So how does a group of players that has never won against the Hokies being led by a coach that has just one win against that same team in his UVa tenure find the confidence to pull off a win this week?
“That’s part of the challenge, sure,” Cavalier coach Al Groh said.
“We have an opportunity to play two more games, that’s the way I’m taking it and that’s how I’m trying to approach it,” UVa senior Clint Sintim said. “If you believe it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to come true, but I’m trying to do everything in my power to execute and get guys to feel the same way I feel so we can go down to Blacksburg and get a big win.”
Of course, regardless of the implications – bowl games, title hopes, and the like – this is still a rivalry game at its core. And with that comes all the cliché trimmings. You know, throw out the records and so forth. But what if a so-called rivalry has become fairly one-sided in recent years? Does that change the dynamic? VT has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two schools, including the last four games in Lane Stadium where Saturday’s game kicks off at noon.
Sintim doesn’t think a trend of results impacts the rivalry as much as you might think.
Clint Sintim thinks players play hard in a rivarly every year regardless of the recent results.
“I don’t think so. A rivalry will always be a rivalry. I think we’re rivals with UNC and we’ve played UNC since I’ve been here I think four times and we’ve won three out of the four. It’s still a rivalry nonetheless,” Sintim said. “They’re going to come to play and we’re going to come to play. [Virginia Tech] has won the majority the last couple of years, but nonetheless it is a rivalry game and it’s something I’m going to be excited for.”
While the recent results in this series may not have taken as much of a toll on the players’ approach, the losing streak to the Hokies is something fans certainly have taken notice of. No Hoo fan wants to add another loss to Virginia Tech in football any time soon. Many, in fact, would love nothing more than to see Virginia come out emotionally charged with guns blazing this week in an all out effort to win the 2008 game. Trick offensive plays? Yep. Fake punts or field goals? You bet. Vic Hall in the wildcat formation? Sure, why not!
None of those things are necessarily going to pop up this weekend in Blacksburg, but Groh said Tuesday that the team always takes a ‘pulling out all the stops’ mentality into games.
“It’s been pull out all the stops for 11 weeks. I mean everyone’s that way. I think it’s been pull out all the stops for eight years,” Groh said. “Whatever it takes every week. We’ve got them all ready. Do we use them all? Circumstances may not be appropriate to use certain things that we have, but we pull them all out every week.”
The Spoiler Role
With a win Saturday, Virginia Tech earns a trip to the ACC Championship Game. That, of course, drew several questions Tuesday about playing the role of spoiler in addition to playing for bowl eligibility. From Groh (“It’s all about our team.”) on down the line, the Hoos said that isn’t part of their motivation this week.
“I don’t think our team is into spoiling their championship route or whatnot, it’s more about what we have to do to keep playing football, which is ultimately what we want to do,” Virginia tight end John Phillips said.
“Definitely the positive side of it. We try to win every week. I guess in the NFL it’s a little more pronounced when you have a team at the end of the year playing a team that’s going to the playoffs and the other team’s not, but it’s really not even something we’ve given much thought to I don’t think,” UVa linebacker Jon Copper said.
“Winning the game is the most important thing. By us winning the game, obviously that would be knocking them out, but I want to win the game,” Sintim said. “Knocking them out, that would be cool but more importantly I want to win the game for us.”
Evaluating high school offensive linemen is a tough task for college coaches.
Finding An Offensive Lineman
The Virginian-Pilot’s Ed Miller had a solid article in Tuesday’s edition on UVa’s recent pro prospects on the offensive line. Read it here. Groh was asked Tuesday about the difficulty of recruiting high school offensive linemen and he had some interesting insight on the process, noting everything from limited high school pass plays in some systems to camera angles as challenging aspects of picking out good prospects for the next level.
“For one, it’s a position where it’s very easy on size [to dominate in high school]. … He’s trying his best to every thing his coach told him, but he doesn’t have to be explosive and have good technique and all of that. He can just dominate the player out of sheer size,” Groh said. “And then all of a sudden, they get to college football, and the first thing we often say to some of them in recruiting, one of the big things you’re going to experience when you get here that most of the other positions don’t is that when you look across the line, it’s going to be the first time that you ever saw someone who looked just like you and they’re going to look just like you every day from now on.”
“There’s a lot of high school tapes that you look at on offensive linemen where they don’t throw very many passes and if they do, every one is a bootleg,” Groh added. “In some cases, you can look at a very nice-looking kid, a kid who has a good physique and good growth potential, look at play after play after play and there’s never any real pass protection apparent based on the system that he’s in. So there are certainly a lot more unknowns in that particular area.”
“Jared was here waiting for the ball and the ball was back in behind him. Actually it was a ball similar to the ball we hit to [Kevin] Ogletree early in the year for a touchdown, we hit [Maurice] Covington down at Georgia Tech for a touchdown. And we hit it frequently during practice last week. Actually, Marc has thrown that play very well in practice. … In this particular case with Jared being right up there at the top end with the speed that we have on our team, Marc took a little bit longer to throw the ball than what we would be programmed for so that is what caused Jared to get out of range. That’s really what happened on the play.” – Al Groh about Marc Verica ‘s interception on a pass attempt to Jared Green .
Fun With Numbers
- Virginia is 5-1 this season when winning or tied in turnover margin. The Hoos are 0-5 when losing it. UVa’s 8 turnovers in the last two games have led to 27 points.
- Dating back to 1989, UVa has scored at least 32 points in its last 7 wins in this series.
- The Cavaliers have lost their last 4 regular season finales.
- Running back Cedric Peerman has 0 career carries against the Hokies.
- 14 Virginia Tech seniors will be recognized before Saturday’s game; they have a 39-12 record in their careers.
- VT running back Darren Evans has 9 rushing touchdowns, a number that ties the Tech record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman.
- The Hokies have 1 touchdown reception by a receiver this season, a 19-yard grab by Jarrett Boykin s last week against Duke.