2009 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Virginia

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Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia meet for the 91st time in a game
with nothing more than state pride and the Commonwealth Cup on the line. The
Hokies still have hopes for a sixth straight 10-win season, and the Cavaliers
are simply playing for their embattled coach, Al Groh. Anything can happen with
this rivalry, so what should we expect in likely the last game of the Al Groh
era?

The Hokies have played well since the two-game skid in October, showing good
balance in all phases of the game. Virginia, on the other hand, has dropped five
straight after a three-game winning streak in October. However, UVA’s defense
has kept the Wahoos competitive in most of these games, but an ineffective
offense has kept the defense on the field too much and Virginia has faded late
in games.

Virginia opened the season with a new spread offense under the guidance of
former Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon. The offense sputtered in the
first two games, turning the ball over seven times in an upset loss against
William & Mary, and only gaining four first downs against TCU before scoring
two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. The offense showed some life against
Southern Miss scoring 34 points, but Groh decided to scrap the spread in the bye
week prior to the ACC season starting.

Virginia struggled protecting quarterback Jameel Sewell (#10, 6-3, 225, 4.70,
r-Sr.) with the wider splits in the offensive line, and the young receiving
corps for the Hoos was unable to make enough plays. UVA surprised North Carolina
by returning to a two-tight end power running game supported by play-action
passing, and the Cavaliers showed some renewed life by winning three straight
against UNC, Indiana, and Maryland. However, the offense continued to sputter,
gaining less than 200 total yards, in losses to Georgia Tech, Duke, and Miami.
The Hoos battled Boston College and Clemson in the last two games, but again the
offense was not able to generate enough points for the upset.

Obviously, Bud Foster’s defense should dominate the struggling offense of
Virginia. In UVA’s seven wins against Virginia Tech since 1989, the Wahoos have
scored

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