Virginia vs. Duke Football Preview
Oct. 4, 1999
Oct. 9, 1999
The Game: After venturing out of conference for the last two weeks,Virginia looks to get back on the winning track at home againstACC-opponent Duke. The Cavaliers saw their two-game winning streak end witha 31-7 loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday. That loss drops the Cavaliersto 3-2 on the season. They are 2-1 in the ACC. This game is not beingtelevised and as a result will start at 1:00 p.m.Virginia has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two schools. Awin in this game would be Virginia’s fifth in a row over Duke, equally theCavaliers’ longest winning streak ever over the Blue Devils. Virginia alsowon five straight from 1989-93.Duke is winless this season and has lost both of its road games. The BlueDevils are 0-4 overall, including a 0-1 mark in ACC play. They lost totop-ranked Florida State 51-23 last Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., intheir ACC opener.
Television: This game is not being televised.
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.
The Series vs. the Blue Devils
The Cavaliers used eight Duke turnovers (three interceptions, five fumbles)last season to win for the ninth time in the last 10 years.Despite Virginia’s recent domination of the Blue Devils, Duke still owns a26-24 all-time lead in the series.The Cavaliers hold a 13-9 series advantage in Charlottesville against Dukeand have won the last eight meetings at home. The Blue Devils haven’t wonin Charlottesville since a 29-24 triumph in 1981. UVa head coach GeorgeWelsh has never lost to Duke in Charlottesville.
Virginia eked out a 13-10 win in the last meeting in Charlottesville twoyears ago. John Allen Roberts’ 29-yard field goal with 2:31 remainingproved to be the winner. The 13 points are UVa’s fewest in a win over Dukesince a 20-17 win in 1980.The last few years have seen Virginia experience better success in Durhamthan Charlottesville. Virginia has won the last two games at home by anaverage of 8.5 points and have won the last two games in Durham by anaverage of 24.0 points.The Cavaliers have had some impressive scoring outputs against the BlueDevils throughout the years, outscoring Duke 365-130 in the last 10 gamesoverall. The Cavaliers have scored at least 34 points in 11 of the last 16meetings and have topped 40 points five times.
The Cavaliers have alsodemonstrated an ability to score early against Duke, particularly in theearly 1990s. Virginia has scored on its first drive of the game againstDuke four times in the this decade (1990, 92, 93, 94).Defensively, Virginia has shutout Duke three times this decade, the most ofany opponent in the 1990s. The Cavaliers have also held the Blue Devils toa field goal on two other occasions.
Virginia head coach George Welsh got the 150th win of his collegiatecoaching career in the 1995 Duke game, while UVa’s 13-10 triumph in 1997was his 67th ACC coaching victory, giving him the most conference wins inleague history.
Piling Up the Offense vs. Duke
The Cavaliers have put on some impressive offensive performances againstDuke in the recent past, scoring 34 or more points in 11 of the last 16meetings against the Blue Devils.
A look at the last 16 games shows the Cavaliers are averaging 35.4 pointsand 440.6 yards of total offense per game. Virginia has ground out anaverage of 214.3 yards rushing and passed for an average of 226.5 yards pergame over the last 16 games with Duke.
The following chart shows Virginia’s total offense (broken down by rushingand passing) and points scored in each game with Duke since 1983.
Year Points Rushing Passing Total1983 38 258 275 5331984 38 306 39 3451985 37 301 149 4501986 13 144 190 3341987 42 267 221 4881988 34 122 259 3811989 49 174 295 4691990 59 341 202 5431991 34 153 238 3911992 55 285 226 5111993 35 223 248 4711994 25 108 294 4021995 44 237 346 5831996 27 174 252 4261997 13 98 225 3231998 24 237 165 402
Lighting Up the Scoreboard vs. Duke
Virginia has outscored Duke 365-130 in winning nine of the last 10meetings. The Cavaliers have been most prolific in the second quarter with144 points. A look at the score by quarter is below.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th FinalUVa 75 147 91 52 365Duke 17 44 28 41 130
Virginia scored at least 28 consecutive points in each of five gamesbetween 1989-93. The number of consecutive points scored by UVa is: 1989(42), 1990 (59), 1991 (34), 1992 (28), 1993 (35).
Virginia outscored the Blue Devils at one point 28-3 to rally from an18-point deficit and take a 31-24 lead en route to a 44-30 victory in 1995.With the late field goal to win the 1997 game and a 24-0 win last season,the Cavaliers have scored the last 27 points in the series.
Containing the Duke Rushing Attack
Virginia has done an outstanding job of stopping Duke’s rushing attack inthe 1990s. The Blue Devils have rushed for over 100 yards just twice in the’90s (104 yards in 1991 and 190 yards last year) as Virginia has eightseven of nine games in the decade. In fact, in the last 14 games Duke hasrushed for 100+ yards only five times.
Duke hasn’t rushed for more than 200 yards against Virginia since 1983 whenthe Blue Devils gained 238 yards rushing in a 38-30 loss to UVa.The Blue Devils have also had a rough time through the air in the lastthree games. Duke has passed for 387 yards combined and failed to throw atouchdown pass in the last three meetings against Virginia.Duke’s rushing performance against the Cavaliers in the 1990s is outlinedbelow.
Year att. yds. avg. TD1990 22 82 3.7 01991 22 104 4.7 01992 30 48 1.6 21993 15* 27 1.8 01994 43 79 1.8 31995 23 53 2.3 11996 44 44 1.0 01997 42 75 1.8 11998 48 190 4.0 0Total 289 702 2.4 7 *=record low by UVa opponent
Just Like the “Old” Days
With the proliferation of games on television, it is unusual thatSaturday’s game against Duke is not being televised. The San Jose Stategame last season (a 52-14 UVa win) was the most recent non-televised gamefor the Cavaliers.
But not appearing on television might be a good thing for Virginia. Since1989 the Cavaliers have played 41 non-televised games and have won 40,including 14 in a row.The Cavaliers’ only non-televised loss since 1989 was a 34-29 defeat at thehands of N.C. State in 1993.
The Cavaliers must rebound from a tough 31-7 loss to in-state rivalVirginia Tech this week against Duke.Virginia has been remarkable in its ability to turn things around quicklyafter suffering a loss of at least 10 points.
Already this season the Cavaliers have put together back-to-backoutstanding performances after suffering a big defeat. They lost to Clemson33-14 a month ago, but came back to down Wake Forest 35-7 and Brigham Young45-40 in the next two games.
Now they’ll have to rebound against Duke, a team they have beaten nine outof the last 10 meetings.George Welsh’s Cavaliers have lost 18 regular season games (not includinglast week’s loss to Virginia Tech) by 10 or more points since 1987 and havecome back to win the following game 14 times. Virginia has also won itslast five games following a 10-point regular season loss. The last timeVirginia lost this type of game was in 1996 when they lost to Virginia Techin the regular season finale by 17 points (26-9) and then fell to Miami(Fla.) in the Carquest Bowl (31-21).
Kiddie Corps Get Pickoffs
Virginia has intercepted eight passes this season, including seven byfreshmen safeties.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 12th 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, 33 of 37 receptions (89.2 percent) have resultedin either a first down or touchdown.For his career, Coffey is averaging 20.7 yards per reception, third inschool history.
Cutting Down on Turnovers
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 three games 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 against Brigham Young and it almost(but not quite) proved fatal. Ellis had a pass intercepted and returned fora touchdown late in the first half to cut UVa’s lead to 28-19 at halftime.Conversely, Virginia’s defense returned the favor as Tim Spruill scooped upa BYU fumble and darted 20 yards to paydirt early in the second half topush the UVa 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.Virginia had no turnovers against Virginia Tech last week.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.
Virginia has forced 11 turnovers this season (eight interceptions, threefumbles), but have scored just four 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 28 games.
His streak of 28 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 two weeks ago 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 eighth innation in rushing, averaging 140.6 yards per game.
Jones on Record Pace
Heisman Trophy candidate Thomas Jones is off to the the best starts inschool history this season. Through five games he has rushed for 703 yards(140.6/g) and is eighth in the nation in rushing.His 703 yards are the third-most yards after five games in school history.John Papit (774 in 1949) and Terry Kirby (752 in 1992) are the onlyCavaliers with more.
