcome the emotions of last week’s win and keep up the momentum that it has been building over the season’s first three weeks.

Virginia travels to No. 21 BYU today for yet another game against a top-25 opponent. It will also be the Cavaliers’ first road game of the season, so how they respond to adversity away from home will be a telling sign of the character of this year’s team.

A win for the Cavaliers would certainly cement them as legitimate contenders in the ACC Coastal Division race after many had written them off before the season even began, but even a respectable showing in a loss against a BYU team that some think has an outside shot at a playoff bid would be another positive step for U.Va.

Like its rival, Virginia Tech will show what kind of team the Hokies really are when they square off with Georgia Tech this afternoon. Are the Hokies the team that beat then-No. 8 Ohio State in The Horseshoe and vaulted into the spotlight as a darkhorse playoff contender, or are they the team that was exploited by ECU at home last weekend?

The answer is probably somewhere in between, but Virginia Tech needs a win today to prove that. And it won’t come easy against the Yellow Jackets, who always play tight games against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have said this week that they need to learn from last Saturday’s letdown, get better from it and move on (same old song and dance for Tech fans), and today’s performance will be telling in that aspect.

It’s also the ACC opener for the Hokies, and I don’t think I need to explain the importance of today’s game as it relates to the bigger picture of the Coastal Division race.

The Hokies felt like a different team from years past when they walked out of Columbus, Ohio, with a victory two weeks ago. Starting today we’ll start to see which version of the usual Virginia Tech teams this year’s squad is. Will the Hokies rebound and win their way to a division title, or will they fall back into mediocrity for the third straight year?

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com