Thirteen months ago, Virginia Tech found itself with its back against the wall coming off an 0-2 start to the season that included a loss to FCS member James Madison.
The Hokies rebounded with an 11-game winning streak before falling to Stanford in the Orange Bowl. This week, Frank Beamer's squad again finds itself in another rough spot, but on the surface the Hokies don't appear as primed for another special run.
Virginia Tech enters this weekend's game with Miami owning a 4-1 mark, but its 0-1 in the ACC following a home loss to Clemson. A loss Saturday against the Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1 ACC) would mean that the Hokies would have to navigate an ACC slate in which four of the final six games are on the road, not a reasonable recipe for success after coming off a poor start.
It also isn't the norm for the Golden Gobblers.
"It's big," Beamer said about the date with the Hurricanes. "I said that this weekend, when we lost to Clemson (last Saturday) it only made this game bigger. There's no question about the significance of this one."
The Hokies are coming off a 23-3 mistake-filled loss to Clemson in which the offense struggled all night and the defense didn't make enough plays. It was a thorough beating, and brought into question VPI's first four games and how taking on the likes of Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall may have allowed for minimal growth and preparation for the Tigers and the ACC.
But the problem with Tech might go much deeper than that. Quarterback Logan Thomas continued to struggle, and now the Hokies have lost a second defensive tackle, as Antoine Hopkins joins Kwamaine Battle on the sidelines.
The onus, however, really is on Thomas to play well. At this point, he's the focus of the fans. It isn't tailback David Wilson, who has run for 639 yards and scored five touchdowns this season, and has been the only consistent contributor to the offense.
Wilson has often had to display a Houdiniesque quality escaping would-be tacklers and turning three-yard losses into seven and 10-yard gains. Or 18-yards, like in a highlight-quality run against Clemson last week that really covered about 45 yards.
But Thomas is the one who can elevate VPI's offense to a level where it can overcome defensive or special teams snafus here and there. Thomas has the confidence of his coach, even though he's completed just 56 percent of his pass attempts and has thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).
"I think Logan is going to be just fine," Beamer said. "He's a smart guy. He's got poise, He know what's it's all about. He's going to learn. It's just a thing that has to happen. He's got to learn and people around him have got to help, too."
Beamer then offered last Saturday as an excuse for Thomas' so-so play.
"Several plays there Saturday, might look like a quarterback is not doing the right thing," he said. "But the reality is some other guys are not doing the right thing. We have to go help our quarterback out."
It's not all Thomas, though. The mistakes were spread out pretty evenly against Clemson, and concerns in some areas have started growing during a 17-10 win at East Carolina.
Beamer believes his team is close offensively to performing to his liking, and he doesn't think the special teams mistakes are anything but an aberration. The Hokies are close, Beamer says, real close.
"It's a matter of staying on course and continuing to work and getting better."