CHARLOTTE—While the nation was focused on Clemson and the rest of the ACC’s Atlantic Division on Day One of the ACC Kickoff last week, Day Two featured much less attention and much less media coverage as the ACC’s Coastal Division took center stage.
That did not sit well with at least one Coastal team that has their eyes set on a revenge game, Sept. 30, after losing to the defending national champion Clemson Tigers in last season’s ACC Championship.
In last season’s ACC Championship, the third-ranked Tigers survived a late rally from the 23rd ranked Virginia Tech Hokies to win 42-35—securing a second consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.
After falling behind 21 points, the Hokies surged back to within seven points before Cordrea Tankersley intercepted a Jerod Evans pass to end the threat—allowing quarterback Deshaun Watson to run out the clock.
But it was that close loss, that taught the Hokies what it takes to win at the highest level.
“I thought—the most endearing quality of our guys, I thought was—the thing that we could learn was they were battlers,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “They were never down, never out. That ACC Championship game, everybody wants to talk about the comeback victories.
“Clemson was poised to blow our doors off. About halfway through, whatever it was, the first quarter or whatever, and our guys buckled down and battled and scrapped, and ultimately we had a chance at the end.”
This season, however, the Hokies will have an advantage that they did not have in the ACC Championship game—the homefield, as the Tigers will travel, for the first time since 2011, to Blacksburg to visit Lane Stadium.
While it may be an advantage, it doesn’t matter where the Tigers and the Hokies meet this season, because for some of the Hokies this game is about one thing—revenge.
“It means a lot to us,” Virginia Tech wide receiver Cam Phillips said. “I know it definitely means a lot to me just because of how we lost in the ACC Championship. I think it’s an opportunity for revenge, so I speak for, I think, the whole staff and the whole team when I say we’ll be ready for them.”
While the majority of the media was focused on the likes of Louisville, NC State and, of course, Florida State as the most likely to unseat the Tigers from the top of the league—the Hokies want to make sure that everyone understands that they will be ready for the challenge when the last Saturday in September rolls around.
“We’re not going to take them lightly at all,” Phillips said. “They are the defending national champions. But I think it will be a great opportunity to show our growth in the season. I believe it’s what, the fifth game of the season, so it’ll be a nice test for us to see where we are.”
Even though Phillips appears ready to take on the Tigers, and avenge last season’s loss in the championship game, he understands that there are four games to play before the Hokies play host to the Tigers in Blacksburg.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that after—key word being after—our first game, our second game, our third game and our fourth game,” Phillips continued. “I’m not overlooking any of those opponents as we have to get through them first. But when the time comes, I’m pretty sure the atmosphere will be amazing. The fans will be ready. The players will be ready. I’m pretty sure everyone will be watching us.”