Emotions could be high for Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Hokies (7-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are home against Pittsburgh (4-6, 2-4), and the game will be the final one at Lane Stadium for 17 seniors who will be honored before the contest.
Center Eric Gallo isn’t sure how he will react, but hopes to temper his emotions until after the game.
“It’s just crossed my mind, and whatever does happen before the game — and it’s not like a huge deal — but whatever does happen before the game, by the time kickoff does come around, I’ve just got to be focused on my job and winning the game,” he said earlier this week. “So whatever does happen, that’s fine.”
The Hokies will be looking to end a two-game slide that took them out of contention for the ACC Coastal Division title. Quarterback Josh Jackson said winning for the seniors is just part of the motivation this week.
“We want to win out here and hopefully win our bowl game and have a 10-win season again,” he said.
The Panthers also need to win out to extend their bowl streak to 10 in a row. Coach Pat Narduzzi said he can’t be concerned with amped up emotions for the Hokies.
“We’re worried about the guys in this room and our kids got a great attitude,” he said. “… That’s the thing you love about these guys, and they’re going to come out and fight. We can’t worry about what they feel, we’ve got to worry about what we do and how we execute and what kind of focus we have.”
The Panthers won their last visit to Lane Stadium, 17-13 in 2015.
Here are some other things to know when Pittsburgh visits Virginia Tech on Saturday:
ACTION JACKSON: The Hokies gave backup quarterback A.J. Bush some work last week, with coach Justin Fuente saying Josh Jackson was a bit beat up. Jackson says he’s feeling better this week.
BELIEVING IN BEN: Narduzzi spent the first half of the season shuttling between quarterbacks, partly out of frustration and partly out of necessity. At the moment, he seems ready to stick with Ben DiNucci. The sophomore has taken every offensive snap over the last three games while completing just 54 percent of his passes with only one touchdown as the Panthers have opted to rely heavily on the run.
HIGH STAKES: The Panthers need to beat the Hokies and No. 2 Miami to reach the six-win threshold. The extra practices that come along with a bowl game can be invaluable, particularly for a young team like the Panthers, who have just eight seniors on the two-deep depth chart. But Narduzzi said that’s not always the case.
“A lot of times you try to develop the young guys in bowl, but you’re so worried about winning the bowl game that you don’t develop them as much as you want,” the coach said. “All you’re doing is continuing to beat up the guys that have gotten beat up all year and you end up having a tired, beat-up football team when it comes to spring ball.”
HALL FEELING HIS OATS: Pitt junior Darrin Hall has put an emphatic stop to the revolving door at running back. Hall has gone over 100 yards in each of the last three games while scoring eight of his team’s 11 touchdowns. The Hokies, meanwhile, are third in rushing defense in the ACC, allowing an average of just 136.6 yards per game.