Virginia quarterback Matt Johns believes in the power of positive thinking. "I day-dream before every game," Johns said, looking ahead to the last game of his college career on Saturday against Virginia Tech. "But this one will be a little bit more special being the last one."
Virginia quarterback Matt Johns believes in the power of positive thinking.
"I day-dream before every game," Johns said, looking ahead to the last game of his college career on Saturday against Virginia Tech. "But this one will be a little bit more special being the last one."
Unfortunately for Johns and every senior who has finished his Cavaliers career since 2008, their ledgers have never included a victory against the Hokies. Virginia Tech takes a 12-game winning streak into Saturday's matchup.
But Johns and several teammates said finishing in Lane Stadium, where more than 60,000 Hokies fans will be calling their names and roaring with every good play the home team makes, is a setting for what they hope will be a perfect ending.
"I'll never forget when I had to go in the game against Virginia Tech with 1:20 left and I hadn't played in three games and my hands are freezing and the game is on the line," he said, recalling being pressed into duty in Virginia's 24-20 loss two years ago in Blacksburg. "It was like the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, go hit a homer. Just being on that field and not being able to hear your own voice, that atmosphere is really special."
The noise — and the hostility — is expected to be amped up this weekend. The Hokies (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is looking to clinch for their first berth in the league championship since 2009. Virginia Tech will earn the trip to the title game with a victory, though they might already got the nod before its game if North Carolina (8-3, 5-2) loses its regular season finale Friday night against North Carolina State. The Hokies hold the tiebreaker with the Tar Heels.
While the Cavaliers largely pass the matchup off as just the next game on their schedule, the Hokies don't hesitate to make it much more than that, or to admit that their recent domination in the series has been very enjoyable.
"We don't sit here and take this game as serious as we do because we don't want to end the streak," offensive lineman Augie Conte said. "We take this game as seriously as we do because we want to beat UVA."
Some other things to look for when Virginia visits Virginia Tech:
TURNOVERS: Always a key number in every game, turnovers can also be the reason a huge underdog like Virginia can find itself in position to contend, or win. Both teams have struggled with ball security at times this season, and both enter the game having turned it over more than they've taken it away.
AIR RAID: First-year starter Jerod Evans has already tied Tyrod Talor's Virginia Tech single-season record with 24 touchdown passes, and the Hokies have six receivers who have caught two or more of those TDs tosses. Evans also is the Hokies' leading rusher with 675 yards and seven more touchdowns. Johns, by contrast, made his first start last weekend in a loss at Georgia Tech, and while he threw one touchdown pass, he was intercepted three times.
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Virginia's Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell needs 38 rushing yards to reach 2,000 yards for his career, and six receptions to reach 200 for his career. The Cavaliers will need him to make his presence felt in both areas.
GIVING THE BOOT: With 20 points separating the teams over the past four games, the kicking game could be huge. If it is, that would be advantage Hokies. Virginia's kicking game has been an adventure with three kickers booting extra points and two combining for just four made field goals in nine tries. The Hokies trot Joey Slye out for all their kicks and he's made 19 of 24 field goals (long of 47) and missed one extra point in 42 tries.
BRONCO BUSTING: First-year Virginia coach bronco Mendenhall was highly successful in 11 years at BYU, leading the Cougars to 99 victories and 11 bowl games. But against Utah, BYU's top rival, his record was just 3-7.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org
Follow Hank on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr