Originally created 09/23/99

Game presents opportunity for statement



BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The national spotlight is something Virginia Tech has openly craved during its rise into almost weekly residence in the top 25.

With non-conference schedules that have included the likes of Akron, Alabama-Birmingham and Arkansas State in recent years, and playing in a conference that has been declining in stature, exposure has often been hard to come by.

That all changes Thursday night when Lane Stadium will be the site of the Hokies' game against tradition-rich Clemson. ESPN will televise nationally.

No disrespect to Clemson (1-1), but the Hokies come in ranked No. 8, the highest in school history, and don't expect to waste the opportunity to show the country that Virginia Tech football is a burgeoning phenomenon.

"I think it's going to be probably the greatest atmosphere we've ever had at Virginia Tech," coach Frank Beamer, in his 12th season, said Tuesday.

"If you don't want to play in front of a big crowd and a national audience, you shouldn't be playing college football," linebacker Jamel Smith added. "You've got to get excited for this."

The Hokies (2-0) have had 10 days to watch tapes of how the Tigers picked apart Virginia two weeks ago, beating them 33-14 in Death Valley as Brandon Streeter enjoyed a career day with 343 passing yards and two touchdowns.

But they also have sweet memories of a year ago. Last September at Clemson, the Hokies rattled Streeter early and romped to a stunning 37-0 victory.

Defensive end Corey Moore said Tuesday he knows Clemson was feeling pretty good after routing the Cavaliers, but the Virginia Tech defense that intercepted four passes off Streeter in 1998 won't be any kinder this time.

"I'm glad that those guys are feeling confident, but they haven't seen anybody play defense or swarm to the ball like we're going to," Moore said Tuesday.

The Tigers under first-year coach Tommy Bowden surprised Virginia with a no-huddle, pass-oriented attack and kept them on their heels throughout.

After losing 13-10 at home to Marshall in their opener, the victory over Virginia was a big step for the Tigers, Bowden said. But it's nothing compared to what the program could gain for its rise back to prominence Thursday night.

"Each week, it's a little bit better performance until you are ultimately headed in the right direction," Bowden said. "I wish it could happen overnight."

In victories over James Madison and UAB, Virginia Tech allowed an average of 136.5 yards. That's No. 1 in the nation, but a figure some view with skepticism because the competition wasn't exactly top 25 material.

Moore thinks Thursday night could help answer the critics.

"We don't feel like we have to make a statement," he said, "but it's a great opportunity for us to make a statement."