Dax Hollifield voiced some regret about how Virginia Tech’s football game went at West Virginia — his one and only career trip to the Mountaineers’ home field.
“We got punched in the mouth early and didn’t play as well as we wanted to in the first half,” the sixth-year senior linebacker said Monday during the Hokies’ weekly media day. “I was happy how we came back in the second half and helped give us a chance to win.”
The Hokies will wrap up the first third of their season Thursday night when WVU makes its first visit to Lane Stadium since 2004. It likely will be the last time the one-time fierce rivals will get a shot at each other. The one-time home-and-home contract was put together in 2013 by former Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver and West Virginia AD Oliver Luck.
A one-time neutral-field game in Landover, Maryland, was added prior to the 2017 season, which Virginia Tech won 34-17.
“It’s a pretty historic rival,” senior tight end Nick Gallo said. “When my brother (former center Eric Gallo) played here, I remember going to the game at FedEx Field as a recruit. So it’s a pretty big rivalry and we’re pretty excited to play.”
While no future contests between the two are currently on the schedule and the rivalry is in its twilight stage, the Hokies are still aware of what this game meant then and means this week.
Hollifield referred to the Black Diamond Trophy, which goes to the winner of the game. The trophy was Virginia Tech’s from 2004 until last season, when the Mountaineers stopped the Hokies four times inside the 5-yard line to eke out a 27-21 victory.
“It really hurt not getting it done up there,” Hollifield said. “I want that trophy back.”
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Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry comes into the game with several connections. He spent his pre-high school years in West Virginia, where his father, Jim, made several coaching stops. He said Monday that the first major college football game he attended was a matchup between West Virginia and Penn State.
“There’s certainly a lot of friends I went with to elementary and junior high school (who) are West Virginia people and they go to the games every week. The Facebook messages I’m getting are blowing up right now. It’s a big game for both communities. We recruit a lot of the same players, so that’s a piece of it, and we know a lot about each other.”
And then there were the three seasons in the mid-1990s Pry spent in Blacksburg as a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech. The Hokies went 2-1 against the Mountaineers when the rivalry was the most heated. He talked on Monday about the 1996 game, when the Jim Druckenmiller-led Hokies topped WVU 31-14 during a season that gave Virginia Tech a share of the Big East regular-season title and earned the Hokies a trip to the Orange Bowl.
“We came in there with a lot on the line,” Pry said. “And it was a fist fight — just like we thought it would be. It was good play on both sides.”
Pry said even if West Virginia wasn’t the team lining up against Virginia Tech on Thursday, the placement of the game assures that the Hokies want to be ready to go. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and is the only matchup of the night between two Power Five opponents.
It was the first of Virginia Tech’s six home games in 2022 to sell out.
“Thursday night is going to be electric,” Pry said. “We want everybody in there nice and early. It’s a national-TV game, we’ll have tons of prospects watching, and we want to make sure we put our best foot forward.”