Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” will return to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, only the banger will blare through the speakers before a game, not near the end.
Mariano Rivera’s famous entrance song also is used by the Virginia Tech football team during its pregame run out of the tunnel, and it will be played for the Hokies ahead of their New Era Pinstripe Bowl appearance against Maryland.
Major League Baseball locked out its players this month and COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc elsewhere on the NCAA bowl season, but the familiar tune will provide a strong Yankees connection and some normalcy to the 11th edition of the Pinstripe Bowl after last year’s game in The Bronx was canceled due to the pandemic.
Virginia Tech (6-6) extended the longest streak in the nation with 29 consecutive seasons of being bowl eligible (since 1993) and will face former ACC foe Maryland (6-6).
Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, has thrown for 3,595 yards and 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 12 games for the Terrapins, the seventh Big Ten program in seven seasons of the conference’s affiliation with the Pinstripe Bowl to accept a bid.
“He’s really good and the best thing he does is he extends plays,” Virginia Tech interim coach J.C. Price said Tuesday on a conference call. “And when he extends them, you have quarterbacks that look to run, but what he does a great job of, the first guy hardly ever gets him down.
“Most of the time if you’re covering more than five, six seconds, the advantage goes to the offense and that’s what he’s enabled them to do all year and why they’re passing numbers are so good.”
Price, Virginia Tech’s former defensive line coach, took over in November when head coach Jason Fuente was fired with a 5-5 record. The Hokies practiced this week at Columbia’s facilities in Inwood, while Maryland worked out in The Bronx at Fordham, where the legendary Vince Lombardi played and began his collegiate coaching career.
“Man, obviously the history there at Fordham, some of the great coaches that have spent time there, they got a little thing in the locker room with Vince Lombardi, who’s one of the forefathers pretty much in the game,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “It’s been a great experience for our players to be on campus there. … It’s all been done first class here.”
Spending a few days in New York around the holidays always is part of the appeal of the game, even if COVID-19 has limited some of this week’s activities. Price called visiting the 9/11 Memorial “the biggest thing” he did with his team ahead of the game.
“To go onto the site and going through the museum and reliving that tragic day, not saying that was enjoyable, but it’s definitely the most impactful part of our visit,” Price said. “To watch our players go through that museum and the time and detail those guys took to read those things, I think we probably could have spent eight hours there.
“That was just very moving and the respect everybody went through that museum with … that was a special moment. That’ll probably be something that I’ll keep near and dear to my heart forever.”
Virginia Tech and the Yankees have a historic connection — and the Hokies announced Tuesday they will wear the interlocking “NY” on one side of their helmets Wednesday.
In 2007, the Yankees made a $1 million donation to the university following a shooting on the Blacksburg campus and played an exhibition game there against the Tech baseball team the following year.
“We watched some highlights from the game and some news reports from when they were here in ’08,” Price said. “We told [the players] the history, the background. When something happens, you get that person who says, ‘Let me know if I can do something.’ Or you have people that just do something, like George Steinbrenner.”