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Sept. 27, 1999

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia’s annual clash with in-state rival Virginia Tech moves back to October after a 10-year run as a November game as the two fierce in-state rivals meet in Charlottesville on Saturday (Oct. 2). The Cavaliers reenter the national rankings (24th in both major polls) following their wild 45-40 win over then #17 Brigham Young last Saturday in Provo, Utah. Virginia is now 3-1 overall this season and 2-1 in the ACC.

The Hokies travel to Jefferson’s Country sporting a top-10 ranking (eighth in The Associated Press poll, seventh in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll) with an undefeated 3-0 record. They defeated Clemson 31-11 on Sept. 23 in their most recent game.

Kickoff for this most underrated of all national rivalries is set for 6:00 p.m.

Virginia vs.Virginia Tech
Oct. 2, 1999 – 6:00 p.m. – ESPN2
The Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison, III Field at Scott Stadium
Charlottesville, Va.

Television: For the third game in a row, the Cavaliers appear on ESPN2, ‘The Deuce.’ Steve Levy, calls the play by play, while Todd Christensen is the color analyst. Holly Rowe is the sideline reporter.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WQMZ in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Frank Quayle, the 1968 ACC Player of the Year, provides the color commentary, while former UVa signal caller Mike Groh provides sideline analysis and conducts the postgame interviews.

Keeping Up With Thomas Jones – Heisman Update

1999 Highlights

A true ‘student-athlete,’ graduated with a degree in psychology in May in just THREE yearsVery underrated on the national scene and doesn’t get the recognition he deservesLed ACC in rushing by a wide margin in 1998 with 1303 yards and is at it again in ‘995th in nation in rushing, averaging 155.0 ypg, (tops in ACC)Leads ACC in touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards620 yards through four games is the best mark in school history after four gamesRushed for 149 against North Carolina in the season opening winScooted for 164 yards vs. Wake Forest Ran for career-high 210 yards vs. BYU last Saturday, the seventh-best total in school historyRecorded the third 200-yard game of his career, tying the ACC recordStarted the last 27 games at tailback dating back to the start of the 1997 seasonHas never missed so much as a PRACTICE while at VirginiaFifth in school history with 2820 rushing yards (23rd in ACC history)Needs 570 yards to break Tiki Barber’s school record of 3,389 rushing yards

A Look Backat Last Year’s Game

VIRGINIA 36, Virginia Tech 32
Nov. 28 – Blacksburg, Va.

Staging the greatest comeback in school history, 16th-ranked Virginia rallied from a 29-7 halftime deficit to stun 20th-ranked Virginia Tech 36-32. Aaron Brooks passed for three second-half touchdowns, including a game-winning 47-yard scoring toss to Ahmad Hawkins with 2:01 remaining. Virginia outscored the Hokies 29-3 in the second half to finish the regular season with a 9-2 record (6-2 ACC).

Brooks threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Coffey early in the third quarter to open the second-half scoring. Later in the third quarter, Byron Thweatt delivered a momentum-changing 53-yard interception return for a touchdown to trim Tech’s lead to 29-21. The Hokies kicked a field goal before Brooks struck again, hitting outstretched Thomas Jones in the end zone with an 18-yard touchdown pass with 7:02 left. Following the two-point conversion, the Cavaliers suddenly trailed by just three 32-29.

On its ensuing possession, Tech gained a first-and-10 on the UVa 30. The Cavalier defense rose to the occasion, however, driving the Hokies out of field goal range with two tackles for 10 yards in losses. After forcing Tech to punt, Virginia took over from its own seven-yard line with 3:21 remaining and traveled 93 yards in six plays for the game-winning score.Virginia Tech led 17-0 in the first quarter before Jones struck paydirt on a two-yard run to account for UVa’s first-half touchdown.

Brooks completed 19 of 32 passes for 345 yards, while Terrence Wilkins led UVa with seven catches for 141 yards. Coffey finished with five receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown. Jones gained a team-high 55 yards rushing on 18 carries and caught four passes for 27 yards.

Rainer finished with a team-high 16 tackles, followed by Thweatt with 13. Patrick Kerney had one quarterback sack, giving him 15 for the season and tying him with Chris Slade (1992) for the school record.


