Pitt, Virginia Tech 'hungry' for win in key ACC Coastal clash
Kenny Pickett can’t escape the gobble-gobble, especially the memory it ignites. Not even when he’s at practice trying to get his mind right for Virginia Tech, the opponent for Pitt’s most significant November game since 2010.
“We’re running out to warm up and guys were mocking the turkey sound,” Pickett said. “It gives me the chills. I hate that sound.”
What else could he expect during Hokies week?
For those without access to Google, a Hokie actually is a turkey.
It was adopted as Virginia Tech’s mascot more than a century ago when the school was known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, shortened in 1944 to VPI, a name used only in the most formal situations. The school’s website tells the story of how a local resident named Floyd Meade trained a large turkey to pull a cart at a football game in 1913.
Now the gobble-gobble is played through the Lane Stadium loudspeakers whenever a Virginia Tech opponent faces third down or the home team scores a touchdown. You can see how it would annoy a guy such as Pickett, who passed for 242 yards during a 20-14 loss to the Hokies last year.
But Pickett could accept the gobble-gobble if that game had turned out differently. Pitt lost when it failed to score after four chances from the Hokies 1. Hall was stopped twice for no gain and for a loss of 3 yards after Pickett threw incomplete to Jester Weah on third down.
Pickett said he thinks about that game “all the time.”
“That changed our season,” he said. “You score there. You win the next week. We’re going bowling. Who knows what happens next, we win a nice bowl game? We’ve been preaching that all week.
“We all know what happened. We all remember it clearly. We talk about it. It’s extra motivation for this week.”
Pickett said coaches don’t reference it in front of the players, but coach Pat Narduzzi brought it up at the outset of his weekly news conference Monday.
He predicted Virginia Tech, which has lost two games in row, will show up at Heinz Field on Saturday “hungry, probably angry, something to prove.”
Then, he added, “I’ll have an angry and hungry Pitt football team. Still goes through my mind fourth-and-1. Four downs at the 1 last year where we could have taken that game back to Pittsburgh. We’re going to play angry, as well.”
On Thursday, however, he downplayed the importance of what happened a year ago.
“I really haven’t talked about it (with the team),” he said. “We did goal line (Wednesday). I said, ‘Hey, we have a yard to go. What are we going to do? I just kind of threw it out there.
“I don’t worry about what happened a year ago. This is a different football team.”
Given the circumstances, Pitt should not need extra motivation. Its season can go in one of two directions, depending on the outcome.
A victory means Pitt can win the ACC Coastal by winning at Wake Forest on Nov. 17. A loss gives Virginia Tech the upper hand.
The Hokies will be champions if they beat Pitt and go home and defeat Miami and Virginia at Lane Stadium, where the familiar “gobble-gobble” is appreciated more than it is in Pittsburgh.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.