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Rivalry still means something

In the moments after Virginia Tech’s 38-10 win over North Carolina State last weekend, Hokies Coach Frank Beamer gathered his players around in the locker room and told them to enjoy the win but to be ready: Virginia Week would start on Monday.

Even though the Hokies are not playing for a conference title and the Cavaliers have been one of the weakest teams in the ACC, Virginia Tech’s players said that Saturday’s game at Charlottesville still got them excited. The in-state rivalry is still heated.

“For me personally, I realize that it’s a different type of game in a sense that it’s a big rivalry and those guys out there; they thrive off of beating us,” running back Ryan Williams said. “That is a very, very big win and that’s a very, very big win for us also.”

Beamer estimated that 96 percent of Virginia Tech fans, if polled, would vote to win the Virginia game each year over any other game on the schedule.

How can Beamer be so confident? He started 1-5 against the Cavaliers in his initial six games at Virginia Tech. Suffering Hokies fans sent him a loud-and-clear message that such a record would not be good enough.

“I think I got the message that we needed to beat Virginia,” said Beamer, whose record against Virginia is now 13-0. “If you had ears, you heard that.”

Surely Virginia Coach Al Groh can relate to Beamer’s early difficulties. Groh is 3-9 against Virginia Tech, but it appears that Saturday will be his final game in Charlottesville for his overall inconsistency as coach. In nine years at Virginia, Groh has a 56-44 record.

Some of Virginia Tech’s players said the Cavaliers would want to fight harder for their embattled coach. Others pointed out the fact that Virginia’s seniors have never won a game against the Hokies, and face the specter of graduating without a win over their rivals from the southern part of the state. Virginia Tech has won nine of the last 10 games.

“It’s very intense,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “A lot of the guys on each team know each other. It’s very big in this state. I believe everyone in the state of Virginia is going to be watching this game.”

Asked if he had any sympathy for the Virginia seniors who have never beaten the Hokies, Taylor quickly replied: “No. Not at all.”

By Mark Viera  |  November 27, 2009; 1:29 PM ET
 
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