|Roles reversed as Hokies, Huskers prepare to meet|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 18 September 2009 10:51|
That matchup came in the Orange Bowl after the 1996 season, when the Hokies were still trying to prove they belonged with the top programs like the Cornhuskers. Back then, they didn't quite measure up: Nebraska won 41-21.
Fast forward 13 years and the roles have changed considerably.
With the No. 13 Hokies now established as an elite program, it is the No. 19 Cornhuskers who view their visit to Lane Stadium on Saturday as a possible step on the road back to national prominence.
``You definitely have to look at it as a where-we're-at type of thing,'' Nebraska center Jacob Hickman said this week.
``It's hard to tell where you're at until you play a big team like this. Definitely, we're looking at it as a measuring stick for where we are and where we need to go.''
rne for that Orange Bowl victory, have been through four coaching changes since then. Bo Pelini, their coach since last year, also was an interim coach briefly after Frank Solich was fired in 2003.
The Huskers (2-0) have beaten two Sun Belt Conference teams while the Hokies (1-1) led No. 4 Alabama into the fourth quarter before losing, then handled Marshall easily.
Virginia Tech went to Nebraska and won 35-30 last season, but coach Frank Beamer isn't buying the chatter that the programs have reversed positions in the football landscape.
``Me growing up and being around football for a long time, when you start naming the top programs in the country, I put Nebraska in there,'' he said. ``They went through a little bit of a tough spell there, but they're back now. They've got a lot of tradition and just that name comes to your mind when you start talking about the top programs.''
The lessons of that first meeting, Beamer said, still benefit his program.
``They just had so many good players. That's kind of what I learned from that game. We hung in there and late in the game, them having more good players than we had really kind of showed itself,'' he said. ``That was kind of a learning experience right there.''
Since that game, the Hokies have been to four additional major bowl games, including the 1999 Sugar Bowl, when they lost to Florida States 46-29 for the national championship.
raska won the national title in 1997 and went to three major bowls in the first five years after that Orange Bowl meeting with the Hokies, but they haven't been back since.
Since Pelini took over last season, they are 12-4, suggesting their turnaround is well on its way. Pelini downplayed the obstacle that playing as underdogs in a raucous stadium could present his young team, a view shared by his disruptive nose tackle, Ndamukong Suh.
``I don't see us as an underdog. It's your guys' opinion,'' Suh said. ``I know what our team has. I know what we can do. We're one of those teams that I feel can win in Blacksburg.''
If they are, they'd be the first non-conference opponent to do it in 31 games.
The Huskers, Suh said, would do well to adopt a rallying cry familiar to the Hokies'.
``They play with a chip on their shoulder,'' he said. ``We're a very historic program, well known, and we're in position where we need to play back up to that level, and you could say that's our chip on the shoulder. We want to get back to how we know we can play.''
Watching film of the Hokies, Pelini saw other attributes he wants in his program, too.
year here, a year there. He's done it over a long period of time. That's something to be proud of.''
It's also something the Hokies hope to improve on come Saturday.
``Last year was amazing,'' linebacker Cam Martin said. ``All my life, I watched Nebraska on TV and I've just seen the big sea of red. Going out there and playing was something surreal.
``Coming out of there with a victory was big for us, and to have them coming here, ... it's a big game for us. It's going to be crazy around here. I feel like that's why everybody came to Virginia Tech, to play in a game like this. It's going to be amazing out there.''