BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Halloween is less than a week away, it might come earlier for Virginia Tech on Thursday night in Pittsburgh based on their track record over the last two decades.
The 25th ranked Hokies (5-2) travel to Heinz Field this week to face the Panthers (5-2) who are coming off their bye week.
Since 1999, Virginia Tech has lost four in a row at the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, all against the Pitt Panthers. Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster doesn’t believe it’s the venue that is the reason for that particular losing streak.
“They’ve played extremely well when we’ve gone up there,” Foster said Monday afternoon. “We’ve got the utmost respect for Pitt, and we’ve had some great games with those guys, they’ve had our number the last couple years.”
The Hokies are coming off a 36-17 win over the Miami Hurricanes in which Foster’s defense sacked Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya a season-high eight times. The previous mark was six against East Carolina a month ago.
Virginia Tech currently leads the ACC Coastal division at 3-1 in the conference, owning a tiebreaker over No. 21 North Carolina with their win in Chapel Hill, 27-3, on October, 9th. Pittsburgh is third at 2-1 in the conference, a win over the Hokies would tie them with the Tar Heels for first, leaving head coach Justin Fuente and his team at the mercy of chance.
“I think we’re developing our road mentality,” said Fuente. “It’ll take a little extra focus, little extra mental toughness, determination, to get prepared to go into a truly hostile environment and win a ball game. That’s the challenge that is in front of us.”
Pittsburgh is led by James Conner at running back, ACC Player of the Year back in 2014 before tearing his MCL in the first week of the 2015 season then being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma that December. He was declared cancer-free in April of 2016. Conner has rushed for 531 yards and seven touchdowns this season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 75.9 yards per game.
The Hokies this past Thursday held the Hurricanes, which had a top 10 rushing attack four weeks into the season, to 42 yards rushing.
“We just need to go up there and be focused, be prepared,” said Foster. “I think we will be this time.”