Michael Brewer is in his second season at Virginia Tech and though he did not grow up in the state, like most Hokies he considers Saturday's matchup with Virginia one of the biggest games in the history of the football program.
It will be the last regular season game of Frank Beamer's 29-year career as the coach at his alma mater, and after failing to win in his last game at Lane Stadium a week ago, the Hokies need a victory to become bowl eligible.
Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has a 22-year bowl streak it would like to extend, and while there's a chance the Hokies could get invited to a bowl game even if they fail to finish with a .500, record, the transfer quarterback and his teammates would much prefer to send their coach out with a victory.
"It's his last time playing UVA," Brewer said this week. "Seniors last time playing UVA."
Virginia Tech also has another streak to protect: 11 straight victories in the rivalry game.
"We've been fortunate enough to win these past 11 times or whatever it's been, but we can't go out there and just assume we're going to win," defensive tackle Luther Maddy said. "They're going to give us their best shot."
The game could also be the last of Mike London's career as Virginia's coach. The Cavaliers have finished below .500 in four consecutive seasons and five of his six as coach, and a year ago, in the days right before the game against the Hokies, Virginia ended speculation about his future with just a one-year contract extension.
London has deflected talk about his own future and said he's focusing instead on sending his seniors out on a high note, and Virginia (4-7, 3-4) took a step in that direction with a 42-34 victory against Duke last week.
Ending the losing streak would be a proper tribute, Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns said.
"Those guys are my brothers, and they mean everything to me," Johns said of the Cavaliers' senior class, which includes 13 graduate students. "It's one of those things where these are the guys that I've fought with all along. We've gone through the same journey, and we know how tough it's been. We've been on highs, we've been on lows.
"We really want to send them out on a high note and it's about those guys this Saturday."
Here are some other things to watch for when Virginia Tech visits Virginia:
THE STREAK: The Hokies have won 11 straight in the series, and 15 of the last 16, the kind of domination that can get in the losing team's head, even though the players are always changing. The last three meetings have been decided by a total of 17 points, and the Hokies won 24-20 last year on a touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining.
KEY MATCHUP: Virginia QB Matt Johns is second in the ACC with 19 touchdown passes, including six in the past two weeks, and third with an average of 240 passing yards per game. But he's also first in the league with 15 interceptions, and will be going against the nation's No. 11 passing defense, allowing just 174 ypg.
THE CROWD: Dwindling attendance at Virginia has allowed fans from other programs to easily get tickets to games at Scott Stadium, and no fan base does that better than the Hokies. It's likely that both sides will be well represented on Saturday, and if the Hokies can get out to a fast start, it could quickly sound like a home game.
HONORING COACHES: The Hokies rallied from 14 points behind in the last 4 minutes of regulation last week against No. 11 North Carolina, trying to get Beamer a victory in his last home game, but lost in overtime. Virginia players have expressed their desire not only to win to honor their seniors, but also for the embattled London.
BOWL IMPLICATIONS: Many assume Beamer's retirement would make Virginia Tech an attractive choice if a 5-7 team ends up going to a bowl game, but if Virginia wins, both teams would be 5-7 and the Cavaliers would be 4-4 in the ACC, the Hokies 3-5.
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