Virginia To Face Illinois In Micronpc.com Bowl
Dec. 20, 1999
Virginia looks to win its eighth game of the season against Illinois in the1999 Micronpc.com Bowl in Miami, Fla., on Dec. 30.
The Cavaliers, winners of at least seven games the last 13 seasons, are 7-4overall this season. They tied Clemson and Georgia Tech for second place inthe Atlantic Coast Conference with a 5-2 league mark.The Fighting Illini are also 7-4 overall this season. They tied for sixthplace in the Big 10 with a 4-4 league mark.
The Series vs. Illinois
This is the second meeting between Virginia and Illinois. Making theirfirst-ever New Year’s Day bowl appearance, the Cavaliers fell to theFighting Illini 31-21 in the 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.The two teams have never met in the regular season. Illinois joins Georgia,Virginia’s opponent in last year’s Peach Bowl, as the only schools theCavaliers have played more than once in a bowl game.
The Cavaliers are 2-6 all-time against the Big Ten. Virginia’s two winsover Big Ten schools were a 47-0 triumph over the University of Chicago in1939 and a 27-24 win over Purdue in the 1984 Peach Bowl. (Chicago left theBig Ten in 1940).
Virginia is 1-1 vs. Purdue, 0-3 vs. Michigan and 0-1 vs. Illinois and OhioState.UVa is 1-4 vs. Penn State, but every game occurred prior to Penn State’sentry into the Big Ten in 1993.
Eleventh Bowl Appearance for UVa
The 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl is the Cavaliers’ 11th bowl appearance overalland the ninth in the last 11 years.Head coach George Welsh has led Virginia to every bowl game in school history.A brief look at the Cavaliers’ bowl history is below.
Bowl Opponent Score (UVa first)1984 Peach Bowl Purdue 27-241987 All American Bowl Brigham Young 22-161990 Florida Citrus Bowl Illinois 21-311991 Sugar Bowl Tennessee 22-231991 Gator Bowl Oklahoma 14-481994 Carquest Bowl Boston College 13-311994 Independence Bowl Texas Christian 20-101995 Peach Bowl Georgia 34-271996 Carquest Bowl Miami (Fla.) 21-311998 Peach Bowl Georgia 33-35
Virginia Makes Third Appearance in this Bowl
Virginia plays Illinois of the Big 10 conference in the 1999 Micronpc.comBowl on Dec. 30 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Fla. The game is slated tokickoff at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised by TBS.This is Virginia’s third appearance in this bowl. The Cavaliers lost toBoston College 31-13 on New Year’s Day following the 1993 season and fellto Miami (Fla.) 31-21 in the 1996 game when the game was known as theCarquest Bowl.
They Were Freshmen the Last Time
The Virginia roster lists 11 players who played as freshmen in the 1996Carquest Bowl (as this game was known) in a 31-21 loss to Miami (Fla.),although none started the game.
Tailback Thomas Jones replaced an injured Tiki Barber early in the contestand was the game’s leading rusher with 67 yards on 14 carries and scoredfrom three yards out in the fourth quarter. (Jones, a likely high pick innext spring’s NFL draft, outrushed two current NFL running backs in thatgame. Barber finished with just 14 yards before exiting with an injury,while Miami’s Edgerrin James rushed for just 31 yards.) Jones also caughtone pass for seven yards.
Tight end Casey Crawford caught one pass for 13 yards, while DemetriusDotson had a 12-yard reception.
Defensively, end Travis Griffith led the returnees with four tackles,including one for a loss, against the Hurricanes. Linebacker Shannon Taylorwas in on one tackle and also returned a kickoff 58 yards. Defensive backAntwan Harris and defensive tackle Johnny Shivers were also in on onetackle each. Harris also recovered a blocked punt and returned a kickoff 18yards.
Beginning and Ending the ’90s
Perhaps one of the most interesting factoids of the match-up for the 1999Micronpc.com Bowl is the timing of the two games between Virginia andIllinois.The two teams played their first game of the 1990s on Jan. 1, 1990, in theFlorida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. The Fighting Illini won that game31-21.Both squads conclude the 1990s with the Dec. 30 clash in the Micronpc.com Bowl.
