Virginia vs. Virginia Tech Football Preview
Sept. 27, 1999
Virginia’s annual clash with in-state rival Virginia Tech movesback to October after a 10-year run as a November game as the two fiercein-state rivals meet in Charlottesville on Saturday (Oct. 2). TheCavaliers reenter the national rankings (24th in both major polls)following their wild 45-40 win over then #17 Brigham Young last Saturday inProvo, 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 (eighthin 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 intheir 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
The Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison, III Field at Scott Stadium
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 isthe color analyst. Holly Rowe is the sideline reporter.
Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originatingat WINA/WQMZ in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. FrankQuayle, the 1968 ACC Player of the Year, provides the color commentary,while former UVa signal caller Mike Groh provides sideline analysis andconducts the postgame interviews.
1999 Virginia Schedule/Results/Statistical Leaders
UVa LeadersDate Opponent, site Rushing Passing C-A-Y-I-T Receiving (Rec.) Tackles9/4 at UNC1 Jones 35-149 Ellis 10-25-165-3-1 Coffey 4-101 Anderson 109/11 at Clemson1 Jones 23-97 Ellis 19-33-233-0-1 Coffey 4-48 Isabelle 149/18 Wake Forest2 Jones 24-164 Ellis 19-25-220-1-1 Southern 4-47 Isabelle 10 Taylor 109/25 at Brigham Young 2 Jones 35-210 Ellis 18-14-1-190-3 Baber 4-34 Isabelle 141-ABC regional telecast, 2-ESPN2, 3-ESPN, 4-ACC/JP Network
The Series vs. the Hokies
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 39-36-5 in a rivalry that datesback more than a century. The series began in 1895 with the Cavaliersgaining a 38-0 win in Charlottesville. The 1990s mirror the series overallwith Virginia winning five meetings and Tech four.
Virginia lost two straight meetings in Charlottesville (1993, ’95) beforegaining a 34-20 win in the season finale in 1997. Overall, Virginia owns a17-14-3 record against the Hokies at home.
The Cavaliers’ win in 1997 began their two-game winning streak over theHokies. Virginia staged the greatest comeback in school history to pull outa 36-32 in last season’s meeting. The Cavaliers rallied from 22 points downto win. Ahmad Hawkins’ 47-yard touchdown reception from Aaron Brooksenabled the Cavaliers to complete the greatest comeback win last season.The Cavaliers trailed Tech 29-7 at halftime before exploding for 29 pointsin the second half for the win. Brooks threw three scoring strikes (24yards 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 havescored at least 32 points in each of their last six wins over the Hokiesdating back to 1989.
Commonwealth Cup Up for Grabs
The winner of the annual Virginia/Virginia Tech match-up claims theCommonwealth Cup for the next year.
The Cavaliers have held the trophy the last seasons following a 34-20 winover the Hokies in 1997 and their 36-32 win last season. The award wasstarted for the 1996 game between the two state foes, with the Hokiesreceiving 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, Virginiahad not ended its season against the Hokies until 1981. This is the 40thgame in the series in October, making it the most common month for therivalry. (November featured 35 games).
Virginia has ended the regular season against the Hokies in eight of thelast nine years, but this is the earliest the game has been played since1987 (Sept. 19).
Virginia Feasts on Ranked Non-ACC Foes
This is the Cavaliers’ second non-conference game in a row after openingwith 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 thelast two years. Interestingly, all three wins came on the road.Virginia Tech comes to Charlottesville ranked eighth in this week’sAssociated Press poll. The Hokies are the first ranked non-ACC team to cometo Jefferson’s Country since Auburn in 1997. The #17 Tigers handed Virginiaa 28-17 defeat in the 1997 season opener.
A win over the Hokies would mark the first time in school history theCavaliers have defeated ranked teams in consecutive games.A win over the Hokies would also be the highest ranked team to lose to UVasince the Cavaliers downed #6 North Carolina 20-17 in Charlottesville in1996.
