Virginia Tech tops Virginia to win Commonwealth Cup for 10th straight time


Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins hoists the Commonwealth Cup after the Hokies’ win over Virginia. (Steve Helber/AP)
November 30, 2013

Virginia Tech linebacker Tariq Edwards and defensive linemen James Gayle and Luther Maddy were dancing on the sideline, preening for the cameras and the large contingent of Hokies fans still inside Scott Stadium, when football operations assistant Bruce Garnes approached tugging at the zipper on his warmup jacket.

He then proceeded to rip it open, a la Superman, revealing a T-shirt and a Twitter slogan he had been hiding for close to four hours at that point. It simply read: “#10inarow.”

When Virginia Tech bested in-state rival Virginia, 16-6, on Saturday, it wasn’t the Hokies’ most dominant win over the Cavaliers. And it didn’t propel Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

But none of that took away from the satisfaction provided by a decade of dominance.

Powered by a defensive performance that seemed fitting for a unit ranked among the top 10 in the country, the Hokies (8-4, 5-3) took the Commonwealth Cup to Blacksburg for a 10th straight time and sent the Cavaliers into the offseason with their ninth consecutive loss.

“I’m not sure this can be done again,” Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said of the winning streak.

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was sacked five times but also threw for 229 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to tailback Trey Edmunds just before halftime that proved to be the difference during a scoreless second half.

Edmunds (93 yards rushing) left the game early in the fourth quarter with a broken tibia and will miss the Hokies’ bowl game.

Virginia Tech’s defense sure didn’t seem to care: The Hokies limited Virginia to just 120 yards after halftime. And it made no difference when Cavaliers Coach Mike London replaced starting quarterback David Watford with backup Greyson Lambert late in the third quarter.

The lone bright spot for Virginia (2-10, 0-8) was tailback Kevin Parks (105 yards on 17 carries), who became the first Virginia player since 2004 to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a season. And yet, in a sequence that summed up the season, Lambert threw an interception to freshman Kendall Fuller on the play after Parks broke off a 48-yard run that ignited the smallest crowd (52,069) to witness a Virginia Tech-Virginia game since Scott Stadium’s expansion in 2000.

Watford completed 13 of 23 passes for 122 yards. Lambert finished 4 for 16 for 54 yards as the Cavaliers failed to score on their final 10 drives.

“We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing on offense,” Virginia tight end Jake McGee said. “It’s not something you expect to happen. There’s too much talent in this locker room to be a 2-10 football team. . . . What have we lost nine straight to finish the year? And then Tech finishes if off? It’s tough, but really with how we played offense this year, it didn’t really matter who was on the other side.”

About 20 minutes before kickoff, Virginia Tech found out it would be playing only for pride Saturday when Duke beat North Carolina, 27-25, to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and secure a spot in next week’s league championship game in Charlotte.

A Blue Devils loss, combined with a Hokies win, would have put Virginia Tech in the title game.

That, according to Thomas, “didn’t take any of the edge off,” and the first half featured a mixture of fights and field goals.

A skirmish along the Virginia Tech sideline between the teams erupted on the third play from scrimmage, prompting Virginia Coach Mike London to race across the field to separate his players from the fray.

By the end of the first half, several scuffles needed to be ended by officials, and at one point Cavaliers left tackle Morgan Moses and defensive end James Gayle engaged in a post-whistle scrum better suited for a mixed martial arts ring than a football field.

“I must have forgot how heavy he was. He must’ve been heavier than I thought,” Gayle joked about his attempt to take down the 325-pound Moses. “At least I didn’t throw a punch.”

The tensions did nothing to boost either offense. Watford completed seven of his first nine passes, but Virginia could muster just two field goals by junior Alec Vozenilek.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, drove inside the Virginia 25-yard-line on three of its first four drives but was forced to settle for three field goals by freshman place kicker Eric Kristensen, a walk-on playing just his second career game. But the game turned after his final field goal of the first half.

Beamer caught Virginia by surprise, electing to try an onside kick that kicker Michael Branthover (DeMatha) recovered. Thomas, who also caught a nine-yard pass in the first half on a trick play from fullback Sam Rogers, then dropped back and fired a bomb to wide receiver Demitri Knowles (101 yards receiving) streaking down the sideline, and Virginia cornerback DreQuan Hoskey was forced to commit a touchdown-saving pass interference penalty.

Two plays later, however, following a personal foul called on Hokies senior D.J. Coles, Virginia linebacker Max Valles sacked and stripped Thomas, and defensive tackle Brent Urban recovered the fumble. But some curious game management by London — he elected to go for it on fourth and 11 rather than pin the Hokies deep with a punt and ended the first half with a timeout in his pocket — allowed Virginia Tech to grab momentum for good.

“I wish I could have done a better job for them, coaching them,” London said in a somber postgame news conference. “Today, we did not go out on a positive note.”

Once Watford’s ensuing pass sailed too long, London’s plan backfired. With more than a minute left on the clock, Thomas led a 65-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 26-yard catch-and-run by Edmunds, and the Hokies entered halftime with a 16-6 lead.

Mark Giannotto covers Virginia and Virginia Tech for The Washington Post.
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