Black Diamond Trophy up for grabs today
MORGANTOWN — It’s been nearly 16 years since Virginia Tech came to Morgantown in 2005.
The two teams have played once since then — a 2017 clash at a neutral site — as a once-thriving rivalry seems to have fallen by the wayside. That in itself is motivation for West Virginia heading into this weekend.
Even more so, the Hokies enter the game ranked No. 15 in the nation, setting up the Mountaineers with an opportunity to make a statement.
“I definitely feel like we’re ready,” linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo said.
“The rivalry definitely adds a little bit more push to it. For a ranked team, we’re excited to have them come in our building, and (we want to) win back the (Black Diamond) trophy of course.”
The Mountaineers are positioned in murky territory. A questionable Week 1 game against Maryland emphasized flaws, while last weekend’s 66-0 thrashing of LIU highlighted the team’s strengths. Still, questions remain.
Many of those reside on offense, as the Mountaineers have struggled to establish the same strong run game seen a season ago. The group has been impaired by play on the offensive line, with head coach Neal Brown emphasizing the need to improve the play at both tackle positions on multiple occasions.
Still, there’s 10 games to go in the season — plenty of time to right the ship.
“First two games, you’re kind of getting those jitters out,” wide receiver Sean Ryan said.
“We’ve been going against each other in camp everyday so that’s what we’re kind of used to. I feel like there’s a lot of potential in this offense and I’m looking forward to great things this season.”
The Mountaineers will look to answer those questions this weekend, but it’ll come at great difficulty. Virginia Tech enters having won their first two games of the season, including the season-opener against then-No. 10 North Carolina.
Quarterback Braxton Burmeister has been the focal point for the Hokies as his athletic ability makes him a threat in multiple aspects. He leads the team with 94 rushing yards in addition to 311 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Defensively, Virginia Tech ranks first among ACC teams in interceptions, as well as third in total defense. Defensive end Amare Barno is a threat up front, leading the team with 3½ tackles for loss, while the team’s secondary is among the strongest in the Power 5.
“They definitely like to pinpoint your weaknesses and attack them, that’s one thing I’ve seen,” Chandler-Semedo said. “What they showed against North Carolina and what they showed against Middle Tennessee were both very different, but they were both very successful in what they did because they went exactly at what their weaknesses were.”
Regardless of today’s outcome, the Mountaineers understand they’re still a work in progress.
“We’ve got a great running back in the backfield; we want to play for him,” Ryan said. “We want to block for him, we want to create big plays for him and create momentum off of him. We got a great quarterback that we’re trying to build and get him comfortable and get back to the things that we like to do and the things that we were successful at … I think the (Maryland) loss made us closer; it showed us a lot that we need to work on as a team.”