Virginia Doesn’t Find Florida So Sunny
The state of Florida is nicknamed the “Sunshine State” but it has beenanything but sunny for the Cavaliers on the gridiron. Virginia has playednine games in the state of Florida and has lost each time.
Interestingly,until this year’s Micronpc.com Bowl against Illinois, every opponentVirginia has faced in Florida has been ranked in The Associated Press pollat game time.
The Cavaliers’ first game within the state was a 55-10 loss to the19th-ranked Florida Gators on Oct. 3, 1959.Virginia returned to Florida to play Illinois, led by Jeff George, in the1990 Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Cavaliers fell that afternoon tothe 11th-ranked Illini 31-21.The Cavaliers’ Florida woes continued against Oklahoma in the 1991 GatorBowl in Jacksonville. The 20th-ranked Sooners defeated UVa 48-14.Top-ranked Florida State handed UVa a 40-14 loss on Oct. 16, 1993. TheCavaliers returned to Florida for the 1994 Carquest Bowl (a precursor tothis bowl) and lost to 15th-ranked Boston College 31-13 at Miami’s ProPlayer Stadium.
Virginia opened the 1994 campaign with a 41-17 loss to third-ranked FloridaState.The losses continued in Tallahassee as the Cavaliers lost to #3 FSU 31-24in 1996. They closed that season with a 31-21 loss to #19 Miami (Fla.) inthe Carquest Bowl.Virginia’s most recent trip to Florida ended with a 45-14 loss to #6Florida State.
A Homecoming for Three South Floridians
The 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl will be a homecoming of sorts for severalCavaliers from the south Florida area.Todd Braverman, Johnny Shivers and Earl Sims all hail from the Ft.Lauderdale/Miami area.
Braverman has been Virginia’s primary place-kicker the last two seasons. Heis seventh in school history with 20 field goals. He attended Pine CrestHigh School in Ft. Lauderdale.
Shivers, a senior defensive tackle, attended Hallandale High School in Ft.Lauderdale. He made a career-high 40 tackles this season, including twosacks.
Earl Sims, a junior linebacker hails from Miami Killian High School inMiami. He played in the season opener against North Carolina and had onetackle, but was injured prior to the next game and has not played since andwill likely be given an extra year of eligibility as a result.
ACC’s Longest Scoring Streak
Virginia has scored in an ACC and school-record 187 consecutive games. Thelast time Virginia was held scoreless was a 55-0 loss to Clemson to openthe 1984 season. During the streak, UVa has scored in 94 consecutive homegames, 82 consecutive road games and 11 straight neutral site contests.Virginia’s streak is also the longest current streak by an ACC school(including Florida State) and tied for the fourth longest in the nation.A list of the longest streaks in the nation is below.
School Consec. Games 1. Brigham Young 311* 2. Texas 226 3. Washington 215 4. Virginia 187 Michigan 187 *-NCAA record
Topping 300 Points Again
Virginia 324 points this season, an average of 29.5 points per game,marking the 10th time in the last 11 seasons the Cavaliers have scored atleast 300 points.Prior to 1989 Virginia had scored more than 300 points in a season justthree times in 99 seasons of play.UVa scored at least 300 points every season from 1989-96, but fell shortwith 277 points in 1997, before getting back on track with 325 points lastseason.
Cavaliers Extend ACC History
The Cavaliers won seven games this season, the 13th consecutive season thatVirginia has won at least seven games. Virginia is the only team in ACChistory to compile as many as 10 consecutive seasons of 7+ wins.Virginia joins Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska as the only schools inthe nation that have won at least seven games each of the last 13 years.
This season also marks the Cavaliers’ 13th consecutive winning season, thelongest current streak by an ACC team. (Florida State is not included asthe Seminoles have not been members of the ACC for 10 seasons.) UVa’sstreak of consecutive winning seasons is tied for the eighth-longestcurrent streak in the nation.
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 183 games in a 27-year career at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia(1982-present), 27th in NCAA Division I-A history. He is the winningestcoach in the history of both schools. Arizona’s Dick Toomey (Arizona,Hawaii) is the only other coach to be the winningest coach at two differentschools.Welsh’s overall career record is 183-125-4 (.593).