Not surprisingly, Jones has been the game’s leading rusher in all fiveVirginia games this season.He rushed 35 times for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns against17th-ranked Brigham Young two weeks ago. It was his ACC-leading third100-yard game of the season and the third 200-yard game of his career,tying an ACC record.Like many of his offensive mates, Jones had a rough day against VirginiaTech last Saturday. He was held to a season-low 83 yards by the Hokies. Butthat was still far better than the Hokies’ average of 51.3 yards rushingper game coming into the contest.
Jones’ 703 yards (through five games) is the fifth-best total after SIXgames 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 best performances through the first six games inschool history.
Player, year Yds through 6 games 1. John Papit, 1949 986 2. Terry Kirby, 1992 884 3. Tiki Barber, 1996 759 4. Thomas Jones, 1998 743 - Thomas Jones, 1999 (through 5) 703
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 for703 yards, with a career-high of 210 yards vs. Brigham Young two weeks ago.Jones now has 2903 career rushing yards, fifth in school history and needs11 yards to pass Tommy Vigorito for fourth place. With a 100-yard gameagainst Duke on Saturday, he could jump into the top-20 in ACC history aswell.
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 2903
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 changed in the ensuing two games.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 lastmonth.
Coming into that 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 two weeks ago, 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.
The Cavaliers scored just one touchdown last week vs. Virginia Tech, one ofthe nation’s top defenses, and it came in the second quarter.
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 last month. 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 ledthe team for the third week in a row.
He did not play last week against Virginia Tech due to the death of hismother, Deberah. His return will provide a great boost to a Virginiadefense that has been ravaged by injury this season.A very smart player who is still learning on the job, Isabelle leads theteam with 41 tackles despite missing one game.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
Ten Make First Start This Season
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.
William Clark replaced Yubrenal Isabelle in the starting line-up lastSaturday against Virginia Tech, making him the 10th player to receive hisfirst career start this season.Of the Cavaliers’ 22 starters, 11 players have started fewer than 10 gamesin their careers. Only Thomas Jones and Byron Thweatt (28), Noel LaMontagne(25) and the injured Travis Griffith (20) have as many as 20 career starts.
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 703 yards (140.6/g) and is eighth 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.He rushed for a season-low 83 yards last Saturday against Virginia Tech,but that was pretty good considering the Hokies were allowing just 51.3yards rushing coming into the game.
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.His overall career record is 179-123-4 (.592).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) 2973. LaVell Edwards, BYU (28) 2464. Lou Holtz, So. Carolina (28) 2165. Don Nehlen, West Va. (29) 1926. John Cooper, Ohio State (23) 1817. George Welsh, UVa (27) 179
Experienced Line Opens 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 703 yards this season (140.6/g), eighth 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 25 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.
Ellis Hitting High Percentage Recently
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, Ellis completed 14 of 18 passes for 190 yards andthree touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to a 45-40 win.He completed 16 of 26 passes for 162 yards against Virginia Tech. Just asimportantly he did not throw an interception despite being under constantpressure.In the last three weeks he has completed 71.0 percent of his throws for 572yards and five touchdowns.Ellis is third in the ACC in passing efficiency, touchdown passes (7),yards passing (970) and fourth 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 20 of 24kickoffs this season into the endzone, resulting in 13 touchbacks. Theopponents are averaging 23 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 16 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 54 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 41.7 yards on 24 punts and ranks second in the ACC. He has buriedseven punts inside the 20-yard line and has only one touchback. He nailed a64-yarder that was downed at the one-yard line against Brigham Young andhad a 52-yarder die at the two-yardline against Virginia Tech last weekend.
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 against Brigham Young as he turned ineight tackles, including two more tackles behind the line. That marked thethird game in a row Taylor had two tackles for loss.
Taylor is second on the team with 31 tackles (7.4/g), and leads the teamwith six tackles for loss. He is tied with Ljubomir Stamenich for the teamlead with three sacks.