Virginia and Virginia Tech prepare for Commonwealth Cup clash

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia has faced Virginia Tech on numerous occasions recently with an opportunity to spoil some goal of the Hokies.

The Cavaliers will get another chance on Saturday in the 98th meeting between the rivals.

The Hokies (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won 12 straight in the series and would clinch the ACC’s Coastal Division championship and a spot in the league title game with a victory.

Three times in the past four seasons, the Hokies needed to beat Virginia to become bowl eligible, and while the games have been close (the last four decided by a total of 20 points), the Hokies have won them all.

If they can win again this week, the Hokies would extend their winning streak against the Cavaliers (2-9, 1-5) to 13, the longest for either program in the series and the longest streak among FBS-level, in-state rivals in the nation.

“Every year you always want to be the team that ended the skid,” Cavaliers linebacker Micah Kiser said Monday. “Twelve in a row. In my opinion, it’s not really a rivalry if you’re not winning, if it’s not a back-and-forth type thing. Twelve years in a row. That’s dominance, so we definitely want to try to reverse that trend.”

The rivalry is entering a new age, with new players on both sides.

Both programs are in their first season under new coaches, and while Justin Fuente has the Hokies a victory away from their first ACC title game berth since 2009, Bronco Mendenhall has found success more elusive at Virginia.

Many of Mendenhall’s players almost refuse to acknowledge the past, choosing to focus on the future and calling the matchup just the next game on the schedule while saying there is no amped-up desire to finally end the dominance. The last eight signing classes at Virginia have passed through without winning against the Hokies.

In trying to rebuild the program, Mendenhall would love the boost a victory would provide.

“I don’t think I need to address anything other than how to help them play best this game,” he said. “They already know the history. They are living the history, as is the community and the institution and the UVA fans.”

In Blacksburg, Hokies quarterback and Texas native Jerod Evans will be experiencing his first battle for the Commonwealth Cup, but he’s played in rivalries games before.

“You can never count out anybody in a rivalry game, especially with the emotion that’s involved,” he said “Being in-state, you get the bragging rights. You hear it all the time. The players don’t have to tell me about that.”

Besides, while the Hokies will go to a bowl for the 24th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the country, the Cavaliers will be going home after the regular season ends for the fifth straight season.

Kiser said the game is “kind of like our bowl game,” and that can make the Cavaliers dangerous.

“They have nothing to lose,” Evans said.