No. 18 Hokies focused on Yellow Jackets, not division title
Virginia Tech made it through a tough stretch of four road games in its last five outings and it returns home on Saturday with a chance to clinch a berth in the ACC championship game.
The No. 18 Hokies (7-2, 5-1) would need No. 15 North Carolina lose at Duke on Thursday night and then beat Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4), but either way, fullback Sam Rogers and the Hokies know their destiny is in their hands if they simply keep winning.
Even if the Tar Heels should lose, the Hokies' focus needs to be locked in on the Yellow Jackets.
''If you look too far ahead, you're going to trip on something right in front of you, and I honestly believe that,'' Rogers said Monday, ''so we've just got to worry about Georgia Tech right now and what happens at the end of the season is what happens.''
Nevertheless, they head into the weekend feeling good about the run they are on, winning four of their last five. Since getting a bit too full of themselves and losing 31-17 at Syracuse a month ago, they've trounced Miami and won narrowly at Pittsburgh and at Duke.
''We feel like we've gotten some momentum now,'' Rogers said. ''We feel like we're doing well game to game, but we've just got to keep preparing the exact same way, taking it one game at a time. We've seen earlier in the year what it's like to get too high on ourselves.''
The Hokies' victory at Duke came despite a lackluster offensive performance, but that also built confidence.
''I honestly think that's really important, to show that when things are a little bit sloppy, we still just find a way to win because, at the end of the day, it doesn't say that it was a sloppy win or a very good loss,'' Rogers said. ''It just says win or loss.''
While he will be happy to be back in Lane Stadium, first-year coach Justin Fuente said there's no sense of relief that the difficult road stretch is over because the Hokies haven't achieved any goals they set just yet.
''I mean, we're happy that we won the game last week,'' he said. ''I felt a sense of relief after it was over with. And I feel a strong sense of trying to get ready for Georgia Tech. I'm happy that we're playing at home, but I know we have a huge challenge. Like I've talked about many weeks, the previous weeks don't really mean anything in terms of what we're trying to accomplish this week.''
The Yellow Jackets have not had their typical high-powered offense. They rank 72nd nationally, scoring 27.2 points per game, and 70th in total offense, averaging 401 yards, but are still only one victory from a bowl berth.
For Virginia Tech seniors like right tackle Jonathan McLaughlin, this time of year has often been one of desperation in recent seasons with the Hokies trying to rally to keep their 24-year bowl streak alive. Now, with the program on pace to get to the ACC championship game for the first time since 2011, there's no time to lose focus on the task at hand, he said.
''The only thing now is we've got to keep going,'' he said, ''take it one week at a time.''
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