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 forthe Cavaliers this season. They host Buffalo on Nov. 13.
Since 1989, Auburn and Virginia Tech are the only non-conference schools towin in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers have won 22 of 26 non-conference games at home going back to1987. The only losses are to Penn State in 1988, Virginia Tech in 1993 and1995, and Auburn in 1997.
In George Welsh’s 18 years at Virginia, his teams are 30-9 (.769) againstnon-conference teams at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A. HarrisonIII 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, whileVirginia Tech is ranked eighth.
This marks the sixth time in the last seven seasons that Virginia andVirginia 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 wheneither 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 1997season. Last season Virginia was a perfect 6-0 at home.Their eight-game home winning streak is tied for the 11th-longest homewinning streak in the country.
Kiddie Corps Get Pickoffs
Virginia has intercepted eight passes this season, including seven byfreshmen defensive backs.
The safety tandem of Shernard Newby and Chris Williams (both red-shirtfreshmen) have teamed to intercept passes in the same game twice-NorthCarolina and Wake Forest. The North Carolina game was the first collegegame for both.
True freshman Jerton Evans intercepted a pass against Clemson in the secondgame of his brief college career and came back with two crucialinterceptions against Brigham Young last weekend.
Evans’ first interception vs. BYU came in the first quarter and set upUVa’s third touchdown in a 21-point first quarter, while his second pickcame in the end zone with 1:37 to play in the game that ended BYU’s hopesfor a comeback win.
Tim Spruill’s interception vs. BYU was the first by a cornerback and thefirst 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 Wilkinsblossomed into a clutch receiver.
Wilkins wasn’t the only receiver to come into his own last fall. KevinCoffey proved he could make the big catch as well. Witness his 61-yardtouchdown reception in the season opener at Auburn that proved to be thewinning score.
For the season, he caught 23 passes for 583 yards (25.4 avg.) and ateam-leading five touchdowns.
A possession-type receiver, Coffey has shown a knack for getting addedyards after the catch. His 25.4-yards per catch average last season wastops among ACC receivers with at least five receptions and is the UVarecord 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 10yards, 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 hisfirst career start against North Carolina and frequently looked Coffey’sway. Coffey caught four passes for 101 yards (his second career 100-yardgame) 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 resultedin either a first down or touchdown.
For his career, Coffey is averaging 21.3 yards per reception, second inschool history (behind Herman Moore).
Third Down Production Determines Outcome
In the first two games of the season Virginia did not do a particularlygood job on third downs either on offense or defense.
Offensively, Virginia converted just 29.6 percent of their third downconversions in the first two weeks of the season. They were just three of13 against North Carolina and five of 14 vs. Clemson.
Defensively Virginia allowed the Tar Heels and Tigers to convert on 41.9percent of its third downs.
But the Cavaliers began to turn things around on both sides of the ball thelast two weeks.
Dan Ellis and crew converted all eight of their attempts on offense in thefirst 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 of13 third down attempts, including three of seven in the first half to builda 28-19 halftime lead.
Conversely, the potent BYU offense converted on just three of 11 attemptsand had only one conversion in the second half.
For the season Virginia is converting 41.5 percent of its third downs (22of 53), fourth in the ACC.
On defense the Cavaliers allow the opposition to convert 36.4 percent ofthe time (20 of 55), sixth in the conference.
Turnovers Making a Difference
UVa was hampered in the first two games of the season by turnovers-threefumbles and three interceptions.
The Cavaliers compounded the turnovers with a double whammy-turnovers inthe 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 atouchdown).
Against Clemson, Thomas Jones lost a fumble inside the Clemson 10-yard lineas 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 aresult.
The Cavaliers had just one turnover last week against Brigham Young and italmost (but not quite) proved fatal. Ellis had a pass intercepted andreturned for a touchdown late in the first half to cut UVa’s lead to 28-19at halftime.
Virginia’s defense returned the favor as Tim Spruill scooped up a BYUfumble and darted 20 yards to paydirt early in the second half to push theUVa lead to 35-19.
BYU’s Kevin Feterik threw three interceptions, including two in the firstquarter as the visiting Cavaliers jumped to an early 21-0 lead.
Feterik’s last pass was intercepted by true freshman Jerton Evans in theend 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 theopposition. Clemson scored two touchdowns and a field goal off UVa miscues,while the week before North Carolina’s defense scored on an interceptionreturn.
Conversely, Virginia has forced 10 turnovers this season (eightinterceptions, two fumbles). After a slow start, the Cavaliers have scoredfour touchdowns as a result.
Jones Attains Ironman Status
Despite leading the ACC in rushing by nearly 400 yards and standing as thethird-leading returning rusher in the nation this season, Thomas Jonesdoesn’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 importantto also note his durability. A testament to his offseason work ethic, Joneshas 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 backsince Terry Kirby got the nod in 30 consecutive games from 1990-92. (TikiBarber had a string of 21 consecutive starts.)
Just as amazing as his streak of consecutive starts is the fact that he hasnever 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 45-40in a shootout last Saturday in Provo, Utah.
Jones ran roughshod through a Cougar defense that was seventh in the nationin rushing defense, relinquishing just 55.0 yards per game.
He carried 35 times, tying his career high, for 210 yards and twotouchdowns against a defense designed to stop him. It is typical to seeteams put eight or more men in the box in an effort to contain the slipperyJones and BYU was no different.
In addition to establishing a new career high, the 210 yards is tied forthe seventh-best mark in school history.
He also joined John Papit as the only players in school history with three200-yard games in a career and added his name to a list of four other ACCplayers with three 200-yard games. The other ACC players to compile three200-yard efforts are three North Carolina players (Amos Lawrence, NatroneMeans and Mike Voight) and Maryland’s Charlie Wysocki.
Virginia’s Heisman Trophy candidate from Big Stone Gap, Va., is fifth innation in rushing, averaging 155.0 yards per game.
Jones on Record Pace
Heisman Trophy candidate Thomas Jones is off to the the best starts inschool 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, barelytopping John Papit’s 617 yards in 1949.
Not surprisingly, Jones has been the game’s leading rusher in all fourVirginia games this season.
He rushed 35 times for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns against17th-ranked Brigham Young last Saturday. It was his ACC-leading third100-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 1949campaign following a 212-yard effort vs. West Virginia in the fifth gamethat season.
Nonetheless, Jones’ 620 yards (through four games) is still the fourth-besttotal after FIVE games in school history.
In addition to leading the ACC in rushing, Jones leads the ACC inall-purpose yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.
Below is the list of the five-best performances through the first fivegames in school history.
Player, year Yds thru 5 games 1. John Papit, 1949 774 2. Terry Kirby, 1992 752 3. Frank Quayle, 1968 659 - Thomas Jones, 1999 620 (Through four) 4. John Papit, 1948 580 5. Tiki Barber, 1995 572
Jones Passes Quayle, Eyes Vigorito
As his career at Virginia was coming to a close in 1996, Virginia’sall-time leading rusher, Tiki Barber, mentioned that Thomas Jones (then atrue freshman) would be the one to break his records. Barber seems to bevery prescient regarding the performance of the player who was hisunderstudy three years ago.
Jones rushed for 1303 yards last season, the third-highest single-seasonmark in school history (behind Barber’s two best seasons).
So far this season Jones is turning in another big year. He has rushed for620 yards in four games, with a career-high of 210 yards vs. Brigham Youngthe last time out.
Jones now has 2820 career rushing yards, fifth in school history and needs84 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 3389 13. 2. Terry Kirby, Virginia 3348 pre ACC 3. John Papit, Virginia 3238 18. Natrone Means, UNC 3074 Ethan Horton, UNC 3074 20. Steve Atkins, Md. 2971 21. Steve Jones, Duke 2951 22. 4. Tommy Vigorito, Virginia 2913 23. 5. Thomas Jones, Virginia 2820
Offensive Line Continues To Open Holes For Jones
Head coach George Welsh has always emphasized the need to have a strongrunning game and this year is no different.
The Cavaliers feature one of the nation’s top running backs in ThomasJones. Jones has rushed for 620 yards this season (155.0/g), fifth in thenation. Last season Jones rushed for 1303 yards and led the ACC by almost400 yards.
Leading the way for Jones is a battle-tested line that features threereturning starters and another player who started five games a year ago.Virginia’s top offensive lineman is left guard Noel LaMontagne. A seniortri-captain, LaMontagne is the most experienced lineman with 24 careerstarts under his belt.
Joining LaMontagne on the left side of the line is Josh Lawson, afirst-team All-Freshman by The Sporting News last season. He worked his wayinto 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 mostunderrated) centers in the country, he is quietly molding himself into oneof 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 promisingplayer 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 toforge his way into the line-up.
Isabelle Reaches Double Digits Three Times
Junior linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle gets better with each game as heattempts to fill the rather large shoes of current NFL starter Wali Rainerin 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 14tackles is a career high, topping the eight he had against Florida State asa freshman two years ago.
He paced the team against with 10 tackles against Wake Forest as Virginiaheld Morgan Kane, the nation’s leading rusher coming into the game, to just65 yards.
Putting up Rainer-like numbers, Isabelle’s 14 stops vs Brigham Young lastSaturday led the team for the third week in a row.
A very smart player who is still learning on the job, Isabelle leads theteam 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 10BYU 7 7 14 hurry
Cavaliers Increase First Half Scoring
The Cavaliers hadn’t played particularly well in the first two games of theseason (North Carolina, Clemson), particularly in the first half, butthings seemed to have changed in the last two weeks.
Wake Forest seemed to be just what Virginia needed to turn things around asthe Cavaliers rolled to a 35-7 Homecoming game win in Charlottesville twoweeks ago.
Coming into the game Virginia managed to score just three points in thefirst 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 gameagainst the Demon Deacons.
UVa took the opening kickoff and marched down field only to have the drivestall in the red zone with an interception.
>From there, the Cavaliers scored on their next four possessions to run to a28-0 score in the first half, their first touchdowns in the first half thisseason.
Against Brigham Young last Saturday, Virginia scored off the openingkickoff 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 scoredeight touchdowns.
In contrast, UVa’s opponents have scored 17 points in the first quarter and38 in the second quarter this season, but only 26 second quarter points inthe last two weeks.
First-Time Starters Dot Line-Up
Injuries and graduation have caused head coach George Welsh and his staffto shuffle players around this season.
There were five first-time starters in the line-up in the opener vs. NorthCarolina-tackle Brad Barnes, middle linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle,quarterback Dan Ellis, defensive end Ljubomir Stamenich and safety ChrisWilliams.
Several Cavaliers went down with injury against the Tar Heels which createdopenings for three more players in the line-up against Clemson. Making thefirst start of their career against the Tigers were wide receiver DemetriusDotson, cornerback Jermaine Lauzon and safety Shernard Newby.
True freshman Jerton Evans joined the list of first-time starters againstWake Forest pushing the total to nine players who have made their startingdebuts this season.
Of the Cavaliers’ 22 starters, 11 players have started fewer than 10 gamesin 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 returninglinebackers in the nation and is Virginia’s lone returning starter at theposition.
Going into his third season as a starter, Thweatt will be expected toprovide leadership and experience to coach David Turner’s linebackingcorps. He has finished second on the team in tackles in each of his firsttwo 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 thenation’s best coach, is ranked seventh in wins among active Division I-Acoaches.
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 formerVirginia 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 winat least 100 games. He has a 124-76-3 record in 18 seasons at Virginia. His77 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 inexperienceoffset by the presence of tailback Thomas Jones, who helps take some of thepressure off Ellis.
Jones, the ACC’s leading rusher a year ago, is off and running this seasonand 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 inrushing. He has reached the end zone seven times so far this season andleads the ACC in touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.
The senior co-captain from Big Stone Gap, Va., got off to a flying startthis season by rushing for 149 yards on 35 carries in the season openingwin over North Carolina. The 35 carries matches Jones’ career high.Jones ground out yardage, especially in the second half, as Virginiamaintained ball control. In the second half, he carried 22 times for 84yards.
He scored on a one-yard plunge late in the third quarter as UVa regained a10-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Jones carried four times for 21 yards on UVa’s final drive to help set upTodd 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 topass to try (unsuccessfully) to catch the Tigers.
Jones returned to the century club against Wake Forest, rushing for 164yards and three touchdowns on just 24 carries. His three touchdowns is hispersonal best, while his 164 yards is the fifth-highest total of his career.With a national television audience watching and needing a big game toboost his national image he stepped up his game to lead Virginia to athrilling 45-40 win over Brigham Young. He rushed for a career-high 210yards on 35 carries and two touchdowns against a Cougar defense that wasranked 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 ledhead coach George Welsh to comment that Ellis has picked up the offensefaster than anybody he’s ever had in the program.
The junior from Exton, Pa., got off to a slow start in the season openeragainst North Carolina, but still directed the Cavaliers down field to setup Todd Braverman’s game-winning field goal. Against the Tar Heels, Elliscompleted 10 of 25 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, but was picked offtwice.
He improved the next week against Clemson, throwing for a career-high 233yards and a touchdown. He also completed 19 of 33 throws (57.6 percent)despite facing constant pressure as the Tiger defense was able toconcentrate 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, completing19 of 25 passes (76.0 percent) for 220 yards and a touchdown. Hiscompletion percentage is the second-highest total in school history for aperformance of at least 25 attempts.
Ellis also did a good job of spreading the ball around, completing passesto nine different receivers vs. the Demon Deacons.
Against Brigham Young last Saturday, Ellis completed 14 of 18 passes for190 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 410yards 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 aresplit between Todd Braverman and David Greene. Braverman is the kicker forfield goals and extra points, while Greene is the kick-off man.
Braverman, a left-footed junior, had an up-and-down season last fall. Hemade 12 field goals and 38 extra points to finish second on the team inscoring with 74 points.
He made eight of his first nine field goal attempts in the first half ofthe season, but connected on just four of his last 12 tries, including twomisses in the Peach Bowl.
Braverman seems to have put last season’s performance behind him. He madetwo field goals in the spring game and connected on two field goals in eachpreseason scrimmage without a miss.
Named the starting place-kicker just days before the opener against NorthCarolina, Braverman sent the Cavaliers home with a victory by connecting ona 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 didso capably a year ago. Last season in his first action, he did all thekicking off. In 59 kickoffs he had 14 touchbacks, while typically placingthe ball deep.
Building on a fine finish to last season, Greene has boomed 19 of 22kickoffs this season into the endzone, resulting in 12 touchbacks. Theopponents are averaging 21 yards per return against UVa’s kickoff coverageteam.
Braverman Redeems Himself Quickly
Place-kickers live a strange existence, always walking on the cusp betweenhero and goat. Over the last two seasons Todd Braverman can surely attestto the fine line kickers walk.
Last season he booted a 30-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining todefeat 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 intoovertime, 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 waningseconds of the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia. The field goal, if good, wouldhave won it for Virginia, but instead the ball drifted wide right.(Braverman shouldn’t be blamed for either loss as Virginia held 21-pointleads in both contests.)
The uncertainty of his position continued into the preseason as he had tobattle David Greene for the starting nod. Head coach George Welsh didn’tlet the contestants know the winner until the week of the North Carolinagame.
But things swung upward for Braverman when he was named the starter. Hewasted little time justifying Welsh’s decision and erasing the memories oflast season in the opener against North Carolina with two field goalsagainst the Tar Heels.
Called on to be the hero, Braverman answered the call with a 50-yard bootwith 27.4 seconds remaining to give Virginia a 20-17 victory. The kickdidn’t clear the crossbar by much, but it was enough to make Braverman thesixth kicker in school history to make a 50-yarder.
His 50-yard victory kick vs. the Tar Heels is the longest game-winningfield goal in school history.
Braverman has made all 15 extra points and and three of five field goalattempts this season. After missing the first extra point attempt of hiscareer (last season vs. Auburn), he has made 53 in a row in regular seasongames.
Scott Second in ACC in Punting
Unlike last season when the Virginia roster didn’t feature a single playerwho had ever kicked, punted or kicked off in a game, this year’s squad hasexperience in all three areas.
The punting will be handled by All-America candidate Donnie Scott. Scottwas outstanding in his first year as the starting punter. He averaged 42.6yards 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 tolimit returns enabled Virginia to rank second in the league in net punting.Since Virginia started keeping track of punts inside the 20 in 1984, onlyWill 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. RussHenderson (1978) and Brice (1994) had four in one season.
This season Scott looks like he might threaten more records. He isaveraging 42.6 yards on 15 punts and ranks second in the ACC (26th in thenation). He has buried five punts inside the 20-yard line and has only onetouchback. He nailed a 64-yarder that was downed at the one-yard lineagainst Brigham Young last Saturday.
Taylor Returns with a Vengeance
Linebacker Shannon Taylor sat out last season for personal reasons. But thelay-off hasn’t seemed to be a setback based on his performance so far thisseason.
He was recruited as a quarterback, but moved to linebacker shortly afterhis arrival in Charlottesville and has alternated between linebacker anddefensive end during his career. He lettered as a linebacker in 1996 and atdefensive end in 1997. A gifted athlete who excels at getting to thequarterback, he has been in on six sacks in his career.
He was one of the few defensive bright spots against Clemson three weeksago. 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 followedthat with a 10-tackle performance against Wake Forest. He had two tacklesbehind the line of scrimmage, including his second sack of the season.
The big plays for Taylor continued last week against Brigham Young as heturned in eight tackles, including two more tackles behind the line. Thatmarked 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 teamwith six tackles for loss. His two quarterback sacks are second on the teambehind Ljubomir Stamenich’s three.
Virginia’s Secondary Remains Unsettled
Of prime concern to defensive coordinator Rick Lantz this season is theshape of the secondary. At first glance it looked as if the Cavaliers wouldbe set as three very experienced players return-Antwan Harris, Tim Spruilland Dwayne Stukes. But Harris has never played more than nine games in aregular season due to various injuries. Stukes’ 1998 season was marred byinjury and he was injured again during spring practice. But early-seasoninjuries to both have created problems for the secondary.
Against North Carolina in the opener, the three above were joined by ChrisWilliams in the starting line-up. But Stukes left the game late in thesecond quarter due to an injury which forced some rearrangements in thesecondary. Red-shirt freshman Shernard Newby saw a lot of action at safetyas Harris moved from safety to cornerback.
Sophomore Jermaine Lauzon also saw extended action at cornerback, spellingSpruill and Harris on a muggy day.
Despite playing in their first collegiate game, both Newby and Williamsbroke up one pass and intercepted another. For the game, Virginia’ssecondary broke up five passes and didn’t allow a completion of more than24 yards.
Lauzon and Newby got the first starts of their careers the next weekagainst Clemson due to injuries to Harris and Stukes, but Clemson’sno-huddle offense did an outstanding job of exploiting the Cavaliers’inexperience as Brandon Streeter passed for a Clemson record 343 yards.