Virginia Tech and outgoing coach Frank Beamer are in an uncomfortably familiar spot heading into their traditional regular season-ending rivalry game against Virginia: For the third time in four years, the Hokies need to beat the Cavaliers to qualify for a bowl game.
While the Hokies (5-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won 11 in a row in the series, they also have learned to take nothing for granted.
They've won the last three matchups with the Cavaliers by a total of 17 points.
''They always give us their best football. It's a great rivalry,'' Hokies senior defensive tackle Luther Maddy said. ''There's always a big meaning to our game, whether it's going to a bowl game, going to the championship, whatever it is. It's always a great football game. It's always very competitive.
''They give us their best shot. We give them our best shot. It's just a great game in general. ... This is basically their bowl game, this last game. We need to beat them to get to a bowl game. ... So will we.''
The Hokies have the added motivation of trying to extend their NCAA-best bowl streak to 23 seasons in Beamer's final regular season game as coach. Beamer announced earlier this month that this, his 29th season, would be his last coaching his alma mater.
But Virginia (4-7, 3-4) is potentially facing a coaching change as well.
Mike London, in his sixth season, has an 11-28 record against ACC competition and has never beaten the Hokies, which makes the matchup at Virginia's Scott Stadium especially big. London has set winning out as his goal to honor his senior class, and the Cavaliers started with a 42-34 victory against Duke on Saturday.
''Obviously for the stakeholders, the alumni, fans, it's always about bragging rights, it's always about what happens on game day and afterwards,'' said London, whose team was eliminated from bowl consideration two weeks ago in a 38-31 loss at Louisville. ''We want to play well enough to do that, to have an opportunity to reverse whatever streak has been going on and to focus on finishing for us and this group of seniors we have as well.''
Hokies' fans are fond of touting the school's more than 4,000-day hold on the Commonwealth Cup that goes to the winner of the game, and while Virginia fans are quick to note the school's 23-0 lead in team national championships, the participants feel the pressure of holding up their end of the rivalry.
That's especially true for the Hokies, who don't want to see their bowl streak end.
''It's not like we're going out there and blowing them out,'' Maddy said. ''It's always a fourth quarter football game. ... We've been fortunate enough to win these past 11 times or whatever it's been, but we can't go out there and just assume we're going to win. They're going to give us their best shot.''
And London, while effusive in his praise for Beamer, said the goals for his team remain the same.
''We want to win a football game here,'' he said. ''That's our last game as well - last home game for our seniors, to have a home winning record, to be 4-4 in the conference. Coach Beamer's legacy will stand on its own for a long time. ... You learn to have a respect for a man that's had such a distinguishing career, but the competitive part is we're trying to win a football game as well. We want to end on a positive note for our seniors.''
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