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Posted at 12:08 PM ET, 11/24/2010

Reflecting on the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry

By Mark Giannotto

This is my first time experiencing the battle for the Commonwealth Cup up close and personal, and as I've heard various players, coaches and fans talk about the rivalry this week, three thoughts have popped into my mind:

1) As a Michigan alum, the animosity between Virginia Tech fans and Virginia folks reminds me a lot of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry. Virginia Tech fans view all Cavaliers as arrogant snobs who hold their assumed superiority over everyone for no apparent reason. Virginia fans view the Hokies as uneducated country bumpkins who have a team full of "thugs," even though Virginia Tech is one of the top 30 public universities in the country, and has one of the highest graduation rates amongst division I-A football programs.

It has all the makings of the "Little Brother" syndrome Michigan folks used to hold over Michigan State ... except in this case little brother has been dominating big brother on the field for so long that there's no need to argue over athletics at this point.

2) Even though Virginia Tech has defeated Virginia in 10 of the past 11 seasons, including the last six contests, first-year Virginia coach Mike London's rekindled interest in recruiting the state of Virginia has given this year's contest a different dynamic. While recruiting is always a big topic in the lead up to this game, the Hokies' coaching staff doesn't want to give London a new source of momentum on the recruiting trail now that the initial luster of his hiring has begun to fade.

3) The players, at least on the Virginia Tech side, seem to be the only semi-apathetic aspect of the rivalry. I guess winning six straight will do that, but the past few days it seems the Hokies are using motivation other than just the Commonwealth Cup to get up for this one. There's senior day and the possibility of these seniors becoming the winningest group in Virginia Tech history with three more wins. Some have brought up becoming the first team since 2000 to go undefeated in the ACC. And yes, there have been a few who have mentioned the joy that comes from beating Virginia.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, and a four-hour drive back to DC in front of me, I figured it was time to share a collection of Virginia Tech thoughts on the rivalry before the blog goes quiet for a day or so.

Coach Frank Beamer

Would it be better if the rivalry was more competitive?

"I think it's plenty competitive. I think there's a lot of respect between the two schools. I know we certainly respect them, respect the coaching staff, respect how hard they're working on things and so forth. I think it's plenty competitive."

On interviewing Mike London for an assistant coach's job earlier this decade:

"I think we talked on the phone, I think is how it went. That's a lot of fourth quarters ago, and I think that's when we hired Jim Cavanaugh and, you know, I've known about him, of him, for a long time and I always thought he did a good job, a good job coaching and a good job recruiting."

What's the difference between a Virginia Tech guy and a Virginia guy?

"I think the personalities of the two schools are different. Again, I certainly respect their school, their coaches, how they work, but I do think the personalities of the schools are different. you have a choice when you grow up in the state of Virginia which school you want to go to."

Have you ever had an adult beverage out of the Commonwealth Cup?

"I think Cody Grimm was the leader of that pack. You might have to call Tampa and get his take on that."

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster

What does the rivalry mean to you?

“It means a lot from a standpoint that you’ve got the top two Division I programs from the state. It’s obviously a recruiting thing as much as anything, having bragging rights over who’s the best program in the state. And you’ve got some friends over there on that staff and I’ve got friends who are Virginia fans and I think that’s one thing that this rivalry is. There’s a respect in there."

Is it still a big game?

“It's a big game for a lot of reasons, from recruiting to bragging rights feeling like you’re the best program in the state. And that goes a long way when you get out on the road and recruit.”

QB Tyrod Taylor

Did you give Virginia any serious consideration while being recruited:

Smirking, “I thought about it. Growing up, I watched a lot of U-Va. with Almondo Curry being there, Marques Hagans. I watched a lot of U-Va. But they didn’t come down to my top three or my top five.”

What did rivalry mean to you as a kid?

“Watching it on TV, the Virginia and Virginia Tech game was like me playing in high school for Hampton and playing [rival] Phoebus. Just looked like it was fun to be a part of, and I couldn’t wait – if I chose one of those colleges – to be a part of it.”

