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Nov. 24, 2004

As I sat in the McCue Center kitchen, down the hall from the office of Virginia head football coach Al Groh, some of the players were filing in for the Wednesday meetings and midweek practice. As they searched for packets of hot chocolate and cups for coffee there seemed to be a quiet focus. As linebacker Dennis Haley filled a cup with ice and poured some ice water I asked him how they planned to handle Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall.

“We have to hit him,” Haley said with a smile. “A lot”

And there in lies your game plan. If the Cavs can get to Randall, they can leave Blacksburg Saturday with at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference football title. Leave him be for a period of time…and Virginia could be in for a long afternoon.

Virginia and Virginia Tech renew their rivalry Saturday and there hasn’t been a build up like this for the annual game in quite some time. The Hokies and the `Hoos share a league now. That hasn’t been the case since the old Southern Conference days in the mid 30’s. Before the ACC was attempting to expand the past couple of years the Virginia-Virginia Tech game was always big…but not like this. Then, as the expansion word spread that our neighbors from Blacksburg were not in the original growth plan, the game of political football was underway. UVA protected Tech and told ACC officials the vote on expansion was `no’ unless the Hokies were included. Considering Virginia’s success this year winning eight games for the third straight year…and considering Virginia Tech’s rise from a 2-2 start with a 6-game winning streak…and considering now an ACC title and more prestigious bowl game is on the line…this game couldn’t get much bigger unless both programs were undefeated.

“I don’t think it changes the rivalry,” Groh told the crowded University Hall pressroom. “It does add to what we are playing for. It raises the stakes.”

Virginia Tech ranks first in the ACC in both scoring offense and scoring defense. UVA leads the league in total offense and rushing offense. Even though it’s still the players who decide the thing…you know both staffs have worked until very late every night trying to discover the one X…or one O that could make a difference.

“Last year (Matt) Schaub threw 46 passes and completed 32 in the Tech game,” Groh said during his Monday night call in show. “When you have a guy like him we would have been foolish not to utilize his talents. It’s no different this year. Take the defense…we’re not doing anything differently that we haven’t done before. One-week wonders don’t hold up. It depends on the plan and what our guys are well versed in.”

Factors? Virginia might have one of the quicker defenses that Tech has faced, and UVA’s 3-4 scheme has a real chance to confuse not only Randall, but also the Hokie front. Tech’s plan against Georgia Tech and Maryland, two games I watched very closely, was to go vertical in the passing game and beat one-on-one coverage. The Cavalier corners are going to have to play well, and have a very short memory.

“(Bryan) Randall has done more for his team than any quarterback in the ACC,” Groh said. They have a lot of threats.”

Virginia will have to move the ball and not get caught in long 2nd and 3rd down situations. UVA quarterback Marques Hagans probably won’t throw for 350 yards so clock management and possession time will be important. Plus, the Cavaliers have to hit Randall.

A lot.

Game notables:This Saturday Virginia Tech is saying “thank-you” to UVA at half-time as Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and University President John Casteen will be honored prior to the Hokie’s band performance.

Considering Virginia’s change at punter last week to first year Chris Gould prior to the Georgia Tech game, Coach Groh said it made every one on the punting unit look better. “When the ball is in the air longer, and further, your cover guys look better.

Virginia nose tackle Andrew Hoffman was asked about his slight concussion in the Miami game. “I felt like I was rolling over backwards,” he said. Hoffman has been getting a little “pub” this week, something he is not accustomed to. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer cited UVA’s #60 as the one guy who has made a big difference in the Wahoo’s defense.

When UVA running back Wali Lundy scores his next touchdown, he will pass former standout Thomas Jones as the all time, total touchdown leader. As far as career rushing TDs…Lundy is four behind Jones for first with 32.

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