- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

METAIRIE, La. — The Saints weren’t the only team playing hard-nosed football in New Orleans on Sunday. Across town, Virginia Tech conducted a high-energy afternoon workout at the NFL team’s suburban practice facility in advance of its Sugar Bowl clash with Michigan on Tuesday night.

The Hokies say they came on a “business trip,” and that more so than previous years, this Tech team has something to prove.

“I think we’re approaching it a little differently,” safety Antone Exum said. “Everybody’s going 100 percent, trying to get everything down pat for Tuesday.”

Among those players was Jayron Hosley. The cornerback said before practice he was fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in the ACC championship game.

He said that he, too, feels the pressure to perform on the Sugar Bowl’s big stage.

“All the trips have been special for me, but this is a bigger game for us, a lot more weight on our shoulders, to go out and prove ourselves to the naysayers and doubters,” he said. “From that perspective, it’s one of the biggest games of my career - and this program.”

Hokies coach Frank Beamer supervised the workout and said the challenge is to balance the fun with the work.

He said that he thinks a bowl game is a reward for strong performance during the season and that players should be allowed to have fun.

“But I’ve also realized here as we’ve gone along that alumni don’t only want to get here to a bowl game, they want to win,” the coach said. “A lot of our alumni spent a lot of money to come here — and we’re going to have a bunch down here, I promise you — and they deserve to see a great effort by their football team.”

Quarterback Logan Thomas echoed those thoughts, saying that “we had enough fun the first couple nights, and it’s time to get ready for the game.”

Saturday night’s New Year’s Eve curfew was set at 12:30, enough time to celebrate but not linger in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Beamer said that no players violated curfew.

The coach opted to stay in at the Hilton on the Riverwalk, where he watched a little bit of the Chick-fil-A Bowl between Virginia and Auburn before falling asleep. He said that his wife woke him up at midnight but joked that he was content to catch the highlights of New Year’s the next morning on television.

Beamer said that the team’s Sunday practice was structured like a Thursday workout during a normal game week, which is the last one conducted in full pads. Today, Virginia Tech will conduct a closed-door walk-through, at the Superdome if they so choose, before Tuesday night’s game.

Senior Eddie Whitley echoed his teammates thoughts that this year’s practices have been more strenuous than at past bowl games.

“[They’re] a little more physical and a little longer,” he said. “As a senior, I want to make sure we’re having fun, but at practice I do not want anybody to be sluggish. We need to be focused, ready to go.”

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