“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s losing, and the way things were, it didn’t seem like things were going to get better anytime soon,” Thomas said at Virginia Tech’s weekly news conference. “And another thing is that their fans weren’t as passionate as they are here and you always want to play in front of a sold-out crowd.”
If the Hokies were afraid of providing bulletin-board material for a struggling in-state foe, they sure didn’t mince words Monday. Though Virginia Tech would qualify for the ACC championship if it beats Virginia on Saturday and Coastal division leader Duke loses its regular season finale to North Carolina, the team’s leaders emphasized the focus is entirely on keeping the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg.
The Hokies have won nine consecutive games against Virginia, the longest winning streak in the series that dates from 1895
. Center Andrew Miller said, at this point, there’s pressure not to be the class that ends the streak and “I think we’re going to make it 10 for sure.”
The Cavaliers are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak.
“I would never say that I wish anything negative upon anybody, but if there’s one team in the country who’d be poor, it’d be U-Va.,” linebacker Jack Tyler said.
Even Coach Frank Beamer said it’s only natural that emotions run high this week given the yearly battles between the two schools on the field and on the recruiting trail. Thomas said “everybody who comes here kind of develops a loathing for Virginia.”
“I think both sides respect each other. I don’t think both sides necessarily like each other,” Beamer said. “But I think there’s a difference. I do think there’s respect. I think both programs do it the right way. I think both programs, their fan base should be proud of them because of how we do business and how we go about it. It’s not a date, where you need to like somebody. It’s a get-after-it session, is what it is.”
But the Hokies, who have lost three of their past four games since starting 6-1, are well aware of how the perception of their season could change with another victory over the Cavaliers. Linebacker Tariq Edwards talked Monday of a recent encounter at a local store in which a fan told him, “You guys may have lost last week [against Maryland], but if you win this week, I’m good.”
Thomas seems to understand that concept better than anyone, even if it means piling on the school that once coveted his talents.
“On the field, I think the last nine years have kind of spoken for themselves,” Thomas said. “I don’t think anybody thinks anybody is better than anybody, but at times you kind of get the feeling that because their school is prestigious, I guess that they feel they’re better than we are. But I think everybody knows who the better half is.”