The annual battle for the Commonwealth Cup between Virginia Tech and Virginia conjures up all sorts of emotions from each team’s fan bases. This year, though, the stakes are even higher than usual as both the Hokies and Cavaliers can advance to the ACC’s championship game with a victory on Saturday in Charlottesville.
Virginia Tech assistant coach Shane Beamer has a unique perspective. Not only is he a lifelong Hokies fan and the son of Coach Frank Beamer, but he’s also a former Hokies long snapper and spent 11 years as an assistant coach in the SEC. There, he got to experience Georgia Tech-Georgia, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, Tennessee-Florida and South Carolina-Clemson, but “this one’s as heated as any of them.”
“I’ve been gone 11 years [and] your feelings towards U-Va. don’t change in those 11 years and it’s exciting to be back a part of this rivalry again,” said the 34-year-old Beamer said. “This one’s been kind of brewing for 34 years so it’s a little more heated and intense for the Beamer family and myself.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more significant battles between Virginia Tech and Virginia since Frank Beamer took over in Blacksburg back in 1987.
1990 — Virginia Tech 38, No. 17 Virginia 13
Beamer gets his first-ever win over Virginia at home after losing by a combined 14 points in his first three tries, all the more notable since the Cavaliers had been No. 1 for three weeks earlier in the season. Hokies quarterback Will Furrer led the way with 254 passing yards and three touchdowns, his favorite target being wide receiver Bo Campbell, father of current Virginia Tech linebacker Tariq Edwards. Tailback Vaughn Hebron added 142 rushing yards and a touchdown to offset a 180-yard performance by Virginia wide receiver Herman Moore as the Hokies clinched an above .500 record.
1992 — Virginia 41, Virginia Tech 38
Beamer and the Hokies hit rock bottom, clinching a 2-8-1 record in a game where the score wasn’t indicative of how close the game was. Virginia led 38-17 heading into the fourth quarter at Lane Stadium as Cavaliers defensive back Randy Neal returned two interceptions for touchdowns to beat the Hokies for the fifth time in six years. Beamer still remembers the hot seat he felt throughout the ensuing offseason but it would end up being his last losing campaign in Blacksburg.
1993 — No. 25 Virginia Tech 20, No. 23 Virginia 17
This is the first-ever meeting in which both teams were ranked and started a run of six such high-stakes matchups in seven years. Beamer, meanwhile, got his first win in Charlottesville over Virginia even though the Cavaliers outgained the Hokies by more than 100 yards. Defensive lineman Jeff Holland’s fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second quarter proved to be the difference. The victory clinched the Hokies’ berth in the Independence Bowl — their first trip to a bowl since 1986 — and they haven’t missed a bowl game since.
1995 — No. 20 Virginia Tech 36, No. 13 Virginia 29
Some might say this represents the most memorable comeback for Virginia Tech during the Beamer era. After trailing 29-14 in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Jermaine Holmes and quarterback Jim Druckenmiller connected on two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a memorable 32-yarder with 47 seconds remaining to take the lead (see below video). Cornerback Antonio Banks capped off the dramatic victory with a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the game. Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray played in this game and says his favorite memory from the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry came when he made a goal line stand to help the Hokies clinch a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
1998 — No. 16 Virginia 36, No. 20 Virginia Tech 32
With Michael Vick redshirting, it was the Cavaliers that authored what is still the greatest comeback in program history, recovering from a 29-7 halftime deficit behind the arm of quarterback Aaron Brooks. He finished with 345 passing yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. The most crucial came with just more than two minutes remaining when Brooks found Ahmad Hawkins on a 47-yard scoring strike (see below video). Virginia Tech’s
Darryl Al Clark ended the game with his second interception after his first was returned for a touchdown by Virginia’s Byron Thweatt.
2003 — Virginia 35, No. 21 Virginia Tech 21
After trailing at halftime, the Cavaliers outscored the Hokies 28-7 in the second half in their last victory over Virginia Tech. Quarterback Matt Schaub shred the Hokies defense, passing for 358 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Heath Miller added 145 receiving yards. It was part of a three-game losing streak to close the year for the Hokies and following the end of the season, defensive coordinator Bud Foster made significant schematic changes to deal with the growing trend of pass-happy offenses.
2004 — No. 11 Virginia Tech 24, No. 16 Virginia 10
In the Hokies’ inaugural season in the ACC, both teams had a shot at a conference title during the height of the Al Groh era in Charlottesville (the Atlantic and Coastal divisions weren’t around just yet). After a scoreless first half, Virginia went up 7-0 but Bud Foster’s defense held the Cavaliers to field goals twice after drives into the red zone. Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall grabbed control with consecutive touchdown passes to wide receiver Josh Hyman and running Cedric Humes sealed the victory late with a long touchdown run. This victory started Virginia Tech’s current seven-year winning streak, the longest since the Cavaliers won eight-straight when the teams began playing back in 1896.
2007 — No. 8 Virginia Tech 33, No. 16 Virginia 21
This is the first time the Commonwealth Cup decided the ACC’s Coastal division and determined which team in this rivalry advanced to the league’s championship game. Then-freshman Tyrod Taylor had one of his first big moments at Virginia Tech, scoring two touchdowns — including the deciding one early in the fourth quarter — while splitting time with Sean Glennon. Brandon Ore added 147 rushing yards, wide receiver Eddie Royal had 147 receiving yards and Bud Foster’s defense held the Cavaliers to 144 total yards.
2011 – No. 6 Virginia Tech at No. 24 Virginia … ?????