CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. — When Virginia Tech made its last trip to Chestnut Hill, Mass., Larry King was still forgetting callers' names on his weeknight talk show, Barack Obama had far fewer gray hairs midway through his first term and Tech hadn't misplaced the formula for winning Atlantic Coast Conference road games.
That was just two years ago, when Hampton High graduate Tyrod Taylor was on his way to winning ACC player of the year honors as he led Tech to a 19-0 early season win at Boston College for the Hokies' third straight of what would eventually become 10 consecutive ACC road wins.
Now, as Tech (4-6 overall, 2-4) returns Saturday to BC, it's seeking yet another milestone with the pursuit of a 20th consecutive bowl-eligible season — an objective that indicates much less prosperous times considering it's still looking for those elusive fifth and six wins with more than 80 percent of the regular season gone.
"It's one of those games that we have to win," said Tech cornerback Antone Exum, who will try to help his teammates snap a seven-game losing streak away from Lane Stadium at BC (2-8, 1-5). "Whether it's at Boston College, Tech, the practice field, the parking lot, we're going to have to win the game."
Going into the BC game, Tech is slated to feature a new look at the wide receiver spots with Demitri Knowles and Corey Fuller taking over starting roles from Smithfield High graduate Dyrell Roberts and Marcus Davis, respectively.
If Knowles starts, it'll be the first start of his career. It would be Fuller's sixth start this season, but he's only started previously when Tech has opened in three-receiver sets, never as a starter in a two-receiver set.
Corey Marshall is in line to get just his third start of the season at defensive end. Regular starting end J.R. Collins could get more work in the defensive tackle rotation.
If Tech opens in its traditional 4-2-5 defensive look, Alonzo Tweedy is atop the depth chart at outside linebacker and could get his first start of the season. If Tech goes with its nickel package to open against pass-oriented BC, freshman Desmond Frye will be in as the extra defensive back in place of Michael Cole, who is recovering from a neck sprain sustained Nov. 8 in a 28-22 loss to Florida State.
As if that wasn't enough to keep Tech's coaching staff busy in preparation for BC, Beamer also has been evaluating kickoff guys this week. Brooks Abbott and Michael Branthover have competed for the role.
"We've had disappointment, but that's life," said Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team has lost three games in a row and five of its last six. "You've got to come back, and how you come back from disappointment tells you a lot about who you are. That's where we are this week. … I'd feel really good about this team if we could come back and get to a bowl."
Though injuries have forced BC to start converted safety David Dudeck at running back to try to bolster its floundering running game (averaging 72.5 yards per game; 118th in the nation out of 120 Bowl Subdivision programs), quarterback Chase Rettig (57.1 percent completions, 2,808 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions) has been effective at times passing the ball.
Rettig passed for 247 yards last weekend in BC's 21-6 loss to Notre Dame. BC is 107th in the nation in total defense (470 yards per game), but it managed to keep Notre Dame (393 yards, two turnovers) out of scoring position for most of the game.
Rettig actually enters Saturday's game with a better passer efficiency rating than Tech's Logan Thomas (53.6 percent completions, 2,407 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions). Thomas has already started to ponder what he needs to improve in the offseason, including his accuracy while throwing on the run, but he has intentions on finishing this season strong.
"After the loss we just had, it's encouraging to see how well we can play," said Thomas of the FSU game. "We kind of put it all together. … We know that we've got to have these next two to go to a bowl. We're excited about it. The added pressure makes you play better."