RICHMOND, Va. -- This late in a season, all teams hope to be playing for more than pride, even when it's a matchup of in-state rivals. Count Virginia and Virginia Tech among those with more than bragging rights at stake.
The Hokies (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) need to win Saturday to gain a berth in the ACC championship game, which would put them one more win away from a spot in the Orange Bowl, while the Cavaliers (5-6, 3-4) need to win simply to have a chance at a postseason game.
For Virginia Tech defensive end Orion Martin, one of 14 Hokies playing their last game at Lane Stadium, having a lot riding on the outcome after an up-and-down season that at times left the Hokies looking like long shots to get this far only adds to the anticipation.
"Believe it or not, it's been fun," he said. "We've had our ups and down, but after all is said and done, we still control our own destiny. We're excited about the challenge we have this week and hopefully putting ourselves in position to win the ACC championship."
The Cavaliers have been even more up and down. After a 1-3 start during which they were outscored 128-20 in the three losses, they won four straight and seemed destined to stay in the mix in the Coastal Division race. Then they collapsed and will arrive trying to stop a three-game losing streak, and to beat the Hokies for the first time in five years.
Winning would keep many of them from going oh-fer their career against the Hokies, and senior safety Byron Glaspy said scuttling the Hokies' plans would make that even sweeter.
"We haven't beaten them since I've been here," he said, "so how nice would it be to beat them, spoil their hopes of going to the ACC championship, and send them home unhappy?"
Both teams come in hoping to find some offensive consistency.
Coach Frank Beamer, who named Tyrod Taylor his starter at quarterback for this week, has bristled at questions about his anemic offense all season, and said getting to the brink of the title game with almost no veteran receivers or running backs has been a challenge.
"It hasn't always been pretty," Beamer said. "You guys are into stats, and I understand that, but the bottom line is winning. I think you've got to take your football team and who you have. ... What's their maturity level? How much are they ready to win at this level? Then try to win as a football team. I think we've done a pretty good job of that myself."
Virginia Tech's offense is ranked No. 109 out of 119 in country, but the Hokies are eighth in total defense. Virginia is No. 102 in total offense, No. 40 on defense.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Danny Coale, who leads the Hokies' rebuilt receiving corps with 27 catches, said winning Saturday would be the ultimate answer to critics.
"For us as a team, it's the next step in reaching our goal," he said.
Martin and Coale were the only two Tech players made available to the media this week, with Beamer calling the game "gigantic" and saying he wanted his team focused solely on it.
But the Cavaliers are amped up, too, to earn the right to play one more time.
"It makes things exciting," linebacker Clint Sintim said. "A lot of things are at stake."
The Hokies will be playing Virginia as an unranked team for the first time since 1997, but will be seeking their ninth victory in the last 10 since Virginia won at Tech in 1998.
The game will be the 90th meeting, with the Hokies leading the series 47-37-5.
Copyright AP - Associated Press