The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to winat least 100 games. He has a 128-79-3 record in 18 seasons at Virginia. His80 wins in ACC games is also a record.A look at the winningest active coaches is below. (Wins are prior to 1999bowl games.)
1. Joe Paterno, Penn State (34 years) 316 wins2. Bobby Bowden, Fla. State (34) 3033. LaVell Edwards, BYU (28) 2514. Lou Holtz, So. Carolina (28) 2165. Don Nehlen, West Va. (29) 1956. John Cooper, Ohio State (23) 1847. George Welsh, UVa (27) 183
Cavaliers Faced Six Bowl Teams
Virginia played six games this fall against teams that are participating inbowl games, including both combatants for the national title-Florida Stateand Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers went 3-3 in those games. They are among agroup of 10 schools that played six bowl bound teams this season.
UVa joins Clemson and Miami (Fla.) as the only schools in the country toplay both Florida State and Virginia Tech.
The Division I-A bowl teams that faced six schools participating in bowlgames this season are listed below with the record in those games.South Carolina, which lost all 11 games this season, led the nation withnine games against teams playing in bowls this season.
School overall record vs. Bowl teams (record) Florida State 11-0 6-0 Alabama 10-2 5-1 Michigan 9-2 4-2 Michigan State 9-2 4-2 Washington 7-4 4-2 Virginia 7-4 3-3 Penn State 9-3 3-3 Miami (Fla.) 8-4 2-4 Clemson 6-5 1-5 Kentucky 6-5 1-5
Turnovers Important to Outcome
Virginia was involved in several games this season that were influencedgreatly by turnovers-both for and against UVa.The Cavaliers also had a tendency to compound their turnovers with a doublewhammy-turnovers in the red zone and an inability to prevent scores afterturnovers.
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.
After having just two turnovers in the next three games, mistakes proved tobe the Cavaliers’ undoing in the overtime loss to Duke in early October.An Arlen Harris punt return for a touchdown early in the game was broughtback due to a penalty.On Duke’s next possession, Dwayne Stukes intercepted a pass to give UVa theball on Duke’s 44-yard line.Following a first down, Ellis had a pass intercepted in the end zone to endthe drive.Punter Donnie Scott was unable to handle a bad snap in his end zone andtried to pass. The pass was incomplete, giving Duke possession on the11-yard line. The Blue Devils scored a touchdown four plays later.Tim Spruill blocked a Duke punt to give the Cavaliers the ball at the Duke35-yard line. But Jones lost a fumble at the 12-yard line to kill anotherdrive. Duke drove down field to kick a game-tying field goal.Virginia’s final possession of the game ended as Ellis threw his secondinterception of the day in the second overtime.
In UVa’s game against N.C. State, the Wolfpack turned the ball over onthree of their first four second half possessions. Virginia turned themiscues into 22 points (in a 30-point quarter). The 30 points helped erasea 19-10 halftime deficit as Virginia rolled to a 47-26 win.
Virginia used a Yubrenal Isabelle interception to great advantage in theupset win over Georgia Tech to start the current three-game winning streak.Isabelle returned the interception to the Tech 40-yard line to set up UVa’sfinal drive of the first half. Seven plays later quarterback David Riversfound Kevin Coffey in the end zone for a 12-yard scoring strike thatbrought UVa to within three points at 24-21 with nine seconds to go in thehalf.That touchdown proved crucial as the Cavaliers held on to complete thecomeback 45-38.
Of UVa’s 19 turnovers, 12 were turned into points by the opposition (ninetouchdowns, three field goals).On the other side, Virginia forced 23 turnovers this season (15interceptions, eight fumbles) and blocked one punt. From these mistakes theCavaliers scored just 11 touchdowns.
Hot Down the Stretch
For the first time in more than a decade, the Cavaliers found themselveswith a 3-3 record at midseason. Following consecutive losses at home toVirginia Tech and Duke, the Cavaliers bowl hopes looked dim.But after being riddled by injuries to players on both sides of the ball,the Cavaliers got healthy and began to turn things around.First the Cavaliers stormed back against N.C. State to post a 47-26 winover the Wolfpack in Raleigh.
