By HANK KURZ Jr.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
Virginia’s final game of the season is also the one it wants most to win.
The Cavaliers (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) play at Virginia Tech on Saturday in both teams’ traditional regular-season finale. It has also traditionally been a lopsided victory for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4) has won eight in a row in the series, and 12 of the last 13.
Last season’s meeting was viewed as the biggest ever with the Cavaliers in the midst of a resurgence and the winner representing the Coastal Division in the ACC championship. The Hokies rolled 38-0.
“We felt like we were having a good year last year,” junior defensive end Jake Snyder said Monday. “We had more wins than we’ve the last few years, and they came in here and smacked us around.”
The Cavaliers finished 8-5 last season, and went to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. Their hopes for making the postseason this year ended last Thursday night in a 37-13 loss to North Carolina.
The Hokies, meantime, barely kept their hopes for a 20th consecutive bowl appearance alive with a 30-23 overtime victory at Boston College. They tied it on a field goal with 1:05 left in regulation.
“This is a very capable football team,” said Hokies coach Frank Beamer, who is 16-9 against the Cavaliers. “And of course this is the big battle in the state and we need to get ready.”
Five consecutive senior classes at Virginia have left school without ever having beaten the Hokies, and the only game in the last eight that wasn’t lost by double digits came in 2008 (17-14).
The Cavaliers, however, insist they are motivated by more than ending the drought.
“The way you end the season is huge for the next season, no matter what it is,” Snyder said. “Especially a game like this where it is a big rivalry and it’s an in-state game. Not just for us on the team, but as far as recruiting goes and as far as the perception (of the program) inside the state goes.
“We’ve had a negative image of us for the past 10 years or so because we haven’t beaten them.”
Or been close.
In the last three years, the scores have been 42-13, 37-7 and 38-0.
Phillip Sims transferred from Alabama after last season, and now shares Virginia’s quarterback job with Michael Rocco. Heading into the offseason on a winning note would be “big time for us,” he said.
“I think it’s more than just the streak we’re getting ready for this week. We know we’re capable of winning this football game. We’ve just got to do the things that we’re capable of doing,” Sims said.
“We’ve got to prepare this week like this means something.”
Rocco, a junior, is certain that won’t be a problem.
“It’s all about beating Virginia Tech, and I don’t know if it’s added incentive to beat them just because it would put them out of a bowl game, but it is a big rivalry, so that would be nice,” he said.