For the last time, Frank Beamer will lead the Virginia Tech Hokies onto the field against the Virginia Cavaliers in the 97th edition of the Commonwealth Cup. Virginia Tech will look to send Beamer out right with a 12th-straight win over the Virginia Cavaliers that would also extend the nation’s longest bowl streak to 23 seasons.
Beamer’s UVA counterpart Mike London is also likely coaching his last Commonwealth Cup with most expecting London to be fired after the game. Both teams will not only be playing to once again be best in the state, but also to send out their respective coach with a victory over their biggest rival, though a win could save London’s job.
With that said, here are our keys to the game for Virginia Tech against UVA.
Get The Ground Game Going Early
Last week, the Virginia Tech Hokies were unable to get Travon McMillian and the rushing attack going, causing the Hokies’ offense to struggle immensely in the first half against North Carolina. Virginia is nowhere near as good as North Carolina, but that doesn’t change the Hokies’ need to get the ground game going early.
Virginia’s best talent on defense is in their secondary led by safety Quin Blanding and while Virginia Tech has some very talented wide receivers, the Hokies also have a talented running back facing a below-average Virginia rush defense that has given up 4.7 yards per carry this season.
With McMillian healthy this week after getting a little banged up against North Carolina, Scot Loeffler and the Hokies have to attack UVA on the ground early to set up the play action pass. Loeffler needs to make sure that his run-play calls aren’t too predictable, but also don’t include the jet sweeps that frustrated Hokie fans earlier in the season.
The Hokies need to go after the ground game early, and let Travon McMillian make plays.
Pressure Matt Johns
Matt Johns has only thrown 1 interception in the last two games, but he has thrown 15 interceptions over the course of 11 games this season. Johns has had some high-end interception games also this season with 3 interceptions against Boise State, and 4 interceptions at North Carolina.
Johns has been playing better recently, but the Hokies have a couple experienced defensive backs in Brandon Facyson and Chuck Clark that will be ready to make turnovers. On top of that, UVA’s top WR Canaan Severin is listed as questionable to play in the Commonwealth Cup.
With that said, the Hokies need to get pressure to Johns early and often to force him into plenty of bad throws. Even with Dadi Nicolas suspended for the first half, Virginia Tech definitely has the player to get plenty of pressure led by Ken Ekanem who has played better in the last couple of games with 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 sack.
If the Hokies can get enough pressure on Johns to force him into some bad throws, Virginia Tech has the talent to turn bad throws into interceptions that could make a big difference in this rivalry game.
Get Off To a Quick Start
Yes, there will be a very large contingent of Virginia Tech fans at Scott Stadium, but the Hokies still need to get off to a quick start on the road. Most likely, there will still be a majority of UVA fans plus a fair amount of students that will be ready to make some noise early in this game.
The best thing that the Hokies can do is to quiet the crowd early, and get out to a quick start.
The Hokies have won 11 straight already, and that will be in the heads of every fan in the stadium. To get off to a quick start in Scott Stadium may bring up some nightmares early for Virginia fans that could cause the UVA fans to quiet while also bringing plenty of life to Hokie fans that made the trip to Charlottesville.
If the Hokies struggle early, they may have to deal with a louder and tougher crowd that will be desperate to see the Cavaliers beat the Hokies for the first time since 2003. However, no one should be surprised if the Hokies get off to a fast start with this being Beamer’s final Commonwealth Cup.