Top-ranked Florida State dealt the Wahoos a 35-10 setback inCharlottesville to drop the men in orange and blue back to .500.
November began with the Cavaliers posting a rousing 45-38 win overseventh-ranked Georgia Tech in Charlottesville. They remained at home anddowned Buffalo 50-21, before closing out the season with a thrilling 34-30win over Maryland on the road.The three wins marked UVa’s most successful November since 1991.
Virginiahasn’t ended a season with four straight wins since winning the last fivein 1988, a non-bowl season.
Cavaliers Fare Well in Shootouts
Virginia hasn’t been known recently as a team that has done well in wildoffensive games or “shootouts”. Witness two 41-38 losses to Georgia Techthis decade alone.But this season has been different, with four of UVa’s games coming inshootouts. We don’t have a precise definition of shootout, but it’stypically a high-scoring contest with lots of offense as the teams move upand down the field with ease. The type of game fans love and coaches hate.
Virginia gained its first win in a shootout against Brigham Young in Provo,Utah. The Cougars are used to high-scoring affairs, but not so for theCavaliers. Oddly, Virginia got just enough big plays from its defense topost a 45-40 win. Virginia intercepted quarterback Kevin Feterik threetimes, turning two into first half touchdowns, while the other ended BYU’schance for a comeback win. The defense also scored a touchdown of its ownon a fumble return by Tim Spruill.
In Virginia’s 3-1 record down the stretch all three wins were of theshootout variety. The season turned following a 47-26 come-from-behind winover N.C. State that saw Virginia erase a halftime deficit with a 30-pointthird quarter.
Nationally-ranked Georgia Tech was UVa’s next victim. Led by back-upquarterback David Rivers, the Cavailers rallied from an early 17-0 deficitand took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter and holding on for a45-38 win.
The regular season ended with another thrilling game, this time againstMaryland in College Park, Md.Virginia jumped to an early 17-0 lead in what looked like a sure victory.But the homestanding Terrapins rebounded to knot the score at 17 athalftime.The second half saw the lead seesaw back and forth before Dan Ellis marchedthe Cavaliers 76 yards in the final minute with no timeouts remaining andhitting Billy McMullen with the winning touchdown pass to clinch a 34-30win.
Injuries Take Their Toll
Due to injuries and preseason disciplinary actions, Virginia’s startingline-up looked much different for the season opener against North Carolinathan what was expected coming into the season.Five players made the first start of their careers against the Tar Heels,but four Cavaliers went down with injuries in that game to quickly add tothe list of first-time starters.
The defense was especially hard hit throughout the year as the Cavalierslost 27 “man starts” due to a variety of factors (injury, illness,personal). The offense was not able to remain unscathed either, losing 17games by expected starters due to injuries.
As a result of the injuries, Virginia’s true freshmen ended up starting 12games this season, including nine games by safety Jerton Evans.Further adding to the team’s inexperience in the starting line-up were the13 starts by red-shirt freshmen, led by the 11 games started by safetyChris Williams.All told 19 different players started on defense, 17 on offense and threein the kicking game.
A listing of Virginia’s ever-changing starting line-up and games missed bythe expected starters from the preseason is outlined below.
Starts Missed Due to injury: Casey Crawford 8 Josh Lawson 4 Dan Ellis 1 Ahmad Hawkins 4 Travis Griffith 9 Monsanto Pope 6 Yubrenal Isabelle 2 Antwan Harris 5 Dwayne Stukes 5
Game: 1st-Timers: Injuries to starters:No. Carolina OT B. Barnes DE T. Griffith QB D. Ellis S An. Harris LB Y. Isabelle WR A. Hawkins DE L. Stamenich DT M. Pope S C. Williams CB D. Stukes FB P. WashingtonClemson WR D. Dotson DE T. Griffith CB J. Lauzon S S. NewbyWake Forest S J. Evans DB An. HarrisBrig. Young none noneVa. Tech LB W. Clark DNP-IsabelleDuke none WR D. DotsonN.C. State none OT J. LawsonFla. State OT N. LaMontagne QB D. Ellis G J. WoodsonGa. Tech QB D. RiversBuffalo WR T. Mason PK T. Braverman DT C. McWeenyMaryland LB A. Crowell DNP-Isabelle PK D. Greene
Jones Takes Just Nine Games to Set Record
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 was veryprescient regarding the performance of the player who was his understudythree years ago as Jones has erased Barber’s name from the top spot onvirtually every school rushing record.
