Virginia Tech's football team has a championship to win and a rival to whup.
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Yes, the noon contest against Virginia at Lane Stadium marks the last home appearance for 14 seniors, an accomplished bunch that's contributed to 39 victories. And no, we can't expect them to be heartless androids immune to the moment.
But Senior Day emotions have a way of backfiring. Players get too wired, or too tight, or too something.
The Hokies can't afford such foolishness.
Not when a victory wins the Coastal Division, sends them to the ACC title game and extends their domination of the Cavaliers. Not when Virginia is playing for bowl eligibility and has enough weapons — Clint Sintim, Cedric Peerman and Kevin Ogletree — to make Hokie Nation squirm.
Like most senior classes, Tech's runs the gamut. You have former walk-ons such as Devin Perez and Jonas Houseright, career backups such as Cory Holt and Demetrius Taylor, and a soon-to-be NFL draft choice in cornerback Macho Harris.
Unlike most stories about senior classes, this will not include quotes from many of the participants. Hokies coach Frank Beamer limited player interviews this week to senior defensive end Orion Martin and freshman receiver Danny Coale.
Beamer maintained that with so much at stake, he wanted to avoid distractions and any remarks that might rile up the Cavaliers. This is, of course, complete jive.
Tech has played, and won, far bigger games than this, and exposure to media during those weeks didn't infect the locker room or cause a rash of turnovers.
No, Beamer's rationale hinged on comments last week by linebacker Purnell Sturdivant that disparaged the Hokies' troubled offense. Beamer was torqued at Sturdivant for yapping and at media for reporting.
But enough inside politics. Of much greater import are the seniors, and those to watch Saturday are center Ryan Shuman and quarterback Sean Glennon — fifth-year veterans who graduated and represented the program well.
On an offensive line that can be charitably labeled a weak link, Shuman has earned a winning grade (80 percent or better) in 10 of 11 games. The son of Fork Union Military Academy postgraduate coach John Shuman, Ryan first started at Tech as a guard in 2005 before returning to his natural position.
Shuman missed 21/2 games last season with an ankle injury and, in his first game back, graded 90 percent against Miami. He underwent off-season knee surgery and returned at full strength, but missed time last week against Duke with an ankle ailment.
Has he recovered? Can he and his line mates protect Glennon and Tyrod Taylor from one of the ACC's better pass rushes?
Glennon relieved a rattled Taylor during the second quarter against Duke and threw for the Hokies' sole offensive touchdown, to Jarrett Boykin, the first this season for a Tech wide receiver. Taylor did not return, but Beamer said Monday that Taylor will start Saturday.
That's a shame. Chances are the Hokies will need Glennon's downfield passing, so why not acknowledge him with a farewell start?
Afraid of bruising Taylor's ego? Spare us. He is a consummate team player and would likely applaud the gesture.
Afraid the home crowd would boo? So what? If nothing else, Glennon has a thick hide.
He's proven it repeatedly. When fans pilloried him for the 2006 bowl giveaway to Georgia; when Beamer benched him two games into last season and one game into this year.
"From what I've seen, I think he's handled it pretty well," Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim said of Glennon. "I commend him."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Glennon was never better last season than when away from Lane Stadium. He threw for 296 yards and two scores in a victory at Georgia Tech, for 260 yards and a touchdown in a division-clinching win at Virginia.
In the ACC title game against Boston College, Glennon earned MVP honors with three touchdown passes.
Without question, Glennon's immobility and turnovers have ranged from damaging to untenable. But this is a young man who despite slights and demotions has rescued his team several times.
"I'd say he's pretty responsible for the fact that there's an ACC championship trophy down there in one of those trophy cases," Virginia coach Al Groh said.
"Not too many championships go to teams without a quarterback who's done a good job. …
"I would certainly say he was the MVP of the game here last year. … From our perspective, it's pretty easy to give him his props."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.