UNC's Larry Fedora talks about motivation heading into the Virginia Tech game
Virginia Tech on Saturday will honor Frank Beamer, commemorate him and remember him, the man who has led the Hokies for 29 seasons, and who will be coaching Virginia Tech for his final time at Lane Stadium.
It’s bound to be an emotional, loud scene. Former Virginia Tech players will come back to watch. Current players will want to send Beamer out the right way, with a victory. And North Carolina will be there, on the opposite sideline, hoping to spoil it all.
The Tar Heels are hoping most of all for a victory that would give them the ACC’s Coastal Division championship. UNC’s players know what will await them at Lane Stadium. They know the Hokies will be energized, fired up.
“Yeah,” Jeff Schoettmer, UNC’s senior middle linebacker said Monday, “but so are we. Because we understand that we’re 9-1 and we can clinch the Coastal. So I think we’re going to be more fired up, or as fired up, as them.”
UNC’s game at Virginia Tech looked difficult enough before the start of the season. Lane Stadium has a reputation, regardless of how good or bad the Hokies are playing, for being one of the most difficult places to play in the ACC.
Schoettmer said it’s “up there with one of the loudest stadiums” he’s played in. And it’s likely to be louder, more hostile given the stage of Beamer’s final home game.
This won’t be remembered among Beamer’s best seasons. The Hokies, after two consecutive victories, are 5-5 and still need one more win to become bowl eligible. The dynamic of their season, though, would change with an emotional victory against a UNC team that’s now ranked 12th nationally.
“They’re going to play well,” Fedora said. “First of all, they’ve always played well against us. So I don’t know that they need any extra incentive or anything. Obviously they want to send coach Beamer out on a positive note.”
Fedora has never coached in the kind of game he will on Saturday, with an opposing team saying goodbye, in some ways, to a beloved head coach. The closest thing Fedora has experienced, he said, was in 2004 when he was the offensive coordinator at Florida and his team was playing at Florida State when the Seminoles named its field after longtime coach Bobby Bowden.
Yet the stakes are high, too, for UNC. A victory would give the Tar Heels their first outright Coastal Division championship. It would clinch UNC’s appearance against Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
Fedora said he doesn’t think his players “need any extra motivation” to match the Hokies’ intensity. There’s already plenty to motivate the Tar Heels – and plenty of pressure without being the other team for Beamer’s Lane Stadium farewell.
“We’re in the driver’s seat – we control our own destiny for the Coastal,” Schoettmer said, “and I think they’re trying to secure a bowl game. So we’ve got more on the line, I think, so I think it’s probably more pressure on us.”