Virginia         7    0   14   15   36Virginia Tech   17   12    0    3   32

First Quarter
VT – Shayne Graham 26 FG, 12:02
VT – Shyrone Stith 51 run (Graham kick), 7:34
VT – Lamont Pegues 1 run (Graham kick), 6:08
UVa – Thomas Jones 2 run (Todd Braverman kick), 4:57

Second Quarter
VT – Graham 50 FG, 12:09
VT – Al Clark 1 run (Clark run failed), 1:39
VT – Graham 24 FG, 0:00

Third Quarter
UVa – Kevin Coffey 24 pass from Brooks (Braverman kick), 10:07
UVa – Byron Thweatt 53 interception return (Braverman kick), 2:33

Fourth Quarter
VT – Graham 46 FG, 12:12
UVa – Jones 18 pass from Brooks (Brooks run), 7:02
UVa – Ahmad Hawkins 47 pass from Brooks (Braverman kick), 2:01

Attendance – 53,207

                 UVa       VTFirst downs      20        21Rushes-Yards     31-73     49-172Passing Yardage  345       189Comp-Att-Int     19-32-1   15-27-2Punts-Yards      3-108     4-169Fumbles-Lost     2-2       1-0Penalties-Yards  6-49      6-57

Rushing – UVA, Jones 18-55, Brooks 9-11, Southern 1-5, Womack 3-2. VT, Stith 17-124, Pegues 15-33, Ferguson 3-12, Sorensen 1-11, Clark 12-4, Team 1-(-12).
Passing – UVa, Brooks 19-32-1-345. VT, Clark 13-22-1-172, Sorensen 2-5-1-17.
Receiving – UVa, Wilkins 7-141, Coffey 5-111, Jones 4-27, C. Crawford 2-19, Hawkins 1-47. VT, Hall 5-107, Handy 3-18, Harrison 2-26, Pegues 2-5, Ferguson 1-18, Davis 1-9, Stith 1-6.

The Series vs. the Hokies
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 39-36-5 in a rivalry that dates back more than a century. The series began in 1895 with the Cavaliers gaining a 38-0 win in Charlottesville. The 1990s mirror the series overall with Virginia winning five meetings and Tech four.

Virginia lost two straight meetings in Charlottesville (1993, ’95) before gaining a 34-20 win in the season finale in 1997. Overall, Virginia owns a 17-14-3 record against the Hokies at home.

The Cavaliers’ win in 1997 began their two-game winning streak over the Hokies. Virginia staged the greatest comeback in school history to pull out a 36-32 in last season’s meeting. The Cavaliers rallied from 22 points down to win. Ahmad Hawkins’ 47-yard touchdown reception from Aaron Brooks enabled the Cavaliers to complete the greatest comeback win last season.

The Cavaliers trailed Tech 29-7 at halftime before exploding for 29 points in the second half for the win. Brooks threw three scoring strikes (24 yards to Kevin Coffey, 18 yards to Thomas Jones, and 47 yards to Hawkins) in the second half to spur the Cavaliers to victory.

Virginia hasn’t won three games in a row over the Hokies since 1987-89.

Scoring a lot of points means good things to the Cavaliers. They have scored at least 32 points in each of their last six wins over the Hokies dating back to 1989.

1999 Virginia Schedule/Results/Statistical Leaders

Date Opponent           Score Att.   AP/USA Rushing      Passing C-A-Y-I-T   Receiving     Tackles9/4  at North Carolina1 20-17 59,000 23/24  Jones 35-149 Ellis 10-25-165-3-1 Coffey 4-101  Anderson 109/11 at Clemson1        14-33 65,000 22/19  Jones 23-97  Ellis 19-33-233-0-1 Coffey 4-48   Isabelle 149/18 Wake Forest2       35-7  50,000 nr/nr  Jones 24-164 Ellis 19-25-220-1-1 Southern 4-47 Isabelle,                                                                                            Taylor 109/25 at Brigham Young2  45-40 65,453 nr/nr  Jones 35-210 Ellis 18-14-1-190-3 Baber 4-34    Isabelle 14

Commonwealth Cup Up for Grabs
The winner of the annual Virginia/Virginia Tech match-up claims the Commonwealth Cup for the next year.

The Cavaliers have held the trophy the last seasons following a 34-20 win over the Hokies in 1997 and their 36-32 win last season. The award was started for the 1996 game between the two state foes, with the Hokies receiving the trophy for the first time with a 26-9 win.

Contrary to Popular Opinion
Despite the fact that the game has a reputation as a season-ender, Virginia had not ended its season against the Hokies until 1981. This is the 40th game in the series in October, making it the most common month for the rivalry. (November featured 35 games).

Virginia have ended the regular season against the Hokies in eight of the last nine years, but this is the earliest the game has been played since 1987 (Sept. 19).

Virginia Feasts on Ranked Non-ACC Foes
This is the Cavaliers’ second non-conference game in a row after opening with three straight conference match-ups.

Virginia defeated #17 Brigham Young 45-40 last Saturday in Provo, Utah, marking its third consecutive win over a ranked non-conference team in the last two years. Interestingly, all three wins came on the road.

Virginia Tech comes to Charlottesville ranked eighth in this week’s Associated Press poll. The Hokies are the first ranked non-ACC team to come to Jefferson’s Country since Auburn in 1997. The #17 Tigers handed Virginia a 28-17 defeat in the 1997 season opener.

A win over the Hokies would mark the first time in school history the Cavaliers have defeated ranked teams in consecutive games.

