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College Football: Modest goals major to Cavs, Hokies
BY NATHAN WARTERS
Virginia Tech has become accustomed to playing in BCS bowls in recent years. This season, the Hokies will settle for any postseason game.
Virginia Tech (5–6, 3–4 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Virginia (4–7, 2–5) today at Lane Stadium with two important streaks on the line. The Hokies are looking for their ninth straight victory over the Cavaliers and are looking to extend their bowl streak to 20 straight seasons.
VIRGINIA (4–7) at VA. TECH (5–6)
WHEN: Today, noon
WHERE: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg
RADIO: WGRQ–FM 95.9
Virginia would love to play the role of spoiler and end its subpar season on a high note.
“I don’t know if it’s incentive to put them out of a bowl game, but it is a big rivalry, so that would be nice,” Cavaliers quarterback Michael Rocco said.
The storyline isn’t as exciting as last year, when Virginia and Virginia Tech faced off in Charlottesville with the ACC’s Coastal Division title on the line, but there’s still a lot at stake for both teams.
“It’s a big game for this program,” Tech junior linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Obviously it has bowl implications for us, and for them, they’re going to try to keep us out of a bowl game. So it’s going to be huge.”
The Hokies, who have won four ACC championships and played in five BCS bowls since joining the league in 2004, are in the midst of their worst season in 20 years. But they can salvage it somewhat by winning today and earning an invite to one of the ACC’s lower-tier bowl destinations.
Representatives from Atlanta’s Chick–fil–A Bowl (an unlikely landing spot for the Hokies) the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas), Music City (Nashville) Bowl, Belk Bowl (Charlotte) and Military Bowl (Washington) will be on hand today.
“I think our kids understand trying to keep the streak alive, about going to a bowl,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “I’ve never been to a bad bowl game. I mean, they’re all good.”
The Hokies are in jeopardy of ending the season under .500 for the first time since 1992, Beamer’s sixth season as head coach.
“To say we were the year that messed it up and didn’t make it [to a bowl], that’s horrible,” said Tech running back Martin Scales, one of 16 seniors to be honored before their final home game. “Just to beat U.Va. I’m happy to go to a bowl, but I’d just love to beat U.Va., because that’s our big rival and you just always want to beat them.”
Virginia is destined for a losing record for the fifth time in seven years, but that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers are any less motivated to topple the Hokies.
“We know we can’t be bowl-eligible, but I don’t think too many guys are going to give up on this season just for that fact,” Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims said. “I think we still have something to work for.”
Rocco, who has split quarterback reps with Sims the last three games, bristled at the suggestion that the Cavaliers don’t have as much on the line as the Hokies.
Beating its in-state rival, and ending Tech’s win streak in the series, would help offset some of Virginia’s disappointment from not making the postseason.
“To go out on a winning note for our seniors and to win our last game is a big deal for us,” Rocco said. “So we’re taking it as the stakes are just as high as going to an ACC championship or going to a bowl game.”
For the first time in 24 years, both teams enter this matchup with losing records. Even so, both sides contend they’re just as motivated to come out with a win.
“We understand the importance, [that] we’re here trying to play to get into a bowl game, and that’s certainly important,” said Beamer, who is 16–9 against Virginia. “[But] it’s the rival in your state.”
“Like I said, I don’t think you have to talk a lot because there are a lot of kids that know guys from U.Va. I think it’s just kind of built in. This is a little bit different week than any other week.”
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442