clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preview: The Virginia Tech Hokies vs The University of Virginia Cavaliers

This is it! The Commonwealth Cup Game! Senior Night! The Cavaliers of the University of Virginia show up at Lane Stadium with a new coach, and a changing culture. They'll be looking to be a spoiler. This is their Bowl Game and I fully expect Bronco Mendenhall's Wahoos to put their best effort on the field.

Does the Cup stay in Blacksburg this Year?
Does the Cup stay in Blacksburg this Year?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday it's Senior ‘Night' at Lane Stadium.  Night in that there is probably going to be some sort of dinner or private event honoring the Seniors from the football team, the cheerleading squad, and the bands.  But the game is at noon, so night is stretching the definition a bit.

What isn't to be stretched or distorted is the importance of this game to Virginia Tech, again.  The past few years the win was necessary just to qualify for a bowl bid.  This year, as we have repeatedly reminded everyone, a win on Saturday will cement the Hokies' 2016 Coastal Division Championship, and send us to Orlando to face the Clemson Tigers in the premier ACC event of the season.  The Championship has been out of the picture for more than a few years, since we lost it in 2011 when we lost to the Clemson Tigers (corrected - ed).  That's six years after having dominated between 2004 and 2010.  As we have often repeated, that was then and this is now.   It is also what might be, not was is.   The directly in front of us is with our cross state archrival the Wahoos, and though the Commonwealth Cup isn't the Dr. Pepper Championship Trophy, it certainly is the spoils of a very old and very storied relationship.

We have all heard that Tech has dominated the games over the last 12 seasons.  Yup, we've won 12 games in a row, and are looking for the 13th to help seal the big deal in the Coastal.  However, look at the Beamer Era games in the chart and notice something a bit "interesting".  (Hokies Sports Schedule History)

Season

Date

Site

Score (VT-Opp)

Rank

2015

Sat., Nov 28, 2015

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 23-20

NR/NR

2014

Fri., Nov 28, 2014

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 24-20

NR/NR

2013

Sat., Nov 30, 2013

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 16-6

NR/NR

2012

Sat., Nov 24, 2012

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 17-14

NR/NR

2011

Sat., Nov 26, 2011

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 38-0

6/24

2010

Sat., Nov 27, 2010

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 37-7

13/NR

2009

Sat., Nov 28, 2009

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 42-13

14/NR

2008

Sat., Nov 29, 2008

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 17-14

NR/NR

2007

Sat., Nov 24, 2007

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 33-21

8/16

2006

Sat., Nov 25, 2006

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 17-0

17/NR

2005

Sat., Nov 19, 2005

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 52-14

7/NR

2004

Sat., Nov 27, 2004

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 24-10

11/16

2003

Sat., Nov 29, 2003

Charlottesville, Va.

L, 21-35

21/NR

2002

Sat., Nov 30, 2002

Blacksburg, Va. 1

W, 21-9

22/NR

2001

Sat., Nov 17, 2001

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 31-17

18/NR

2000

Sat., Nov 25, 2000

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 42-21

6/NR

1999

Sat., Oct 2, 1999

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 31-7

8/24

1998

Sat., Nov 28, 1998

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 32-36

20/16

1997

Sat., Nov 29, 1997

Charlottesville, Va.

L, 20-34

NR/NR

1996

Fri., Nov 29, 1996

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 26-9

17/20

1995

Sat., Nov 18, 1995

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 36-29

20/13

1994

Sat., Nov 19, 1994

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 23-42

14/16

1993

Sat., Nov 20, 1993

Charlottesville, Va.

W, 20-17

25/23

1992

Sat., Nov 21, 1992

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 38-41

NR/NR

1991

Sat., Nov 23, 1991

Charlottesville, Va.

L, 0-38

NR/20

1990

Sat., Nov 24, 1990

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 38-13

NR/17

1989

Sat., Nov 11, 1989

Charlottesville, Va.

L, 25-32

NR/18

1988

Sat., Oct 29, 1988

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 10-16

NR/NR

1987

Sat., Sep 19, 1987

Charlottesville, Va.

L, 13-14

NR/NR

We have rarely stumbled, and have had our share of pretty convincing blow out wins, but the last three seasons with major things on the line, the Wahoos have played us tough as shoe leather.   There was a time in this rivalry where UVA did rear up and chomp on us hard.  In fact Franks first few years were plagued by losses to UVA both at home and at Scott Stadium.  We really didn't turn the corner until 1999 when the programs headed in very different directions.

When we finally joined the ACC, the domination was complete.  They haven't beaten us in the ACC years.  If all this sends up all sorts of warning flags, it should.  If there has been anything truly consistent about Virginia Tech over the past decade, it's the tendency to drop games in which we are heavily favored and the historic victor, IF there is something on the line, like a championship, or big TV presence.  As underdogs we rock, but as favored teams we have repeatedly lived down to low expectations.

This season we need to break that cycle and do it in style.   Only, the Wahoos are going to be in the way.  They are tired of the snoot full of pride diminishing losses, and no one but a Hokie knows the dripping sort of down their nose look that most Wahoos give their country cousins from the southwest plateau.

So, what are we facing?  First is the new Coach Bronco Mendenhall took the reins of the Wahoo machine a few months after Whit Babcock landed Justin Fuente.   The reports started coming out of Hooville of a "problematic" transition.  Virginia Sports, The Richmond Times-€”Dispatch, and Comcast Sports Net all published stories this summer regarding the culture change going on in the Cavalier football program once Mendenhall (who's last experience was super buttoned down BYU).  So far, the transition has not resulted in as immediate a success as the Beamer to Fuente move.

UVA is chained to the ACC Coastal Anchor with a record of 2-9; including an opening day embarrassment by FCS powerhouse Richmond Spiders.  The season has been a struggle for the Hoos, and there is no buttering over the losses, especially against UCONN and Richmond (The Hoos got by Central Michigan in a shoot out).  It's not like we haven't suffered some embarrassments ourselves so there will be no gloating from these pages.

The Cavaliers come to Lane stadium knowing that this will be their last game of the season.  They know that they have an opportunity to throw the Coastal wide open and barring a UNC loss, actually hand it to the Tar Heels.  For Saturday, the Commonwealth Cup game is the Wahoo's bowl game.  I cannot imagine a more perfect opportunity to come to the coin toss with some serious energy and purpose to be a spoiler for your arch rival's season hopes.

The Wahoo's start Senior QB Kurt Benkert is not starting.  Their other Senior Matt Johns is expected to get the nod.  He hasn't shown that he's a running quarterback this season, and his passing and QB quality stats are also not the highest.  He has thrown three picks this season, and his QBR is barely above 100.  Why does that still make me nervous?  The Yahoo Sports tables don't lie too often.   Matt Johns is as much of a trap player to us as Benkert.

Passing

Player

G

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Y/A

Y/G

TD

Int

Long

Sack

YdsL

QBRat

Kurt Benkert

10

219

380

57.6

2430

6.4

243.0

20

11

84

30

209

122.9

Matt Johns

4

32

53

60.4

297

5.6

74.3

2

3

44

3

16

108.6

The Hoo rushing attack has been moderately successful this season but really only has three top rushers that have produced much of anything.  Taquan Mizzell carries the rock for them more often than most, but among Mizzell, Reid, and Ellis all have managed to keep their yards per carry average above 4 yards.

Rushing

Player

G

Rush

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Taquan Mizzell

10

165

827

75.2

5.0

44

5

Albert Reid

10

98

480

43.6

4.9

28

6

Jordan Ellis

10

12

61

8.7

5.1

12

1

The Wahoo passing attack is functionally a straight pro-style offensive operations with drop back passing and more traditional routes and formations.   As you can see their top four receivers average more than 8 yards per catch.  Doni Dowling, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Keeon Johnson have grabbed up over 1500 yards this season.  Keeping them in check by covering them, and getting heavy pressure on a pocket passer with a tendency to get sacked and throw interceptions is going to be the primary defensive mission.

Receiving

Player

G

Rec

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Doni Dowling

10

47

600

60.0

12.8

44

4

Olamide Zaccheaus

11

49

535

48.6

10.9

82

6

Keeon Johnson

11

46

459

41.7

10.0

34

3

Taquan Mizzell

1

51

406

36.9

8.0

53

2

David Eldridge

4

6

162

40.5

27.0

84

2

Objectively, on paper, Virginia Tech should be able to run away and hide on Saturday.  Let me explain again, how we have underperformed those sorts of match ups this season.  We were stunned by a Syracuse team that had very similar capabilities (with the exception of a more mobile Quarterback).  So everyone will have to pardon me if I am toting the camera on the sideline, and being nervous for every play in every direction.

Tech's offense has been inconsistent and its defensive secondary has been dicey this season.  The consistency problems are not even game to game, but can be quarter to quarter.  This situation should eventually settle down, but the Hokies have bumped down the road, more than roared this season.

We have flashes of brilliance, and it would be really good for us to show it on Saturday.

Again, Virginia Tech wins this football game IF WE DON'T BEAT OURSELVES...

GO HOKIES!!!!

Updated 11/25/2016 at 9:20 am.  Warning: Don't do research and cut and paste while influenced by a post Thanksgiving food coma.