CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — For a team ranked fifth in the most recent Bowl Championship Series rankings, Virginia Tech certainly felt disrespected this week in the run-up to Saturday’s game against rival Virginia.
However true that disrespect was, the Hokies used it as motivation in a 38-0 drubbing of the 24th-ranked Cavaliers at Scott Stadium.
Tech, ranked sixth in The Associated Press poll, dominated in every phase to clinch its fifth ACC Coastal Division championship in the past seven years. It will take on No. 18 Clemson in the ACC championship game next Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
“Nobody was really talking about us. They were all taking about Virginia and how good Virginia was going to play,” sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas said. “We took it as a slap in the face and wanted to go play hard.”
The Hokies (11-1, 7-1), who ran their ACC and school-record road winning streak to 13, have won eight straight over the Cavaliers (8-4, 5-3) to tie the longest winning streak for either team in the series.
“It’s our state. It’s our conference. We’re going back to Charlotte,” Hokies senior free safety Eddie Whitley said as he dug up turf from the end zone and put it in the team’s famed lunch pail.
Tech dispatched a Virginia team that was swelling with confidence. The Cavaliers, who are bowl eligible for the first time in four years, were riding a four-game win streak.
“[Virginia] has improved, but tonight was our night,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.
Tech’s defense, which started a different lineup for the ninth straight week because of injuries, had one of its best games of the season. It held the Cavaliers to season lows in total yards (241), rushing yards (30) and recorded its second shutout in the teams’ last six meetings.
The Cavaliers drove inside the Hokies’ 20-yard line three times and came away with nothing. Tech linebacker Jack Tyler had a hand in two critical red-zone stops.
He tripped U.Va. tailback Kevin Parks on a fourth-and-2 run from the Tech 7-yard line in the first quarter, and later recovered a fumble that nickel back Kyle Fuller forced on a second-quarter sack of Cavaliers’ quarterback Michael Rocco.
“All week we were hearing about their defense and their offense, and nobody was talking about us, so yeah it was a slap in the face, and that was kind of our defensive talk beforehand was let’s go show them that we’re a better defense,” Tyler said.
The Hokies’ offense felt it had something to prove as well. It gained 410 total yards and had its first turnover-free game since its Oct. 22 win over Boston College.
He won the battle of Lynchburg-bred quarterbacks. Rocco, who grew up 5 miles from Thomas, threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.