One week after an inexplicable loss, No. 24 Virginia Tech is back in the AP Top 25, coming off a road win against a ranked opponent and looking ahead to its toughest test to date: a prime-time home game against No. 6 Notre Dame.
The Hokies (3-1) knocked then-No. 22 Duke out of the rankings with a 31-14 victory last weekend. The win came one week after a celebrated return to Virginia’s talent-rich Tidewater region ended in a 49-35 loss to Old Dominion.
But one victory does not a season make, coach Justin Fuente said.
“Just because we won the game doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of work to do to bring these guys along,” the third-year coach said. “We made numerous mistakes, but fortunately, we made enough plays to find a way to win the game. The teaching is continuing from all of our coaches as we try to bring these young guys through.”
The Hokies won behind backup quarterback Ryan Willis, who stepped in at ODU when starter Josh Jackson was sidelined with an injury. Willis, a transfer from Kansas, threw for a career-best three touchdowns against the Blue Devils.
And he’s thrilled by what awaits: a Saturday night showdown with No. 6 Notre Dame at Lane Stadium.
“I’m excited. That’s all I can say,” he said Tuesday. “I’m excited to see the atmosphere. It’s going to be electric. Hokie Nation’s going to come out loud. I feel like everyone across the nation kind of follows Notre Dame. I grew up in the Catholic school system. I went to Catholic high school. So just that alone, you kind of hear about Notre Dame here and there. I’m excited. They’re a good team. They’re rolling in here to our home stadium and we’re going to be ready to go.”
Virginia Tech is looking to win consecutive games against Top 25 teams for the first time since 2009, when it beat No. 19 Nebraska 16-15 after dispatching No. 9 Miami, a longtime Big East and ACC rival, 31-7.
Willis seems to embrace the opportunity to extend that history.
“I don’t think I could start my first one in Lane in a bigger game,” he said. “You know, I’m excited. I don’t really know what to expect coming out of the tunnel. I did come out of the tunnel for William & Mary, but that was a day game, not a prime-time … start against the No. 6 team in the country.”
By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer