The two schools first met in 1895 and have played annually since 1970. The game counts for 1 point in the Commonwealth Clash each year, and is part of the greater Virginia–Virginia Tech rivalry.
Coach: Justin Fuente
Virginia Tech Players to watch
*Junior MLB Rayshard Ashby (5-10/230)
Ashby has been named ACC Linebacker of the Week five times in his career. He earned the weekly honor last season after racking up seven tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble in the opener at Florida State (Sept. 2018) and again earlier this season following the Boston College game (Aug. 31, 2019), following the Miami game (Oct. 5) and once again following the North Carolina game (Oct. 19).
Ashby was a 2018 All-ACC Honorable Mention pick after racking up 105 tackles, 9.5 TFL and forcing two fumbles as a sophomore. Ashby prepped at L.C. Bird High School. He currently has 14.5 tackles-for-loss, along with 4.5 sacks, one pass defended and two forced fumbles.
*Junior FS Divine Deablo (6-3/220)
On Nov. 2, Deablo scored his first career touchdown on a 98-yard fumble return after MLB Ashby jolted the football ball from a Notre Dame ball carrier near the goal line. The Winston-Salem, N.C. native has registered 64 tackles on the season, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He had two passes defended and forced a fumble at Miami (Oct. 5).
*Junior WR Damon Hazelton (6-2/222)
After sitting out all of 2017 (per NCAA rules), Ball State transfer Damon Hazelton led Tech with 51 catches for 802 yards in his first season as a Hokie. He earned second-team All-ACC honors after registering eight touchdown catches in 13 games.
The Baltimore native missed the first three games of the 2019 season, and only recorded one catch in each of his next two games (Duke and Miami, Fl.). Since then, he has caught 21 passes for 287 yards and six touchdowns.
**Sophomore WHIP Chamarri Conner (6-10/206)
Virginia Tech whip linebacker Chamarri Conner was called for a questionable late hit on the opening drive of the second half of last weeks’ game vs Pitt. The play gave Pitt. 15-yards, but what did it mean to his teammates? “Really big,” Ashby said of Conner’s second half play. “Just the dog mentality he has, the way he comes to work every day in practice, he gives it all he’s got for each person out there. He makes a lot of big hits and a lot of big plays, and we just appreciate him so much.”
Going into the Commonwealth Clash, Conner has 10.0 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, seven passes defended, and one forced fumble.
*Junior OLB Dax Hollifield (6-1/243)
“I say we’re more confident, but you’ve got to understand just because you win three games doesn’t mean anything,” linebacker Dax Hollifield said heading into the Nov 2 contest against Notre Dame. “You can’t change. The reason we’ve won these past three games is because of how we practiced and how we went about our business every day. When you start feeling good about yourself is about the time you get knocked down.”
Since their loss to Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Hollifield have admirably bounced back, and are currently on another three game winning streak. Hollifield is fourth on the team in total tackles.
Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
Virginia Players to watch:
Senior QB Bryce Perkins (6-3/210)
On Nov. 2, Bryce Perkins set a school record with 490 total yards of offense while also scoring five total touchdowns. Perkins was 30-39 throwing the ball for 378 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns. “He had not been as good a thrower as he was a runner,” North Carolina HC Mack Brown said after the game, “so we felt like we had to make him throw the ball to win the game, and he did.”
Last year, Perkins as one of only two players in the nation with 2,600+ passing yards (2,680) and 900+ rushing yards (923), joining Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray (Oklahoma). Perkins finished No. 1 in the ACC with 206 points responsible for. His 3,603 yards of total offense shattered UVA’s single-season record for total offense.
All of this, comes from a kid who suffered a broken neck in high school, and even through Perkins understood the gravity of a broken neck and the potential for paralysis, he wasn’t ready to ditch football. His brother had just been drafted by the New York Giants, and their dad had played in the NFL. Perkins wanted to follow their leads.
“It was all part of God’s plan,” says Bruce Perkins, Bryce’s father and a former running back at Arizona State and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “U.Va. was the right place at the right time.”
**Junior MLB Zane Zandier (6-3/235)
“I learned from a young age what it meant to be able to grind through the pain of working out and being able to push myself to levels I didn’t think possible,” Zandier said.
“The thing with Zane is, he works,” Zandier’s high school coach Bill Cherpak said. “I mean, you can just look at him and tell how hard he works. Not only was he one of the best players, but he also worked the hardest. He was a leader. All those things go together, and that’s what he does so well. And it’s what he still does. He’s that guy who’s going to be the example for everyone.”
Zandier, Virginia’s leading tackler with 75 stops this season, has guided the Cavaliers to a 8-3 record overall and a 5-2 mark in ACC play. Virginia hosts Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale to effectively determine the Coastal’s fate. “Coastal, ACC championship, win a bowl game,” Zandier said. “That’s what we’re chasing.”
Senior ILB Jordan Mack (6-2/230)
On Wednesday, Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack was named one of 12 finalists for the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is given to the best football scholar-athlete in the country.
Mack, who stands 6-2, is a chiseled 230-pounder who may well be bound for the NFL. He came to Virginia as a safety, but changed positions during his first training camp and started nine games at outside linebacker as a true freshman.
In 2017, he moved to inside linebacker in the Cavaliers’ 3-4 scheme. He’ll leave the program as a four-year starter who sets the standard for his teammates in the weight room and off the field. In 2019, Mack has 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks.
**Sophomore RB Wayne Taulapapa (5-9/200)
At the end of September, when the Cavaliers were 4-1, but fresh off a loss to Notre Dame, head coach Bronco Mendenhall had this to say about Taulapapa, “He’s tough, and he’s physical and he’s elusive. But probably the best thing that he does is his vision. And then he’ll run down on a kickoff and he’s good on special teams. So he’s just a football player with a contribution-based mindset. It’s just that, ‘Coach what can I do, how can I help.'”
Taulapapa is second in rushing, behind Perkins, with 399 yards on 97 carries. He also has a team-high 11 touchdowns.
Senior KR/WR Joe Reed (6-1/215)
Joe Reed, who recorded four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s win over Liberty, will play in January’s East-West Shrine Bowl, announced Friday. The invite-only bowl game offers an opportunity for some of the best college football seniors across the country to showcase their talents in front of NFL scouts.
Through 11 games, Reed has 1,304 all-purpose yards with an outstanding 35.5 average on 21 kicks returned.
Senior CB Bryce Hall (6-20/200)
On Oct. 11, following the Cavaliers’ 17-9 loss Friday night at Miami, All-ACC cornerback Bryce Hall was lost for the season with a left-ankle injury. Since he had already played in five games in his fourth season, Hall is ineligible for a fifth year in 2020.
“He will not return this season and we’ll help him rehab for his next opportunity,” said Mendenhall, realizing that Hall would have attracted considerable NFL interest if he would have made himself available after the 2018 season.
Scott Stadium – Grass Nov. 29 (Fri) | Charlottesville, Virginia