Jones finished his career (since bowl stats don’t count) as UVa’s all-timeleading rusher with 3998 yards, while his 1798 yards this season are alsotops in school history.Jones became UVa’s all-time leading rusher following a 71-yard burst athome against Florida State on Oct. 30.
Barber’s single-season mark of 1397 yards fell the next week againstGeorgia Tech midway through the third quarter as Jones broke loose for a37-yard gain to set up UVa’s game-tying field goal a short time later.Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Jones’ quest to break thesingle-season rushing mark is that he took just nine games to break therecord that Barber accumulated in 12 games in 1995.
Jones also reached the 1000-yard mark this season in just seven games,joining John Papit (1949) as the only players to get to 1000 yards in justseven games.
Jones Ends Career Where it Began
Thomas Jones saw the most extensive action of his freshman year in 1996 atthe Carquest Bowl against Miami (Fla.).Tiki Barber, the ACC Player of the Year that season, suffered a back injurymidway through the first quarter, opening a door of opportunity for Jones.Barber tried to return in the second half, but wasn’t able to go more thana series.
Jones provided a glimpse of the future by leading all ballcarriers in thatgame (including current NFL rookie star Edgerrin James) with 14 carries for67 yards and one touchdown.
Barber, who concluded his career as UVa’s all-time leading rusher,predicted Jones would break his records and he did. Jones set a schoolrecord with 1798 yards this season and finished his career with a schoolrecord 3998 yards rushing.
Jones Finishes Third in Rushing and All-Purpose
All-American tailback Thomas Jones put together the best all-around seasonin school history this fall, finishing third in the nation in both rushingand all-purpose yards.He averaged a school record 163.5 yards per game en route to churning outan ACC record 1798 yards on the ground.
Jones just missed UVa and ACC records for highest all-purpose per gameaverage with 186.7 ypg, but he did set the school and conference record formost all-purpose yards in a season with 2054.It took Jones just nine games to break UVa’s all-time single-season rushingmark and 10 games to set UVa’s single-season all-purpose yardage record.
Jones is the first Cavalier to finish in the top 10 in rushing since BarryWord finished sixth in 1985. It is also the second-highest finish ever fora Virginia runner. Bill Dudley (1941) and Johnny Papit (1949) finishedsecond in the nation in rushing.
Crunch Time Brought out the Best in Jones
With the season at the midway point, the Cavaliers found themselves with a3-3 record and their bowl hopes in jeopardy.But a hot finish saw the Cavaliers win four of their last five games andbecome bowl eligible.
One of the key factors in Virginia’s charge to a bowl bid was the play oftailback Thomas Jones.A consensus All-American this season, Jones showed his value by averaging182.0 yards rushing per game coming down the stretch.He started his rampage by rumbling for a career-high 221 yards and threetouchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to an important road win over N.C. Stateon Oct. 16.The Cavaliers fell the next week to top-ranked Florida State, but it wasn’tfor a lack of performance on Jones’ part. He tore through the Seminoledefense for 164 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry (and sat out thelast six minutes) against a defense that allowed just 86.0 yards on theground coming in.His 164 yards vs. Florida State were the most the Seminoles had allowedsince UVa’s Tiki Barber rushed for 193 yards in 1995, a span of 50 games.
A second consecutive game against a top-10 team, this time vs. #7 GeorgiaTech, wasn’t enough to slow Jones, who rushed for 213 yards on aschool-record 39 carries as the Cavaliers upset the Yellow Jackets.
In his final home game, Jones tied his career high by running for 221 yardsagainst Buffalo. Fittingly, he burst up the middle for a 37-yard touchdowndash on his final carry at home as the Cavaliers gained their sixth win tobecome bowl eligible.
The 200-yard performance against Buffalo was his third in four games. Whatmakes this so remarkable is prior to Jones the ACC record for CAREER200-yard games was three and the season record two. Jones had four 200-yardgames this season and six for his career.