A win over the Hokies would also be the highest ranked team to lose to UVa since the Cavaliers downed #6 North Carolina 20-17 in Charlottesville in 1996.

A list of Virginia’s wins over top-10 teams is below.

Year   opponent, rank, (site)   Score1990   #9 Clemson (UVa)         20-71995   #2 Florida State (UVa)   33-281996   #6 North Carolina (UVa)  20-17

At Home vs. Non-Conference Opponents
The Virginia Tech game is the first of two non-conference home games for the Cavaliers this season. They host Buffalo on Nov. 13.

Since 1989, Auburn and Virginia Tech are the only non-conference schools to win in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers have won 22 of 26 non-conference games at home going back to 1987. The only losses are to Penn State in 1988, Virginia Tech in 1993 and 1995, and Auburn in 1997.

In George Welsh’s 18 years at Virginia, his teams are 30-9 (.769) against non-conference teams at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium.

Battle of Two Ranked Teams
After a two-week absence, Virginia moves back into the national rankings. The Cavaliers are ranked 24th in The Associated Press poll this week, while Virginia Tech is ranked eighth.

This marks the sixth time in the last seven seasons that Virginia and Virginia Tech are both ranked in the AP poll at game time.

Virginia is 5-4 against the Hokies when ranked in the AP poll at game time. Virginia Tech is 5-2 against UVa when ranked. A look at the games when either team was ranked in the AP poll is below.

Year   UVa rank  VT rank  Result1952     16         -     UVa, 42-01954     -          14    VT, 6-01956     -          16    VT, 14-71989     18         -     UVa, 32-251990     17         -     VT, 38-131991     20         -     UVa, 38-01993     23         25    VT, 20-171994     16         14    UVa, 42-231995     13         20    VT, 36-291996     20         17    VT, 26-91998     16         20    UVa, 36-321999     24          8    TBD

UVa Has Long Home Winning Streak
The Cavaliers have won their last eight home games dating back to the 1997 season. Last season Virginia was a perfect 6-0 at home.

Their eight-game home winning streak is tied for the 11th-longest home winning streak in the country.

Kiddie Corps Get Pickoffs
Virginia has intercepted eight passes this season, including seven by freshmen defensive backs.

The safety tandem of Shernard Newby and Chris Williams (both red-shirt freshmen) have teamed to intercept passes in the same game twice-North Carolina and Wake Forest. The North Carolina game was the first college game for both.

True freshman Jerton Evans intercepted a pass against Clemson in the second game of his brief college career and came back with two crucial interceptions against Brigham Young last weekend.

Evans’ first interception vs. BYU came in the first quarter and set up UVa’s third touchdown in a 21-point first quarter, while his second pick came in the end zone with 1:37 to play in the game that ended BYU’s hopes for a comeback win.

Tim Spruill’s interception vs. BYU was the first by a cornerback and the first by a non-freshman for Virginia this season.

Overall Virginia is tied for sixth in the nation in interceptions.

Coffey Turning into Big Play Receiver
Wide receiver was a big concern for UVa last season, but Terrence Wilkins blossomed into a clutch receiver.

Wilkins wasn’t the only receiver to come into his own last fall. Kevin Coffey proved he could make the big catch as well. Witness his 61-yard touchdown reception in the season opener at Auburn that proved to be the winning score.

For the season, he caught 23 passes for 583 yards (25.4 avg.) and a team-leading five touchdowns.

A possession-type receiver, Coffey has shown a knack for getting added yards after the catch. His 25.4-yards per catch average last season was tops among ACC receivers with at least five receptions and is the UVa record for highest average by a player with at least 20 receptions.

He had two receptions of more than 60 yards and only two of less than 10 yards, while 21 of his 23 catches went for a first down or a touchdown.

This season seems to be much of the same. Quarterback Dan Ellis made his first career start against North Carolina and frequently looked Coffey’s way. Coffey caught four passes for 101 yards (his second career 100-yard game) and one touchdown. In addition to his touchdown grab (a 32-yarder), his other three receptions all went for first downs.

Over the last two seasons, 32 of 35 receptions (91.4 percent) have resulted in either a first down or touchdown.

For his career, Coffey is averaging 21.3 yards per reception, second in school history (behind Herman Moore).

Third Down Production Determines Outcome
In the first two games of the season Virginia did not do a particularly good job on third downs either on offense or defense.

Offensively, Virginia converted just 29.6 percent of their third down conversions in the first two weeks of the season. They were just three of 13 against North Carolina and five of 14 vs. Clemson.

Defensively Virginia allowed the Tar Heels and Tigers to convert on 41.9 percent of its third downs.

But the Cavaliers began to turn things around on both sides of the ball the last two weeks.

Dan Ellis and crew converted all eight of their attempts on offense in the first half against Wake Forest as Virginia bolted to a 28-7 halftime lead. For the game UVa converted nine of 13 (.692) third down attempts.

The defensive unit was just as effective, holding the Demon Deacons to a .308 conversion rate (four of 13).

In last week’s wild win over Brigham Young, the Cavaliers converted five of 13 third down attempts, including three of seven in the first half to build a 28-19 halftime lead.

Conversely, the potent BYU offense converted on just three of 11 attempts and had only one conversion in the second half.

For the season Virginia is converting 41.5 percent of its third downs (22 of 53), fourth in the ACC.

On defense the Cavaliers allow the opposition to convert 36.4 percent of the time (20 of 55), sixth in the conference.

Miscellaneous 1999 Statistics

‘Red Zone’ Performance
(all series first & 10 from opponents’ 20-yard line and in)

Opponent      Att. Result                         Pct.OffenseNo. Carolina   2   TD, FG                        100.0Clemson        5   2 TD, fum., missed FG, downs   40.0W. Forest      4   4 TD                          100.0Brigham Young  3   3 TD                          100.01999          14   10 TD, FG                      78.61998 stats    37   23 TD, 7 FG                    81.1

DefenseNo. Carolina 1 TD 100.0Clemson 5 3 TD, 2 FG 100.0W. Forest 2 FGA, interception 0.0Brigham Young 3 3 TD 100.01999 11 7 TD, 2 FG 81.81998 stats 28 12 FG, 11 TD 82.1

UVa Kickoffs

player   KO   TB   Ret.-Avg. Avg. KO goes to   Greene   22   12   10-21.0   inside 2-yd line

Turnovers Making a Difference
UVa was hampered in the first two games of the season by turnovers-three fumbles and three interceptions.

The Cavaliers compounded the turnovers with a double whammy-turnovers in the red zone and an inability to prevent scores after turnovers.

Dan Ellis threw three interceptions in the opener against North Carolina, two coming inside the red zone (including one returned 89 yards for a touchdown).

Against Clemson, Thomas Jones lost a fumble inside the Clemson 10-yard line as UVa was attempting to cut into a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter.The last two weeks have been a different story.

Virginia committed just one turnover (interception) against Wake Forest, but weren’t hurt by it as the Demon Deacons were unable to score as a result.

The Cavaliers had just one turnover last week against Brigham Young and it almost (but not quite) proved fatal. Ellis had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown late in the first half to cut UVa’s lead to 28-19 at halftime.

Virginia’s defense returned the favor as Tim Spruill scooped up a BYU fumble and darted 20 yards to paydirt early in the second half to push the UVa lead to 35-19.

BYU’s Kevin Feterik threw three interceptions, including two in the first quarter as the visiting Cavaliers jumped to an early 21-0 lead. Feterik’s last pass was intercepted by true freshman Jerton Evans in the end zone with 1:37 left in the game to kill the Cougars’ chance to win.

Of UVa’s eight turnovers, six have been turned into points by the opposition. Clemson scored two touchdowns and a field goal off UVa miscues, while the week before North Carolina’s defense scored on an interception return.

Conversely, Virginia has forced 10 turnovers this season (eight interceptions, two fumbles). After a slow start, the Cavaliers have scored four touchdowns as a result.

Virginia by the Numbers

Thomas Jones’ durability is best typified by the fact that he hasn’t missed so much as a PRACTICE during his career. He has also started 27 consecutive games at tailback.

UVa head coach George Welsh is the winningest coach in ACC history. The only coach in league history to win 100 games, he has a 124-76-3 record at Virginia. Welsh has also won 77 ACC games, the most in league history.

Thomas Jones earned his undergraduate degree in psychology in just three years. He received his degree in May of 1999.

Players made the first start of their career against North Carolina. This is the most since 1997 when 11 players made their first start against Auburn in the opener. Last season’s squad also had five first-time starters in the season opener. Three players got their first start vs. Clemson and one more got his first start against Wake Forest to push the season total to nine first-time starters in just three games.

UVa head coach George Welsh is seventh among active Division I-A coaches in wins. He has won 179 games in a 27-year career at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present).

Consecutive seasons with at least seven wins by UVa, the longest streak in ACC history. UVa is one of only four Division I-A programs (Fla. State, Michigan, Nebraska) to post at least seven wins in each of the last 12 seasons. It is also tied for the eighth-longest current streak of winning seasons in the nation.

Wide receiver Kevin Coffey has been very productive with his receptions the last two seasons, converting 32 of his last 35 catches (91.1 percent) into either a first down or touchdown. This season he has converted 11 of 12 receptions into either a first down or touchdown.

Thomas Jones needs 570 yards rushing to break Tiki Barber’s UVa career rushing record. Jones rushed for 149 yards against North Carolina, 97 vs. Clemson, 164 vs. Wake Forest and a career-high 210 vs. Brigham Young and now has 2820 career yards. Barber rushed for 3389 yards in his career.

