Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
It all comes down to this.
The annual “Commonwealth Cup” or “Commonwealth Clash” will take place at Lane Stadium this evening. The Virginia Tech Hokies will try to win back the cup from the Virginia Cavaliers for the first time since 2004.
Game Day Information
When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
TV: ACC Network
PXP: Dave O’Brien
Analyst: Tim Hasselbeck
Sideline Reporter: Katie George
Forecast: 52 F, Partly Cloudy, 15% Chance of Rain
Series History: Virginia Tech Leads 58-38-5
Last Meeting: Virginia Won 39-30 on Nov. 29, 2019
Line: Virginia Tech -3
Getting It Back
The Commonwealth Cup just finished its first year residing in Charlottesville since 2003 and 2004. Hokie fans hope it stays just one.
Prior to last season, the Hokies had beaten the Cavaliers in 15 straight seasons. Virginia legend Bryce Perkins wasn’t going to let that number get to 16 though, as the Cavalier quarterback had the game of his life. Virginia beat the Hokies for the first time since 2003 in this de facto ACC Coastal championship at a packed Scott Stadium, 39-30.
Now, Virginia Tech gets to play the hunter role for the first time since 2004, and will do anything it can to bring the cup back. They Hokies also need it to salvage the season.
Virginia has won four games in a row; Virginia Tech has lost four in a row.
Head coach Justin Fuente can’t afford to keep allowing the Hokies to trend downwards. He’ll need this one to get back the cup and most likely extend the nation’s longest active bowl streak.
So who’s Virginia Tech’s quarterback? That’s what Hokie fans all over the country are wondering this week.
Hendon Hooker has been up and down this season, and was benched last week against Clemson after a fumble early on in favor of Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister. What did the California native do? He just happened to go 10-for-12 passing with 127 yards and a touchdown, showcasing his best performance of the year as a passer.
Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, he went down with an apparent leg injury. Hooker came back in before having to leave the field shaken in a scary situation after just two plays.
From there, the depth chart lacks, well…depth. Quincy Patterson had just entered the transfer portal, but he would’ve been out with a hand issue anyway. Knox Kadum took his first collegiate snaps in the contest, and guided the Hokies throughout the fourth quarter in the 45-10 loss.
It sounds like both Hooker and Burmeister will be back. Who starts? Hooker most likely will get the start behind center for the Hokies. But both will play.
The question certainly is who will be the quarterback for the Hokies in this one. But whoever that is, they’ll have some deficiencies to expose on the UVA defense.
The Cavaliers feature one of the weakest secondaries in the ACC, and they’re somewhat held down by star safety Joey Blount who could be a problem for Virginia Tech. Stud linebacker Charles Snowden is out for the rest of the year after breaking his ankle against Abilene Christian.
Matt Gahm hasn’t been able to come close to replicating Snowden’s production. Guys like Noah Taylor and Jahmeer Carter are questionable to play this weekend against the Hokies.
Expect running back Khalil Herbert to have a big game on the ground for Virginia Tech, and he’ll certainly need to if the Hokies are to win this game. Tre Turner, who missed last week’s game against Clemson, and Tayvion Robinson are the guys to watch for on the receiving end for the Hokies.
The Cavaliers haven’t won in Blacksburg since 1998, and they’ll present a completely different type of challenge for this Virginia Tech defense. They have a whole new identity too.
Brennan Armstrong takes over for Bryce Perkins at quarterback for the Cavaliers, and he presents a Taysom Hill-like appearance behind center. That’s a nice comparison too, as Hill was head coach Bronco Mendhall’s quarterback at BYU and allows Virginia to run a similar type offense.
He’ll be happy to run the ball all day against the Hokie defense. So guys like Divine Deablo, Rayshard Ashby, and Dax Hollifield, who has played better of late, will need to each have a solid game.
Defensively for the Cavaliers, it’s a big question mark. We don’t know who’s playing on UVA’s side and likely won’t until game time. But if Virginia Tech can mash the secondary and run the ball effectively, it’ll have officially returned the Commonwealth Cup to Blacksburg.
Hokies’ Keys To The Game
Early Offensive Start
When the Hokies get the ball to start the game, they need to make a statement. Expose those Virginia deficiencies and show the fan base why the Hokies still run the Commonwealth.
This also will leave the sideline fired up and ready to go. With just 250 fans in the stands, they’ll need to create their own energy.
Even if it’s using a sprinkler going off….
This game is so even talent-wise that whoever displays the best fundamentals is going to win the football game.
The Hokies need to win the turnover battle, and avoid penalties in order to win the game. Those are two things that Virginia Tech did not do last week against Clemson.
In a rivalry game, there are always extracurriculars that take place. Have less penalties then the Wahoos, and the Hokies will be in good shape.
Armstrong is the key to this football game for Virginia. The Hokies need to show that their defense can keep up with the track star the ‘Hoos have at quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae may draw up some funky stuff, but that’ll all be for naught if the Hokies can contain Armstrong.
Both these programs are trending in the opposite direction this season, but that’s all thrown out the window in a rivalry game.
The Hokies want the cup back. They’ll have to want it more than the Cavaliers do. With everything on the line, with Fuente’s future in jeopardy, the bowl streak and more, the Hokies will come out ready to play.
They always say go with your head over your heart. We don’t have to worry about that here.
Our head says the Hokies will pull it off and return the Commonwealth Cup to Blacksburg.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 35, Virginia 31
Other FQ Writer Picks
Kevin Fielder (FQMiami and FQ FAU): Virginia Tech 35, Virginia 18