- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE | Virginia players say the regular-season finale against No. 14 Virginia Tech on Saturday is their bowl game.

It could be aptly dubbed the Last Chance Bowl.

A third losing season in the last four means Virginia (3-8, 2-5 ACC) won’t have a postseason. It’s also the last chance for any of the Cavaliers suiting up to beat the Hokies.

In a season of disappointment that is also likely to mark the end of coach Al Groh’s time at his alma mater, the Cavaliers would especially like to end their five-game skid in the series.

“This is it,” wide receiver Vic Hall said. “There’s nothing after this as far as college football for us, so this is a bowl game for us. It’s the biggest game of our careers.”

The Hokies (8-3, 5-2) need to win at Scott Stadium and then in their bowl game to reach 10 victories for the sixth year in a row. And while some Virginia Tech players admit to being sympathetic to how hard this season - and rivalry - has been on Virginia, that’s about as far as it goes.

“It’s real tough,” defensive end Nekos Brown said. “I couldn’t imagine it, really. … For them to be going through this right now, at the end of the season and through the whole season really, it’s tough. I’ve got sympathy for them when it comes to that - emotionally.

“But when it comes to the field, it doesn’t matter.”

Brown’s defensive teammate, linebacker Cody Grimm, even listed Scott Stadium as his favorite place to play other than Lane Stadium “because I’ve had some success there,” he said. “It’s a good feeling going in there and getting a win against your rival team.”

Virginia has beaten the Hokies just once in Groh’s first eight seasons. The Cavaliers will honor 30 fourth- and fifth-year seniors before the game.

“This is our last go-round and regardless of whether it’s going to be our fourth win or our 12th win, you’ve got to approach it the same way,” said fifth-year linebacker Aaron Clark, also one of six Virginia captains. “It’s got to be the biggest game of the season.”

The previous five classes of outgoing Virginia players have had some of the same motivations, but Hokies running back Ryan Williams thinks this year could be different because of the expectation that Groh will be coaching his final game at the school.

“I’m sure it could light a lot of sparks in the players,” said Williams, the ACC rushing leader. “I know it’s going to be an emotional game, a very intense game, and I’m sure all those guys love Coach Groh and are going to play their hearts out for the game.”

The Groh factor may be the most compelling this year, in stark contrast with the previous two meetings. In 2007, the winner got to go to the ACC championship game, and the Hokies prevailed, 33-21, in what was billed as the biggest game in the series’ history.

Last year, with Virginia needing a victory to qualify for a bowl game and the Hokies needing a victory to advance to the ACC title game, Groh and the Cavaliers pulled out all the stops. They moved former high school star quarterback Hall back to the position, let him operate what was essentially a Wildcat formation all game and still came up short 17-14.

Nate Collins, another captain suiting up for the last time at Virginia, said changing the Cavaliers’ fortunes against the Hokies would do wonders for the seniors and the program.

“No one on this team has beaten Virginia Tech,” he said. “I think it would just be great for us to get this ‘W,’ and although we didn’t have the season that we wanted to, just to end off on a note like that [would cast] just a little bright spot on this season.”

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