Virginia Tech’s seniors look to end losing streak, win in final game at Lane Stadium
BLACKSBURG – Lane Stadium isn’t the easiest place to kick. The wind can be unpredictable, especially kicking into the north stands. Southwest Virginia can get chilly as October becomes November.
Still for four seasons, 24 home games and 251 kicks – that’s 47 field goals, 86 extra points and 118 kickoffs – Joey Slye has loved playing at Virginia Tech’s football stadium.
“It’s kind of a tough stadium, to be honest,” said Slye. “Sometimes you’ll be standing in the middle of the field and it doesn’t feel like there’s any wind at all. Then you get closer and closer to the uprights and it’s pretty windy. It is a pretty tough stadium to play in.”
Slye and 12 other seniors will play their final home game at Lane on Saturday when the Hokies host Pittsburgh. There’s no dying it will be an emotional day, Slye said, but it’s one he’s looking forward to. He’s not alone.
“I’m hoping I’m able to maintain focus on the game, just try to save the emotional part of it for after the game,” senior center Eric Gallo said. “But beforehand, try my best to stay focused.
A year ago, Gallo saw hardened veterans like Augie Conte and Sam Rogers tear up before their final home game. He didn’t give them a hard time about the show of emotions.
“Because I know it’s a possibility that I’ll do the same thing,” Gallo said.
This senior group has gone 31-19 the past four seasons, including 14-10 at home at Lane. It won an ACC Coastal Division title and has helped continue two of the Hokies’ most beloved all-time streaks. The program has gone to 24 straight bowl games (this year will make 25) and has beaten rival Virginia 13 times in a row.
Tech (7-3, 3-3 ACC) has lost two straight games entering the Pittsburgh matchup and needs to win out, including its bowl game, to reach 10 victories for a second straight year.
“That’s the main thing we want to do, really just end this season the right way, get these last two wins and then the bowl game,” senior safety Deon Newsome said. “I feel like it means a lot to me just to continue to work, go attack practice like we’re supposed to, just with everything, the game, preparing.”
Saturday will be the first time in three weeks Tech has faced a team with a losing record. A road loss to undefeated Miami two games ago knocked it out of the ACC Coastal race. The sting of that loss may have contributed to last weekend’s road loss at Georgia Tech.
Pittsburgh (4-6, 2-4) is a dramatically less accomplished opponent, especially on defense, where they’re allowing 28.5 points per game, the fourth most in the ACC. The Panthers have been particularly poor against the pass, possibly opening opportunities for perhaps this year’s senior class’s biggest star, wide receiver Cam Phillips.
During this season, Phillips, a four-year starter, became Tech’s all-time leader in receptions and has caught a pass in a school-record 37 straight games.
The Hokies will play the game without junior safety Terrell Edmunds, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, potentially opening the door for Newsome or fellow senior Anthony Shegog to see more playing time in their home finale.
It will also be the final game for cornerbacks Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman, who is one punt return touchdown shy of equaling the school career record, and offensive lineman Wyatt Teller, who will start his team-leading 22nd straight game.
Senior linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka will wear the honorary No. 25 jersey for the game.
In all, Tech will recognize 17 players who will suit up at Lane for the final time, a list that also includes a pair of underclassmen from Richmond – quarterback Jack Click and linebacker Trent Young – who have informed the program they won’t be returning.
No player on that list, or in the history of Tech football, has scored more points than Slye, who goes into his final game as the Hokies’ career scoring leader with 400 points.
“The first time coming out to Enter Sandman was ridiculous,” Slye said. “And my last time, I guarantee you, will be the exact same feeling. It’s really just a mix of emotions.”