Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies don't wait to say their goodbyes

BLACKSBURG - Add this to the long list of things we don't see in a typical Virginia Tech football season: the early goodbye speech.

Usually, this is a rite of December or January. The seniors will get up in front of the team the night before the bowl game and talk about their journey and how they want it to end. According to linebacker Bruce Taylor, you can count on a wild card or two during the observance of this tradition.

"Some guys might keep it a little too real and really say what's on their mind," Taylor said. "There's always one disgruntled player that maybe hasn't played as much as he wanted to or had some run-ins with the coaching staff. It's not a perfect situation."

It's even further from perfect this year, of course, as no bowl game is promised. So the seniors were to get their Knute Rockne moment Friday night. Taylor, speaking with the media after Tuesday's practice, wouldn't rule out the possibility of crying.

"I don't expect to, but I know there's a chance I will, just because I'm a big baby," he said with a smile. "I'm very, very emotional."

And that's a good thing. Emotions are key for the Hokies today - however they're manufactured.

Because let's face it: There aren't a ton of external stimuli out there this time around. Today's game kicks at noon, TV's warm-up time slot for the BCS-impact games later on. The broadcasting network is ESPNU. Tech's campus has been quiet this week as students dispersed for Thanksgiving break.

But this is still an opportunity, and the Hokies know it.

"I told them today: 'You don't know when you're going to be able to put pads on again,' " Taylor said. "I know a lot of guys have aspirations for the next level and stuff, but none of that is promised. The only thing that is promised, we've got a chance out here Saturday. We have a game Saturday and we have a chance to go out there and put it all together."

They've been waiting for that all season, and it hasn't happened. History has shown, though, that UVa week can be a good time for the Hokies to do that.

Tech has won the past three Commonwealth Cup meetings by an average score of 39-7. Any questions the Hokies seem to have entering the matchup tend to get answered emphatically.

The dual-quarterback system of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor never was more effective than on Nov. 24, 2007, when Glennon threw for 260 yards and a touchdown and Taylor ran for two scores to help Tech elbow 16th-ranked Virginia out of the ACC title game.

Last year's 38-0 victory over the Cavaliers was Tech's most complete performance of the year, one that again secured the Coastal Division title.

Those extra motivators are gone now. UVa's season is over after today regardless of the result. For the first time in a long time, the focus of this matchup is almost solely on how the Hokies will or will not respond.

"Playing for life this year," Bruce Taylor said. "That's just sometimes how it goes. That's how the ball rolls. You have a tough year, but luckily we're still in a position to still make something out of it, so we've got to go out Saturday and get it done."

Neither side has run the ball as well as it would have liked this year, so you can expect the quarterbacks and receivers to make the difference. Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller, Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell all have the ability to break a long one.

Both teams have been turnover-prone, so the first takeaway could set the direction of the game.

In short, it's a flawed matchup in a flawed season. But for the Hokies, at least, it's a chance to earn a second round of goodbyes.

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