Nov. 25, 2003
The media circled like sharks Monday.
The weekly press conference with head football coach Al Groh and open locker room with the Cavalier players was a bait session. Everyone with a pen, TV camera, or tape recorder was looking for the gauntlet quote that would establish the Virginia-Virginia Tech game as the most heated rivalry since Ali/Frazier...or the Lions and the Christians.
The sharks quizzed coach Groh about this week's game and the impact on recruiting in the Old Dominion. They asked about the rivalry itself...is it the biggest he has ever seen...or was he ever involved in a game like this in the NFL? As a player at Virginia, did the game mean anything extra for him? What is the relationship like with Frank Beamer, Tech's head coach? The guns were loaded, however Groh looked the other way.
As UVA quarterback Matt Schaub sat in his locker surrounded, he faced the same attack. Does this game mean more to you than the other ones? How badly do you want to beat Tech? Will your career feel differently to you if you leave the grounds never defeating UVA's chief rival? The scribes wanted a headline...they wanted a bomb.
They never got it.
Groh was smooth at the press conference...respectful of the Hokie program and what they have accomplished. He was complimentary of the system and the play of Randall and Vick at quarterback. Schaub likewise...hammered for over 30 minutes about blitzes, bowl games, and past failures against Vah-Tech, number 7 never wavered in his responses. He spoke like a champ and was as calm as when he stands in the pocket.
As the other players filed in for Monday's workout, the talk was mostly about "the bowl game". Which one...where? What about the other teams in the ACC? Where are they going? It was upbeat and businesslike...and the hype was in motion.
The one interesting note in this year's battle for the Commonwealth Cup is that it represents the last time the two teams will play as only state rivals instead of conference rivals. Next year, the Hokie nation joins the Atlantic Coast Conference and each UVA-Vah-Tech game will be more meaningful. It will have bowl game and division title implications attached...like this series needed anything else to fuel the fire.
So it goes...it's Virginia Tech week. Flags will fly...banners will hang from porches, and neighbors will argue.
There's nothing like a rival.
Last Saturday Coach Groh asked for a volunteer to "carry the flag" that was held by back-up defensive end D.J. Bell on the sideline for most of the game after D'Brickashaw Ferguson carried it out of the locker room. The flag will return for this week's game.
Schaub is three touchdown passes away from the Shawn Moore career record of 55. That is the only major UVA passing record he doesn't own. Matt has thrown a TD pass in 22 of his last 23 games...including the last 8.
Last year Virginia played seven games against ranked opponents...Virginia Tech will be only the second Top 20 team the Cavs have faced this year. UVA has never defeated a ranked Hokie team while being unranked themselves.
VT has won four in a row in the series...the longest streak for either team since they won four in a row from 1980-83. The Hokies are also the last team to win five in a row after winning six from 1958 to 1963.
Kicker Connor Hughes leads the nation in field goal percentage (95%) and extra point percentage. Hughes has hit 25 of 27 field goals in his career and has the best percentage in school history. His 93 points scored this season are the most since Rafael Garcia scored 96 points in 1996.