CHARLOTTESVILLE — As Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech neared its end, Virginia freshman wide receiver Dominique Terrell caught a bubble-screen pass and fumbled. And after the Hokies recovered the Cavaliers’ fourth turnover of the day, Virginia tackle Oday Aboushi shoved Virginia Tech defensive end J.R. Collins to the ground and drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
No, this was not the disciplined, run-savvy, defensively sound Virginia squad that had won four straight games over the past month, when the Cavaliers furiously dashed into ACC title contention.
This was 2010. Or 2009. Or, really, any year since 2003. In front of an announced sellout crowd at Scott Stadium, Virginia Tech defeated Virginia, 38-0, to maintain the football pecking order in the state, despite all the forward progress the Cavaliers program has made since second-year Coach Mike London took over.
It was the first shutout suffered by the Cavaliers since the 2006 regular season finale — which also came at the hands of the Hokies. Consequently, Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1 ACC) will advance to face Clemson in next weekend’s conference championship game, while the Cavaliers (8-4, 5-3) will await the date and location of their first bowl game in four seasons.
“It’s tough because of everything that was riding on it,” London said. “But I want to tell you something: I’m proud of my team that at 8-4, and no one thought we would be this far or get to this point, that 8-4 is a good season for us.”
That certainly is true for a program that had gone a combined 12-24 in the three previous seasons. But Saturday was supposed to be the day Virginia proclaimed it had drawn closer — if not even — to its in-state rival. Now that Virginia Tech has won 12 of the past 13 meetings in this series, that day once again seems far off in the distance.
The Hokies — who have won 11 regular season games for the first time since 1999 — established their dominance at the outset and did not let up, not that Virginia provided much impediment.
Rather, the Cavaliers devolved into a form closer to the one they displayed in 2010, when they went 4-8. There were silly penalties and questionable coaching decisions, multiple turnovers and critical defensive breakdowns.
By the time Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson scored on a 38-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter — pushing the Hokies’ lead to 28-0 — much of the hopeful energy in the stadium had evaporated.
“It was visible on the field and you could see it in the stands,” said Wilson, who finished with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “When we first come out of warmups, you couldn’t get [the Virginia fans] to shut up. . . . Close to the end of the game it got kind of quiet on those first downs. I felt the difference.”
So did Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers entered Virginia Tech territory six times Saturday and came away with no points. The Hokies held Virginia to 30 rushing yards on 26 carries.
The Cavaliers elected to go for it on fourth and two from the Virginia Tech 7-yard line in the first quarter, but the Hokies stopped tailback Kevin Parks short of the first-down marker.
London said it was “the opportunity to send a message to our guys up front that if you’re going to win championships, if you’re going to win games, you’ve got to be able to knock people off the ball and gain a yard, particularly on your favorite run play.”
But Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler, who tackled Parks, said the Hokies had seen on film that Virginia liked to bring in a different fullback — Zach Swanson — and call that exact power-running play near the goal line. When Tyler saw Swanson enter the game, he knew what was coming.
“What did we have, three or four drives in the red zone and we couldn’t get any points out of it?” Virginia right guard Luke Bowanko said. “I mean, the game’s a whole different story, you know, if we convert when we’re supposed to on third downs and in the red zone.”
Instead, the story in this rivalry game turned out the same as many that transpired before it.