Whenever Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the ACC as the league's 13th and 14th members — a decision announced Sunday — Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer knows there is a good chance he will have to make at least one more trip to Syracuse's Carrier Dome before he retires.
"I thought I had my last trip there," Beamer said Monday, as the No. 13 Hokies (3-0) prepare for Saturday's final nonconference game, at Marshall. "We've had a lot of battles in that dome."
The Hokies went 1-5 in the Carrier Dome as a Big East member. Their final three trips there were memorable.
They lost 28-26 in 1998 on Donovan McNabb's 13-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Brominski as time expired. They won 22-14 in 2000, when they were ranked second in the country and Syracuse was unranked, after Michael Vick ran for a 55-yard touchdown with 1:34 left. Another future NFL star, Dwight Freeney, sacked Vick 4½ times that night. In 2002, Syracuse won 50-42 in triple overtime.
Beamer said he believes, like most people, that college sports are heading toward 16-team super conferences. He dodged a question about whether he thinks that is a good or bad development.
"I think that's where we're going," he said. "I haven't had a lot of time to think about it."
Another tough road test?
Something Beamer is thinking about: getting the Hokies ready, for the second time in three weeks, to play in a place that doesn't play host to a lot of high-profile teams. After Tech escaped East Carolina with a 17-10 win in Week 2, Beamer blamed himself for not having his team ready to play in the wild environment.
Marshall's stadium holds about 38,000 people — 12,000 fewer than East Carolina's — but Tech is by far the most marquee opponent coming to Huntington, W.Va., this season. Then again, Marshall's official attendance for its home opener against Conference USA opponent Southern Mississippi was 24,247, so Saturday probably won't be quite as wild as East Carolina was. Tech hasn't played at Marshall since 1940.
"You're going to have another place that's going to be in a frenzy," Beamer said. "You need to understand that and be ready for that. They're looking forward to us coming, I'm sure."
Gregory to step in on returns
One of Tech's two kickoff returners, senior wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, is almost certainly out for the season with a broken left arm. He suffered the injury while returning the opening kickoff in Saturday's win over Arkansas State and underwent surgery Sunday. He plans to take a medical redshirt and return in 2012, because he hasn't redshirted yet.
No. 3 tailback Tony Gregory took over for Roberts on kickoff returns Saturday, and Beamer said he will keep Gregory back there, along with No. 1 tailback David Wilson. Beamer said he also wants to get true freshman receiver Demitri Knowles some work on kickoff returns "and see if we can get him ready to play this fall. He's another guy with great, great speed."
Encouraging news for Lanier
Starting left tackle Andrew Lanier sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Saturday, but trainer Mike Goforth believes Lanier will be able to play at Marshall. Tech is going to let Lanier rest his knee to start the week, by limiting his participation in practice.
Lanier's backup, Nick Becton, plays more than any other second-stringer on the offensive line. In the first two games, Becton played 75 snaps, Lanier 71.
Read Darryl Slater's blog at VTEffect.com