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“I feel like the ability to just punch them right in the mouth has always been our way,” he said. “We definitely need to start off that way.”

The Pirates would seem to be a good opponent to make that happen against. They have won a pair of shootouts, 51-49 over Tulsa and 49-27 against Memphis. They also have allowed some gaudy numbers by their opponents, including 356 yards per game passing and 496 overall.

Familiarity means McNeill knows what his defense can expect to be forced to stop.

“We know Virginia Tech believes in the ground-and-pound style,” he said.

Now, Smith said, the Hokies need to begin imposing that identity on opponents.

“The consistency is a huge factor,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t care as much or people are not putting in the effort, because everybody, especially this front, and everybody on offense are playing their hearts out. What we’ve been talking about a lot is we’re not playing well. ‘Well’ can have a lot of different meanings — consistency, executing.”But I think most definitely that’s a vital thing that we need to see some success on, those big plays and kind of get us rolling and get started. I definitely think that’s huge.”