What does the rivalry mean to you now?

“It’s more to it. It’s big for the coaches. Of course in an in-state rivalry, you play against some of the guys you play against in high school. It’s big for recruitment and just to see people that you played against. I actually have an offensive lineman that plays for them. He was one of my offensive linemen in high school.”

Would it be better if the rivalry was more competitive?

“It’s still an important game, because they bring their A-game. Coach said yesterday that they’re treating this game like their bowl game. It would make their season if they beat us. With words like that, you don’t want to take a team lightly. They’re going to be aiming for their best shot, so we have to go out there and play focused.”

SS Davon Morgan

Did you ever consider going to U-Va. [Morgan is from Richmond]?

“Nah. We had gotten into an altercation up there I wanna say my junior year. We had a 7 on 7, this was when they were recruiting Percy Harvin, and we kind of got into it with Landstown in 7 on 7 and their coaches kind of took their side because they wanted Percy. This was before the new coaching change and everything, but I just counted those guys out.”

Q: Did you watch the rivalry much growing up?

“I remember always watching this game. My grandmother used to watch football a lot so I would always catch Mike Vick doing something.”

Q: Do you consider this a rivalry even though you've dominated of late?

It’s a rivalry, yeah, but Coach [London] said it right. It’s not a rivalry when you don’t win. But at the same time, win or lose, our focus is just to win. Regardless of the team, the rivalry or whatever it is, I like winning and I’m sure my teammates do, too. That’s how I feel.”

RB Ryan Williams

Did you ever consider going to Virginia?

"It's funny, because my freshman year when I heard about people looking at me, U-Va. was the first school. My high school coach, Coach Johnson and Coach Dex, they're real cool, and I remember when Coach Johnson, after my freshman season coach Johnson told me that U-Va. was going to offer me after he sent out my highlight film and things of that sort, and I was like, 'I'm committing to U-Va.' That's what I said to myself.

"Me and my boy, John Carter, he now plays for Liberty, he plays fullback and linebacker. We were both like, 'Yeah, we're gonna go to U-Va.' I didn't think I'd get 40-plus offers coming out of high school and things of that sort. I just thought that would be my only one, so I was like, 'I'm going to U-Va.' Then September 1 my junior year, I get about 15 of them, so I was like, 'I've got a few more options.' But when I was 14, I was a Cavalier."

What does this rivalry mean to you?

"To be honest, to me this is just another game. I don't really feed into the rivalry thing, because I mean, isn't Miami a rivalry too? It's a rivalry too, so this is just another game to me. They're going to come out here and play hard just like every other team has. It's a big game, VT and U-Va., but it's just another game to me, so to me personally, I could care less if it's a rivalry or not, but for them I know this is going to be the highlight of the season if they come in here and leave with a win, so I know it's very big for them, and I know it's very big for us, but for me, it's just another game. I'll just come out and do whatever I have to do to help the team win."

RB Darren Evans

Is this still a rivalry game?

"Yeah, it's a rivalry. It doesn't mean as much to me because a lot of these guys got stories how they recruited them and how they talked bad about Virginia Tech. I know that's what touches them. The rivalry comes just from me going to this school."

CB Rashad Carmichael

Does this rivalry still matter?

"You can't say it's just Virginia, this is a big rivalry. I'm a Maryland guy but just hanging out with [Tyrod] and going back to Richmond with Davon, I learned the rivalry, too. Just from hearing the stories and listening to them talk in the locker room. If they ready to go to war about it, I gotta be ready. This is one of the bigger games of the season actually. This is one of the games we had circled. Everybody usually has us circled, but we had this U-Va. game circled."

And then it's our last game. For the seniors, this is our last game. I already know what kind of effort everybody is gonna bring. Play like it's never gonna end."

By Mark Giannotto  | November 24, 2010; 12:08 PM ET
 
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