If the streak is to end Friday, Virginia has to avoid the “yoink!” moment.
You know the one. It’s the “Peanuts” metaphor many of us have used for years to describe this Commonwealth Cup series: Virginia Tech is Lucy teeing up the football with her finger; UVa is Charlie Brown, talking himself into believing that this time, finally, he’ll get to kick it.
Charlie Brown begins to sprint, he approaches the ball and — yoink! — Lucy jerks the ball away and the poor boy goes flying.
Not every year feels like that, of course. Tech has been a healthy favorite in some of these games and has won convincingly on multiple occasions. Those seasons, Charlie Brown doesn’t even bother to make his approach.
But five times during their 15-game winning streak in the series, the Hokies have won by four or fewer points. There’s a definite yoink moment in every one of those wins. And there could be one again this year, as the Vegas line has been set at Tech by 2.5.
Let’s take a look at the kind of fatal errors UVa can’t make if it wants to alter history:
2008 (VT 17, UVa 14): The excitement of seeing Vic Hall at quarterback for the first time in his career has tapered off by the fourth quarter, when the game is tied 14-14. Dustin Keys kicks a 28-yard field goal to give Tech a 17-14 lead midway through the period.
UVa coach Al Groh is rotating Hall and Marc Verica at QB on the ensuing series. A 39-yard run by Hall gets the ball to the VT 24. In comes Verica, inexplicably.
Three plays later, on third-and-11, Verica throws for the end zone and — yoink! — there is Dorian Porch to pick it off with 2:15 left.
“He didn’t see me coming. I kind of was baiting him into it,” Porch said that day. “When he threw it up in the air, it was just like gold falling out of the sky.”
2012 (VT 17, UVa 14): The temperature in Blacksburg has dropped into the low-20s by the fourth quarter, and the game is tied 14-14.
With 3:21 remaining, UVa quarterback Michael Rocco throws a pass that is intercepted by Antone Exum.
But that’s not the yoink. Not yet. That comes courtesy of UVa coach Mike London.
With about a minute left, Tech drives into the red zone. It’s quite clear the Hokies are going to score. The Cavaliers have two timeouts remaining, but London doesn’t use them — not until the Hokies are lining up for a 29-yard field goal on fourth-and-12 with four seconds left.
London spends both timeouts. Tech kicker Cody Journell is unfazed. He splits the uprights and — yoink! — there’s no time left for UVa to respond.
2014 (VT 24, UVa 20): The Cavaliers take their second lead of the game with 2:55 remaining, when Greyson Lambert finds Zachary Swanson for a 20-yard touchdown that makes it 20-17 UVa.
Even after the Hokies answer with a touchdown of their own, UVa has a chance, driving to the VT 36 with 12 seconds left.
UVa quarterback Matt Johns drops back, and here come Ken Ekanem and Dadi Nicolas to — yoink! — end the game with a fourth down sack.
2015 (VT 23, UVa 20): The Cavaliers lead 20-13 with less than 10 minutes remaining and have forced the Hokies into a third-and-15 at the UVa 32.
For the Cavaliers, a field goal here would be a minor scratch and a potential momentum shift. Instead — yoink! — Tech receiver Isaiah Ford gets behind the secondary and catches the touchdown pass that turns the game for good.
2018 (VT 34, UVa 31, OT): The botched exchange in overtime between UVa QB Bryce Perkins and running back Jordan Ellis is the obvious yoink moment — one that can and should be discussed a ton this week — but consider that UVa’s defense needed only to hold a struggling Tech offense without a touchdown in the final 2:41 of regulation to win this game.
UVa had the Hokies facing a third-and-10 at the VT 25 before Dalton Keene made a miraculous 45-yard catch. Tech’s game-tying touchdown came then on a fumble recovery — one where both teams had a shot at the ball.
And maybe that’s the lesson here: As much as that “Peanuts” metaphor seems to fit, it’s never truly one moment that decides these games.
Regardless, let’s see it, Lucy. Laces out.