Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Cavaliers need a new surprise in old rivalry
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BLACKSBURG -- This game needs another Vic Hall moment.
The moment doesn't have to involve the quarterback.
Shoot, it doesn't even have to involve Vic Hall -- only the element of surprise he has come to represent.
The best part of the 2008 Virginia Tech-Virginia game was the Cavaliers' initial play from scrimmage, when Hall lined up as a quarterback for the first time in his college career. No matter your loyalties, the sight of this was enough to give you chills.
It was so unexpected, so refreshing.
A mismatch suddenly morphed into a mystery.
Bud Foster suddenly had a challenge.
And even though the result seemed familiar -- a fifth straight victory for Tech in the series, 17-14 -- the teams treated us to three hours of drama and storylines, thanks in large part to the Vic Hall moment.
The Hokies remember it well, and they're bracing for a similar surprise this weekend.
"We're expecting something crazy like last year," defensive end Nekos Brown said. "The rivalry's big. They're going to pull out all the stops to try to win this game."
Tech linebacker Cody Grimm noted that even when opponents show an unusual look early in the game, they typically revert to what they've done all season eventually.
Still, games can be won and lost during that initial period of confusion.
"We've just got to come out and be ready to adapt, because we know they have the capability of changing into a lot of different things," he said. "Any time you have a team like that that doesn't have much to play for, it can be scary."
But here's the problem for the Cavaliers: What's left for them to try?
By now, there's plenty of film available of Hall playing quarterback.
And they've exhausted several of their finest trick plays in recent weeks, including the reverse pass Hall threw for a touchdown against Clemson last week.
Asked on Monday if he had anything sneaky planned for this game, UVa coach Al Groh shockingly turned over his hole cards.
"Well," he said, "we don't mind relating actually a little bit before the game that we've made a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre will be here, and Vic has agreed to give up his No. 4 for Brett Favre.
"We can't pull Vic out of our hat this year, so we had to go a little bit higher level for that."
It was a joke, of course, and a pretty good one. But there was an element of truth to Groh's answer.
The Vic Hall currency has been spent, and there aren't exactly any record-breaking quarterbacks languishing on special teams that he can toss in to spook his rival this year.
But to think that he won't try something interesting would be absurd. The Cavaliers offense is among the least productive in the nation. If this is the last chance for him to defeat the Hokies, then Groh sure isn't going to run it up the middle 46 times and then throw up his hands.
Some trick plays are all but guaranteed.
"I think they've always been kind of good at that," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "They faked a field goal on us up there two or three times ago up there, ran a reverse on a punt earlier in the year.
"I think in this ballgame, certainly, you can expect the unexpected."
Let's hope so.
The expected wouldn't make for much of a game.