BLACKSBURG, Va. — When Frank Beamer addressed the media on Monday, he brushed past any talk of Virginia Tech’s return to the top 25 and ignored the still-warm memories of the team’s 27-17 win against North Carolina just two days earlier.
Nope, he was in a Pittsburgh state of mind, and for good reason.
The Panthers visit Lane Stadium this week as owners of a four-game winning streak against the Hokies. That includes last season’s 35-17 shellacking at Pittsburgh that knocked the Hokies out of the top 25 and kept them out until this week.
“This is a team that we’ve had a hard time beating,” Beamer said. “They’ve gotten us the last four times. And going back and checking, Alabama hasn’t done that, LSU hasn’t done that, Texas A&M hasn’t done that, Clemson hasn’t done that …”
Beamer added Florida State and Miami to that list, erroneously, but his point was made. In recent times, dating back to 2000, no team has held such sway over the Hokies.
“But Pittsburgh has,” Beamer continued. “Last time we played them — 537 yards against us, [we] turned the ball over four times, only had 59 yards rushing. Just a team we’ve had a hard time beating, whether it’s matchups or whatever, it’s a team we haven’t had great success against.”
Junior receiver Willie Byrn said the coaching staff’s distaste for the Pittsburgh streak has been apparent this week. Meanwhile, he and his fellow players — who were in elementary school during Virginia Tech’s first three losses — remain fixated on last year’s debacle.
“You can certainly sense a little bit of … just a revenge factor,” Byrn said. “I don’t know about all four games, but certainly last year. All of our players were there last year so we just want to go out there and beat them and give them a little taste of what they gave us last year.”
That fire definitely burns for senior linebacker Tariq Edwards, who said he was appalled when he watched film of last year’s defeat.
“Watching that game, it’s kind of disgusting just to watch it,” he said.
Both Beamer and senior quarterback Logan Thomas said Pittsburgh’s physicality was something that stood out last year.
“Offense and defense, they brought it,” Thomas said.
“I think they are very, very tough,” Beamer said. “I think offensively, just like Alabama, they are tough, aggressive, hard-nosed and run right at you.”
And in the tradition of big, physical, play-making recievers such as Larry Fitzgerald who terrorized the Hokies at the start of the four-game streak, this year’s Panthers boast a pair to be watched in senior Devin Street (6-4, 195) and freshman Tyler Boyd (6-2, 185).
The duo has combined to average 217.5 receiving yards per game and make Pittsburgh just one of three teams nationally to have two players averaging more than 100 yards per game.
“Street is a tall guy and Boyd, a young guy, but he’s explosive,” Beamer said. “They’ve got about 44 catches between them. That, and they’ve got a big ol’ offensive line, all over 6-6 except the center, and defensively they fly around and are aggressive. A good football team.”
Like Virginia Tech, the Panthers’ lone loss came to a top-five team in the first week of the season (a 41-13 setback against Florida State). Since then, Pittsburgh has shown it can win a shootout (58-55 at Duke) and prevail in a low-scoring affair (14-3 against Virginia).
“Both lost to a top-five football team and they’ve done very well since, so we’re on very similar paths in that regard,” Beamer said. “Big ballgame, conference game … it’s going to be a good game.”