Unlike Virginia, Hokies love talking about The Streak
By HANK KURZ Jr.
Only one side in the annual Virginia and Virginia Tech rivalry likes to talk about The Streak.
The No. 24 Hokies have won 13 in a row in the series, and pledge to go into Friday night's matchup in Charlottesville determined not to be the team to let their program's dominance of the Cavaliers come to an end.
"We're playing for more than just ourselves and the streak. We're playing for the past players that have come through and who started this streak and stuff like that," Hokies linebacker Andrew Motuapuaca said this week.
"It's a lot on the line but we're up for the challenge and we're going to get some good work this week."
Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is coming off a victory that got their season back on track. After allowing a 74-yard pass play that put Pittsburgh a yard and a half from a stunning victory, the Hokies stopped the Panthers on four consecutive plays, preserving a 20-14 victory that ended a two-game losing streak.
Virginia (6-5, 3-4) has qualified for a bowl game for the first time since 2011, and the Hokies have taken notice in the Cavaliers' improvement in their second season under Bronco Mendenhall. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said his team will have to play "a heck of a football game" to pull out a win.
Rather than dismiss the added meaning of the game, Foster and the Hokies embrace it.
Virginia Tech will go to a bowl game for the 25th year in a row this year, the nation's longest such streak. Three times in the final four seasons of Frank Beamer's tenure as coach, Virginia Tech needed a win at Virginia to get the six wins required to be bowl eligible.
Last season, the Hokies' 52-10 victory in Justin Fuente's first season put them in the ACC championship game.
"This game means so much as far as recruiting and in-state bragging," Foster said, "... and this game for the last several years has meant a lot to us because it's catapulted us potentially for a championship game or a championship. Period. So, it's obviously played a bigger role these last 13, 14 years than it maybe did the previous time when we were just rivals."
Those 13 or 14 years are since the Hokies joined Virginia in the ACC in 2004.
For players from Virginia, the results of the battle for the Commonwealth Cup matter greatly.
"It's just something about UVA week, man," Hokies defensive tackle Ricky Walker said. "The weather is always colder, just a little more bounce in practice, and everybody's more energetic because we just want to keep that cup in Blacksburg. ... There's a reason why guys come here because 13 years in a row the cup stayed in Blacksburg. It's going to be fun. I know a couple guys on that team. Friday night prime time. It gets no better than this."
Even in seasons when Virginia has fared poorly coming into the game, records hardly matter, he said.
"UVA is doing pretty good this year, but even if they were 1-10 it would be a hyped-up week just because of who they are and the rivalry and all that," Walker said. "I feel like UVA's going to play their best game so we've got to be ready for that and to us, we've just got to come out, execute and just play Virginia Tech football."
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Updated November 21, 2017