Jones Attains Ironman Status
Despite leading the ACC in rushing by nearly 400 yards and standing as the third-leading returning rusher in the nation this season, Thomas Jones doesn’t get the attention he deserves.

He ran for 1303 yards last season, the eighth-highest total in ACC history, and tied the ACC record with two 200-yard games.

Going into his third year as the starting tailback, perhaps it’s important to also note his durability. A testament to his offseason work ethic, Jones has not missed a game in his career, while starting the last 27 games.

His streak of 27 consecutive starts is the longest by a UVa running back since Terry Kirby got the nod in 30 consecutive games from 1990-92. (Tiki Barber had a string of 21 consecutive starts.)

Just as amazing as his streak of consecutive starts is the fact that he has never missed so much as a practice during his career at Virginia.

Jones Ties ACC Record with Three 200-Yard Games
Thomas Jones had a big night as the Cavaliers defeated Brigham Young 45-40 in a shootout last Saturday in Provo, Utah.

Jones ran roughshod through a Cougar defense that was seventh in the nation in rushing defense, relinquishing just 55.0 yards per game.

He carried 35 times, tying his career high, for 210 yards and two touchdowns against a defense designed to stop him. It is typical to see teams put eight or more men in the box in an effort to contain the slippery Jones and BYU was no different.

In addition to establishing a new career high, the 210 yards is tied for the seventh-best mark in school history.

He also joined John Papit as the only players in school history with three 200-yard games in a career and added his name to a list of four other ACC players with three 200-yard games. The other ACC players to compile three 200-yard efforts are three North Carolina players (Amos Lawrence, Natrone Means and Mike Voight) and Maryland’s Charlie Wysocki.

Virginia’s Heisman Trophy candidate from Big Stone Gap, Va., is fifth in nation in rushing, averaging 155.0 yards per game.

Jones on Record Pace
Heisman Trophy candidate Thomas Jones is off to one of the best starts in school history this season. Through four games he has rushed for 620 yards (155.0/g) and is fifth in the nation in rushing.

His 620 yards are the most yards after four games in school history, barely topping John Papit’s 617 yards in 1949.

Not surprisingly, Jones has been the game’s leading rusher in all four Virginia games this season.

He rushed 35 times for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns against 17th-ranked Brigham Young last Saturday. It was his ACC-leading third 100-yard game of the season and the third 200-yard game of his career, tying an ACC record.

Jones needs a big game vs. Virginia Tech to keep up with Papit’s pace, though. Papit rushed for 774 yards through the first five games of the 1949 campaign following a 212-yard effort vs. West Virginia in the fifth game that season.

Nonetheless, Jones’ 620 yards (through four games) is still the fourth-best total after FIVE games in school history.

In addition to leading the ACC in rushing, Jones leads the ACC in all-purpose yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.

Below is the list of the five-best performances through the first five games in school history.

     Player, year                   Yds thru 5 games1.   John Papit, 1949               7742.   Terry Kirby, 1992              7523.   Frank Quayle, 1968             659-    Thomas Jones, 1999 (4 games)   6204.   John Papit, 1948               5805.   Tiki Barber, 1995              572

Jones Passes Quayle, Eyes Vigorito
As his career at Virginia was coming to a close in 1996, Virginia’s all-time leading rusher, Tiki Barber, mentioned that Thomas Jones (then a true freshman) would be the one to break his records. Barber seems to be very prescient regarding the performance of the player who was his understudy three years ago.

Jones rushed for 1303 yards last season, the third-highest single-season mark in school history (behind Barber’s two best seasons).So far this season Jones is turning in another big year. He has rushed for 620 yards in four games, with a career-high of 210 yards vs. Brigham Young the last time out.

Jones now has 2820 career rushing yards, fifth in school history and needs 84 yards to pass Tommy Vigorito for fourth place.

Jones’ place on the ACC and UVa all-time rushing list is below.

ACC UVa  Player, school            Yds.12. 1.   Tiki Barber, Virginia     338913. 2.   Terry Kirby, Virginia     3348pre 3.   John Papit, Virginia      323818.      Natrone Means, UNC        3074         Ethan Horton, UNC         307420.      Steve Atkins, Md.         297121.      Steve Jones, Duke         295122. 4.   Tommy Vigorito, Virginia  291323. 5.   Thomas Jones, Virginia    2820

Experienced Line Opens Holes for Jones
Head coach George Welsh has always emphasized the need to have a strong running game and this year is no different.

The Cavaliers feature one of the nation’s top running backs in Thomas Jones. Jones has rushed for 620 yards this season (155.0/g), fifth in the nation. Last season Jones rushed for 1303 yards and led the ACC by almost 400 yards.

Leading the way for Jones is a battle-tested line that features three returning starters and another player who started five games a year ago.Virginia’s top offensive lineman is left guard Noel LaMontagne. A senior tri-captain, LaMontagne is the most experienced lineman with 24 career starts under his belt.

Joining LaMontagne on the left side of the line is Josh Lawson, a first-team All-Freshman by The Sporting News last season. He worked his way into the starting line-up last preseason and has remained there since.

Second-team All-ACC John St. Clair is the center. One of the top (and most underrated) centers in the country, he is quietly molding himself into one of the top center prospects available in the upcoming NFL draft.

Sophomore Evan Routzahn, a starter in five games at left guard last season, has moved to right guard this season and is considered a very promising player by Welsh. He is joined by junior Brad Barnes, the right tackle.

Barnes saw limited action in his first two years, but has worked hard to forge his way into the line-up.

Isabelle Reaches Double Digits Three Times
Junior linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle gets better with each game as he attempts to fill the rather large shoes of current NFL starter Wali Rainer in the Cavalier defense.

Isabelle, who saw limited action in his first two seasons behind Rainer, led the Cavaliers with 14 tackles against Clemson three weeks ago. The 14 tackles is a career high, topping the eight he had against Florida State as a freshman two years ago.

He paced the team against with 10 tackles against Wake Forest as Virginia held Morgan Kane, the nation’s leading rusher coming into the game, to just 65 yards.

Putting up Rainer-like numbers, Isabelle’s 14 stops vs Brigham Young last Saturday led the team for the third week in a row.

A very smart player who is still learning on the job, Isabelle leads the team with 41 tackles this season.

A look at his game-by-game stats are below.

            Solo  Ast.  TTL  otherN. Carolina  2     1     3   PBUClemson      9*    5*   14*  FRW. Forest    7*    3    10*BYU          7*    7*   14*  hurry

* led team

Cavaliers Increase First Half Scoring
The Cavaliers hadn’t played particularly well in the first two games of the season (North Carolina, Clemson), particularly in the first half, but things seemed to have changed in the last two weeks.

Wake Forest seemed to be just what Virginia needed to turn things around as the Cavaliers rolled to a 35-7 Homecoming game win in Charlottesville two weeks ago.

Coming into the game Virginia managed to score just three points in the first half this season (a Todd Braverman field goal vs. North Carolina). But the Cavaliers erupted for 28 points in the first 30 minutes of the game against the Demon Deacons.

UVa took the opening kickoff and marched down field only to have the drive stall in the red zone with an interception.

From there, the Cavaliers scored on their next four possessions to run to a 28-0 score in the first half, their first touchdowns in the first half this season.

Against Brigham Young last Saturday, Virginia scored off the opening kickoff and used two pass interceptions to build a 21-0 first quarter lead. At the break the Cavaliers held a 28-19 lead.

In the last two weeks Virginia has had 14 first half possessions and scored eight touchdowns.

In contrast, UVa’s opponents have scored 17 points in the first quarter and 38 in the second quarter this season, but only 26 second quarter points in the last two weeks.

First-Time Starters Dot Line-Up
Injuries and graduation have caused head coach George Welsh and his staff to shuffle players around this season.

There were five first-time starters in the line-up in the opener vs. North Carolina-tackle Brad Barnes, middle linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle, quarterback Dan Ellis, defensive end Ljubomir Stamenich and safety Chris Williams.

Several Cavaliers went down with injury against the Tar Heels which created openings for three more players in the line-up against Clemson. Making the first start of their career against the Tigers were wide receiver Demetrius Dotson, cornerback Jermaine Lauzon and safety Shernard Newby.

True freshman Jerton Evans joined the list of first-time starters against Wake Forest pushing the total to nine players who have made their starting debuts this season.

Of the Cavaliers’ 22 starters, 11 players have started fewer than 10 games in their careers. Only Thomas Jones and Byron Thweatt (27), Noel LaMontagne (24) and the injured Travis Griffith (20) have as many as 20 career starts.

Thweatt Lone Returning Starter at Linebacker
Butkus Award candidate Byron Thweatt is one of the top returning linebackers in the nation and is Virginia’s lone returning starter at the position.

Going into his third season as a starter, Thweatt will be expected to provide leadership and experience to coach David Turner’s linebacking corps. He has finished second on the team in tackles in each of his first two seasons and was in on 99 stops last season.

He has gotten off to a slow start this season, registering just 23 tackles, including a season-high nine vs. Clemson.

Welsh Seventh Among Active Wins Leaders
Head coach George Welsh, tabbed last season by The Sporting News as the nation’s best coach, is ranked seventh in wins among active Division I-A coaches.

Welsh has won 179 games in a 27-year career at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), tied for 28th in NCAA Division I-A history (with former Virginia Tech coach Jerry Claiborne).

His overall career record is 179-122-4 (.593).

The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 124-76-3 record in 18 seasons at Virginia. His 77 wins in ACC games is also a record.

A look at the winningest active coaches is below.

1. Joe Paterno, Penn State (34 years)  312 wins2. Bobby Bowden, Fla. State (34)       2963. LaVell Edwards, BYU (28)            2454. Lou Holtz, So. Carolina (28)        2165. Don Nehlen, West Va. (29)           1926. John Cooper, Ohio State (23)        1817. George Welsh, UVa (27)              179

Workhorse Jones Eases Pressure on Ellis
New starting quarterback Dan Ellis has had his early-season inexperience offset by the presence of tailback Thomas Jones, who helps take some of the pressure off Ellis.

Jones, the ACC’s leading rusher a year ago, is off and running this season and looks like this season could be more special than last.

Jones has rushed for 620 yards (155.0/g) and is fifth in the nation in rushing. He has reached the end zone seven times so far this season and leads the ACC in touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.

The senior co-captain from Big Stone Gap, Va., got off to a flying start this season by rushing for 149 yards on 35 carries in the season opening win over North Carolina. The 35 carries matches Jones’ career high.

Jones ground out yardage, especially in the second half, as Virginia maintained ball control. In the second half, he carried 22 times for 84 yards.

He scored on a one-yard plunge late in the third quarter as UVa regained a 10-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Jones carried four times for 21 yards on UVa’s final drive to help set up Todd Braverman’s game-winning field goal.

He ran for 97 yards against Clemson and surely would have had more yards, but he ran the ball just four times in the second half as Virginia had to pass to try (unsuccessfully) to catch the Tigers.

Jones returned to the century club against Wake Forest, rushing for 164 yards and three touchdowns on just 24 carries. His three touchdowns is his personal best, while his 164 yards is the fifth-highest total of his career.

With a national television audience watching and needing a big game to boost his national image he stepped up his game to lead Virginia to a thrilling 45-40 win over Brigham Young. He rushed for a career-high 210 yards on 35 carries and two touchdowns against a Cougar defense that was ranked seventh in the nation against the run.

Ellis Hitting High Percentage in Last Two
Quarterback Dan Ellis is starting to exhibit some of the qualities that led head coach George Welsh to comment that Ellis has picked up the offense faster than anybody he’s ever had in the program.

The junior from Exton, Pa., got off to a slow start in the season opener against North Carolina, but still directed the Cavaliers down field to set up Todd Braverman’s game-winning field goal. Against the Tar Heels, Ellis completed 10 of 25 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off twice.

He improved the next week against Clemson, throwing for a career-high 233 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 19 of 33 throws (57.6 percent) despite facing constant pressure as the Tiger defense was able to concentrate on stopping the pass with a 33-0 lead in the second half.

Ellis had the hot hand against Wake Forest in the home opener, completing 19 of 25 passes (76.0 percent) for 220 yards and a touchdown. His completion percentage is the second-highest total in school history for a performance of at least 25 attempts.

Ellis also did a good job of spreading the ball around, completing passes to nine different receivers vs. the Demon Deacons.

Against Brigham Young last Saturday, Ellis completed 14 of 18 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to a 45-40 win. In the last two weeks he has completed 76.7 percent of his throws for 410 yards and four touchdowns.

Ellis is third in the ACC in passing efficiency, second in touchdown passes (6) and yards passing (808) and third in completion percentage (61.4).

Braverman, Greene Share Kicking Chores
For the second year in a row, the place-kicking duties this season are split between Todd Braverman and David Greene. Braverman is the kicker for field goals and extra points, while Greene is the kick-off man.

Braverman, a left-footed junior, had an up-and-down season last fall. He made 12 field goals and 38 extra points to finish second on the team in scoring with 74 points.

He made eight of his first nine field goal attempts in the first half of the season, but connected on just four of his last 12 tries, including two misses in the Peach Bowl.

Braverman seems to have put last season’s performance behind him. He made two field goals in the spring game and connected on two field goals in each preseason scrimmage without a miss.

Named the starting place-kicker just days before the opener against North Carolina, Braverman sent the Cavaliers home with a victory by connecting on a 50-yarder with less than 30 seconds remaining to down the Tar Heels 20-17.

Greene possesses the stronger leg and does the kicking off just as he did so capably a year ago. Last season in his first action, he did all the kicking off. In 59 kickoffs he had 14 touchbacks, while typically placing the ball deep.

Building on a fine finish to last season, Greene has boomed 19 of 22 kickoffs this season into the endzone, resulting in 12 touchbacks. The opponents are averaging 21 yards per return against UVa’s kickoff coverage team.

Braverman Redeems Himself Quickly
Place-kickers live a strange existence, always walking on the cusp between hero and goat. Over the last two seasons Todd Braverman can surely attest to the fine line kickers walk.

Last season he booted a 30-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining to defeat Clemson 20-18 in the season’s third week. But from that point on, the up-and-down nature of kickers seemed to be mostly down for him.He missed a field goal that could have sent the Georgia Tech game into overtime, but to be fair it was from 54-yards out and didn’t miss by much.

He then missed an extra point and a 48-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia. The field goal, if good, would have won it for Virginia, but instead the ball drifted wide right. (Braverman shouldn’t be blamed for either loss as Virginia held 21-point leads in both contests.)

The uncertainty of his position continued into the preseason as he had to battle David Greene for the starting nod. Head coach George Welsh didn’t let the contestants know the winner until the week of the North Carolina game.

But things swung upward for Braverman when he was named the starter. He wasted little time justifying Welsh’s decision and erasing the memories of last season in the opener against North Carolina with two field goals against the Tar Heels.

Called on to be the hero, Braverman answered the call with a 50-yard boot with 27.4 seconds remaining to give Virginia a 20-17 victory. The kick didn’t clear the crossbar by much, but it was enough to make Braverman the sixth kicker in school history to make a 50-yarder.

His 50-yard victory kick vs. the Tar Heels is the longest game-winning field goal in school history.

Braverman has made all 15 extra points and and three of five field goal attempts this season. After missing the first extra point attempt of his career (last season vs. Auburn), he has made 53 in a row in regular season games.

Scott Second in ACC in Punting
Unlike last season when the Virginia roster didn’t feature a single player who had ever kicked, punted or kicked off in a game, this year’s squad has experience in all three areas.

The punting will be handled by All-America candidate Donnie Scott. Scott was outstanding in his first year as the starting punter. He averaged 42.6 yards per punt last season, with 16 over 50 yards (including five of 60+) and 23 inside the 20-yard line.

Scott finished third in the ACC in punting in 1998, but his ability to limit returns enabled Virginia to rank second in the league in net punting.Since Virginia started keeping track of punts inside the 20 in 1984, only Will Brice has had more in a season than Scott. Brice had 26 in 1995.

Scott’s five 60-yard punts is the school record for most in a season. Russ Henderson (1978) and Brice (1994) had four in one season.

This season Scott looks like he might threaten more records. He is averaging 42.6 yards on 15 punts and ranks second in the ACC (26th in the nation). He has buried five punts inside the 20-yard line and has only one touchback. He nailed a 64-yarder that was downed at the one-yard line against Brigham Young last Saturday.

Taylor Returns with a Vengeance
Linebacker Shannon Taylor sat out last season for personal reasons. But the lay-off hasn’t seemed to be a setback based on his performance so far this season.

He was recruited as a quarterback, but moved to linebacker shortly after his arrival in Charlottesville and has alternated between linebacker and defensive end during his career. He lettered as a linebacker in 1996 and at defensive end in 1997. A gifted athlete who excels at getting to the quarterback, he has been in on six sacks in his career.

He was one of the few defensive bright spots against Clemson three weeks ago. He tied his career high at the time with seven tackles (since broken) against the Tigers, including two stops behind the line of scrimmage.

His career high for tackles didn’t last long, however because he followed that with a 10-tackle performance against Wake Forest. He had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including his second sack of the season.

The big plays for Taylor continued last week against Brigham Young as he turned in eight tackles, including two more tackles behind the line. That marked the third game in a row Taylor had two tackles for loss.

Taylor is second on the team with 31 tackles (7.8/g), and leads the team with six tackles for loss. His two quarterback sacks are second on the team behind Ljubomir Stamenich’s three.

Virginia’s Secondary Remains Unsettled
Of prime concern to defensive coordinator Rick Lantz this season is the shape of the secondary. At first glance it looked as if the Cavaliers would be set as three very experienced players return-Antwan Harris, Tim Spruill and Dwayne Stukes. But Harris has never played more than nine games in a regular season due to various injuries. Stukes’ 1998 season was marred by injury and he was injured again during spring practice. But early-season injuries to both have created problems for the secondary.

Against North Carolina in the opener, the three above were joined by Chris Williams in the starting line-up. But Stukes left the game late in the second quarter due to an injury which forced some rearrangements in the secondary. Red-shirt freshman Shernard Newby saw a lot of action at safety as Harris moved from safety to cornerback.

Sophomore Jermaine Lauzon also saw extended action at cornerback, spelling Spruill and Harris on a muggy day.

Despite playing in their first collegiate game, both Newby and Williams broke up one pass and intercepted another. For the game, Virginia’s secondary broke up five passes and didn’t allow a completion of more than 24 yards.

Lauzon and Newby got the first starts of their careers the next week against Clemson due to injuries to Harris and Stukes but Clemson’s no-huddle offense did an outstanding job of exploiting the Cavaliers’ inexperience as Brandon Streeter passed for a Clemson record 343 yards.

True freshman Jerton Evans started at safety against Wake Forest, the first start of his career. Harris returned to action, starting in place of Spruill at cornerback as the juggling continued. For the second time this season Newby and Williams intercepted passes in the same game.

Harris was unable to play vs. Brigham Young, putting Spruill back into the starting line-up with Evans, Lauzon and Williams as Virginia intercepted three passes.

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