UVA, Virginia Tech look ahead to big-time openers

acc kickoffVirginia Tech opens the 2015 season at home on Labor Day night, national television, a sort of rarefied air for college football, the only big-time Monday night game of the college regular season.

And, oh, yeah, the team on the other sideline in Lane Stadium just happens to be the defending national champion, Ohio State.

And, you know, come to think of it, the Hokies put the one in 14-1 on the Buckeyes’ finish last year.

For the fans, this is anything but just another game. But for the Hokies, it has to be just another game.

“I mean, I guess it’s a great opportunity,” All-America cornerback Kendall Fuller told reporters at the 2015 ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, N.C., on Monday.

“Me, personally, I don’t look at it as, oh, we’ve got the national champions in there. It’s a team coming to our house, and we’re trying to win the ballgame. Anytime you face any opponent, it’s going to be a challenge,” Fuller said.

His point is well-taken. Virginia Tech won in Columbus in September, 35-21, then limped to a 7-6 finish, as Ohio State dusted itself off from that early blemish to bring home the national title.

Every game matters. But openers like Ohio State in Lane Stadium, or UVA traveling out west for its opener with UCLA in the Rose Bowl, they have to mean more, right?

“I really can’t wait to get on that plane and play UCLA in the Rose Bowl. It’s going to be a memorable experience. And important. It’s important to set the tone for how we want the season to go,” UVA wide receiver Canaan Severin told reporters at the ACC Football Kickoff.

Virginia lost at home to UCLA in the 2014 opener, 28-20, beset by three defensive touchdowns from the Bruins that set the ‘Hoos back in the second quarter, but it was a game into the final minutes.

That loss set a different sort of tone for UVA football in 2014. The Cavs were in every game, but finished 5-7, and there was a definite feeling that three, maybe four wins were left on the field in a series of poorly played endgames.

That’s why the game at UCLA in the Rose Bowl is so important.

“We know game one that we’re going to have to bring it,” UVA defensive tackle David Dean said. “Game one is important to any team. That sets the tone for the entire season. We go out there, we go to Pasadena and beat UCLA, we’re looking to have a great start to hopefully a great season. That’s important. That’s been in our minds all offseason.”

– Story by Chris Graham

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