When you think of the ACC’s fiercest rivalries, you might guess Florida State vs. Miami, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, UNC vs. Duke, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech or even FSU-Clemson.
As our friend Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.
If you happen to be at Scott Stadium later this afternoon, you will be watching perhaps what has developed into one of the most intense rivalries in the conference when Duke visits Virginia. That’s right, Duke and Virginia.
These guys know how to do more than just get their preppy on. Toss out the bow ties and Zima and you’ve got a good, old-fashioned dislike-fest going on.
The bad blood began back in the early George Welsh years when Steve Spurrier was offensive coordinator at Duke and didn’t call off the dogs in a lopsided 51-17 win over the Cavaliers. Welsh never forgot that, especially when Spurrier took over the Blue Devils program.
In fact, even after Spurrier exited for Florida, Welsh seemed to always have it out for Duke as long as anyone connected to Spurrier was still around, i.e., a former Spurrier assistant or even Spurrier’s son, who played for the Devils.
Welsh once told me, “Those people are insufferable,” referring to the Duke football program.
While there has always been a certain chippieness to the rivalry, things heated up again a couple of years ago when UVa beat Duke, 31-21, en route to a Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance. That win, in 2011, ended the Cavaliers’ three-year losing streak to the Blue Devils.
That night, the bad blood erupted thanks to some controversial calls both ways and the trash-talking expertise of former UVa All-ACC cornerback Chase Minnifield.
Minnifield, who excelled at talking smack, and usually backed it up, was chatting it up with Duke’s coaches on the sidelines most of that evening. The exchanges apparently were not Happy Thanksgiving wishes.
We later learned that Minnifield had perhaps, shall we say, taunted Duke coach David Cutcliffe, perhaps rubbing in the score a little bit.
After the game, an irate Cutcliffe came over for the traditional post-game handshake with UVa coach Mike London. But a Lynchburg TV crew caught the extra conversation on video and audio.
Cutcliffe: “First, congratulations, but in my 38 years of coaching, I’ve never been more insulted than I was by number 13.”
London: “I’ll take care of that.”
We found out that Minnifield had barked to Cutcliffe: “You ain’t got no more Mannings, dog.”
We don’t know if it stopped there, but Minnifield was referring to Peyton and Eli, both of whom Cutcliffe coached. Cutcliffe, in our opinion, is the most underrated coach in America, but didn’t like the commentary from the UVa corner.
Asked about the confrontation on the ACC Coaches Teleconference a few days later, it went like this:
QUESTION: Hoping to put this issue behind you, has there been any dialogue with you and Mike London or anybody else from Virginia bout some of the hard feelings that existed at the end of the game the other day?
CUTCLIFFE: I don’t know of any hard feelings that existed, so I can’t comment to that.
QUESTION: You were not upset with Virginia after the game?
CUTCLIFFE: Who said that? Who said that?
QUESTION: There’s a TV feed of your discussion with Coach London after the game where you said you’d been insulted by No. 13.
CUTCLIFFE: No comment.
While we’re sure Cutcliffe has put the incident behind him, there’s still strong sentiment about the Virginians down in the Duke camp. This week, a few of the Blue Devils players didn’t disguise their disdain for the Wahoos, whom they’ve beaten four of the last five meetings.
Duke junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder vividly remembered the Minnifield Moment.
“My freshman year, UVa had a couple of players that were kind of jawing back and forth at our sideline,” Crowder told the Durham Herald-Sun. “That got us jacked up a little bit. So last year we were able to take care of business. So hopefully this year we can go up there and do the same thing.”
Crowder compared the Virginia-Duke rivalry to the Duke-Carolina blood feud.
“There is an edge,” Crowder told the Herald-Sun. “It’s something that’s turned into a little rivalry. A lot of people on the outside don’t really know about it. It’s something that, UVa week, we get up for it - almost like Carolina. The last couple of years we’ve been able to beat them. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to go up there and do the same thing.”
Another Duke player, All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell, agreed with Crowder’s assessment of the game and the rivalry.
“It’s up there with the Carolina game,” said Cockrell, a redshirt senior. “There is a lot of back and forth between the players during the game, whether you are on offense or defense. It’s one of the more intense games we play each year.”
Duke senior right tackle Perry Simmons said: “We don’t like Virginia and I have a suspicion they don’t like us very much.”
That’s probably true, but the topic of bad blood with Duke never popped up during last Monday’s Virginia interviews. Then again, the Cavaliers have more pressing matters, like how to end a three-game losing streak.
It’s all part of college football rivalries, the feuds that boil over every now and then like some of the bench-clearing moments between the Cavaliers and Blue Devils, Cavaliers and Terps, and Cavaliers and Hokies back in the day, the day that Frank Beamer lost a tooth on the Scott Stadium turf when he was accidentally punched by one of his own players.
We’re not advocating such a donnybrook, but don’t expect these two teams to play nice today at Scott. It will be chippy. Devils and Cavaliers just don’t seem to get along.