It's common to hear college football players talk of the thrill of playing in an NFL stadium. But the atmosphere often can be sterile, lacking the electricity of games staged on campus. No team knows the feeling more than Virginia Tech, which has lost four straight games in NFL stadiums.
When Virginia Tech (3-1) plays Cincinnati (2-0) at FedEx Field on Saturday, the opponent might be the venue as much as the Bearcats. With ticket sales lagging for the high-priced event -- the top ticket is going for $174.95 -- the Hokies can count on plenty of empty seats at FedEx.
It has been a recipe for failure for Virginia Tech dating to a 2011 Orange Bowl loss to Stanford. The last three times the Hokies have played in an NFL stadium, they have lost to lower-ranked teams. The most recent example was a 35-17 loss to previously winless Pittsburgh. The game drew 48,032 at Heinz Field, 17,000 shy of capacity.
|Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati|
|When » Saturday, 3:30 p.m.|
|Where » FedEx Field|
|TV » ESPNU|
"It's much easier to play when it's a full stadium, when you've got a bunch of fans either cheering for you or cheering against you," Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said. "That's kind of what puts the chill bumps on you, gets you going."
Playing before hostile crowds has rarely been a problem for Virginia Tech. Before losing to Pittsburgh, the Hokies had won 13 straight road games. It's the neutral site games that have hounded Virginia Tech, though coach Frank Beamer discounts any effect.
"I don't think the NFL stadiums have anything to do with whether we win or lose," Beamer said.
FedEx Field is nearly twice as far from Cincinnati (512 miles) as it is from Blacksburg (278 miles). But this is technically a home game for the Bearcats, who moved it to FedEx in hopes of attracting a bigger crowd. Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati has a capacity of 35,000, less than half that of FedEx, which holds 79,000.
"We are approaching this week as if it's a road game," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said Monday.
There is plenty at stake for Cincinnati, which went 10-3 last year and seeks a statement victory over a national power. The Bearcats own a 34-10 victory over the same Pittsburgh team that "pounded" Virginia Tech, in the words of Beamer.
Cincinnati starts eight seniors on defense and has an exciting dual-threat at quarterback in 6-foot-5 Munchie Legaux, who guides a spread attack full of speed.
"They do a good job stretching you vertically and a good job of stretching you horizontally," Beamer said. "When you've got speed and athletes, that adds to the stretching."
The Hokies are 0-2 at FedEx, losing season openers to USC (2004) and Boise State (2010). Those games, however, pitted Virginia Tech against teams ranked first and third, respectively, and drew 91,665 and 86,587 fans to Landover, most of them in maroon and orange. Saturday will bear little resemblance to those memorable night games.
"It is tougher to play at a place where it's not full, it's not packed," Thomas said. "But you have to change your mindset, and you have to get yourself going."