Following a face-lift, newly renovated-Scott Stadium will get to watch a beauty when intrastate rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech clash for the Commonwealth Cup tomorrow at 6 p.m.
No. 24 Virginia (3-1) looks to extend its winning streak to three games versus the No. 8 Hokies (3-0).
"It's a big rivalry and a big game for us," Cav tailback and Heisman candidate Thomas Jones said. "Everybody knows about the rivalry. It's always an exciting game."
Combining the effects of expanded seating, the Hokies' high rank and having the game during the semester rather than during Thanksgiving Break, Scott Stadium promises to be jammed packed with Cavalier fans. For the first time, University officials will restrict the number of students and student guests admitted to the game to 13,000.
"Definitely the home field advantage is a big part of it," Jones said. "When we play up here the fans get into the game. That should help us."
The Cavs are looking for every edge possible, facing a vaunted Hokie defense that has limited its opponents to an average of only seven points-per-game and 165 yards of total offense. Although their first two opponents, University of Alabama-Birmingham and James Madison, are not the most challenging of teams, the experienced unit held Clemson to only 17 yards rushing last Thursday. The defense also accounted for an interception and a fumble recovery -- both resulting in touchdowns.
Leading the charge is Hokie defensive end Corey Moore, who at 227 pounds has left helpless offensive tackles in the dust and quarterbacks on the ground this season: he has six sacks to his name after just three contests. John Engelberger teams with Moore to form perhaps the best end tandem in all of college football.
"Their ends are real fast," Cav wideout Tavon Mason said. "If we can contain their ends things should be pretty good."
Virginia tackles Josh Lawson and Brad Barnes will have the enviable task of protecting quarterback Dan Ellis from Moore.
"Everyone saying how fast Corey Moore is, he's going to be a handful," Cav fullback Anthony Southern said. "I'm excited for it, it's going to be a good challenge, hopefully we can rise up to it."
Following an explosive 45-point performance last Saturday against then-No. 17 Brigham Young, the Cavs have no plans on slowing down.
"Our schedule always allows us to play versus the best in the country," Southern said. "If I was worried [about Tech], I shouldn't be out there."
With Jones shredding opposing defenses and the improved play from Ellis, the offense is beginning to find its rhythm.
On the Hokies offense, however, red-shirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick will be leading the team into Scott Stadium. Vick, who came into the season with a great amount of fanfare, has yet to live up to the hype -- though a strong performance against Virginia could change his reputation.
Vick's prime target will be 6-foot-3 Ricky Hall, who scorched the Cavaliers last season to the tune of five catches for 105 yards. Running back Shyrone Stith also provides stability for the Tech offense and comes in averaging 136 yards-per-game.
Vick "can do a lot of things on his own," Cav coach George Welsh said. Stith meanwhile "looks like he's got power and speed. ... he ran over Clemson a few times, and that's a pretty good defensive team."
In last season's Blacksburg encounter the Cavaliers staged the greatest comeback in school history coming from 22 points down to shock Tech 36-32.
While this season's installment of the rivalry is earlier than their usual Thanksgiving Weekend battle, Welsh said the earlier scheduling could make a perennially tough game even tougher.
"I'd rather play them later this year," he said. "After coming off the games we've had to play early in the season, I don't think the ACC helped us when it comes to beating Virginia Tech."
The Cavaliers, however, hope their two game winning streak will create some momentum going into tomorrow's game.
"I know they're ranked high, but BYU, they were ranked too and we were a spoiler for them," Mason said. "If we come in like we did against BYU it should be a good game."