Virginia got its seventh win of the season with a dramatic 34-30 win overMaryland on Nov. 20. Jones rushed for 91 yards, but his presence was enoughto draw the defense’s attention and allow Dan Ellis to throw for 276 yardsand four touchdowns.A look at Jones in the season’s final five games is below.
Opp. Att. Yds. Avg. TDN.C. State 38 221 5.8 3#1 Fla. State 26 164 6.3 1#7 Ga. Tech 39 213 5.5 2Buffalo 32 221 6.9 1Maryland 28 91 3.3 0last 5 163 910 5.6 7avg. last 5 32.6 182.0 5.6 1.4
Ellis Tosses 10 TDs in Last Two, Finishes Eighth
Quarterback Dan Ellis suffered a concussion just before halftime againstFlorida State on Oct. 30. He missed the next game against Georgia Tech asDavid Rivers led the Cavaliers to a big win over the #7 Yellow Jackets.But Ellis didn’t show any ill effects of his injury when he returned toaction against Buffalo after a week’s layoff.Virginia head coach George Welsh has a rule that a player doesn’t lose hisstarting position due to an injury and the rule proved beneficial to bothEllis and the Cavaliers.The visitors from New York seemed to concentrate on stopping tailbackThomas Jones and dared Ellis to beat them with his passing.Ellis completed his first nine passes and clearly made the Bulls pay fortheir defensive strategy. For the game he completed 16 of 19 passes (84.2percent) for a whopping 363 yards and six touchdowns.His six touchdowns tied the ACC record set first by Duke’s Steve Slayden in1987 (and tied later in the afternoon by Florida State’s Chris Weinke).The 363 yards eclipsed his previous career high by 130 yards and is thesecond-highest total in school history, while his 84.2 percent completionpercentage is fourth-best in school history.
Ellis was one of several heroes in Virginia’s dramatic 34-30 win overMaryland in the season finale. Against a defense geared to stop Jones forthe second week in a row, Ellis made the Terrapins pay dearly for theirstrategy.He completed 21 of 34 passes (61.8 percent) for 276 yards and fourtouchdowns in guiding the Cavaliers to a come-from-behind victory.
Fashioning a flair for the dramatic in his first season as the starter,Ellis unveiled his version of “The Drive” in leading Virginia to the win.Down 30-27, the Cavaliers began their final drive on their own 24-yard linewith 1:12 remaining and no timeouts. Ellis coolly directed Virginia downthe field, taking everything the defense gave him.He completed his first three passes to move UVa to midfield, while spikingthe ball twice to stop the clock. He hit Billy McMullen with a 15-yardcompletion to put UVa on Maryland’s 33.A Jones draw play gained 13 yards, putting the ball in range for a fieldgoal. On first down, Ellis spiked the ball to stop the clock and call aplay.On second down, Ellis dropped back and lofted a ball toward the 6-4McMullen in the corner of the end zone. McMullen used a height advantage tooutjump the Maryland defender and come down with one foot barely inboundsfor the winning score with 26 seconds on the clock to complete the comeback.
His torrid finish enabled Ellis to finish eighth nationally in passingefficiency. He completed 60.5 percent of his passes (third in schoolhistory) for 2050 yards and 20 touchdowns.His 20 touchdowns are tied for third in school history, while his 2050yards are ninth.
McMullen Among Top Rookie Receivers
Wide receiver Billy McMullen showed flashes of brilliance this season,particularly late in the season, and is one of the top true freshmanreceivers in the nation.He led the team with 483 receiving yards and a 17.2-yards per catch averagethis season, while sharing the team lead for receptions (28) with KevinCoffey. His six touchdown grabs trailed Coffey by one.
McMullen is the first freshman receiver in school history to lead the teamin receptions and receiving yards and broke Herman Moore’s record for mostcatches by a rookie.He became more of a focal point of the passing game lately, particularly asCoffey’s production declined.
McMullen first strutted his stuff in a big win over N.C. State in Raleighin October. He led the team with 109 yards receiving (a career high), whilehis four receptions tied Ahmad Hawkins for team honors.He came up big again vs. #7 Georgia Tech despite catching just two passes.He hauled in a 39-yard pass from David Rivers in the second quarter to helpset up Virginia’s second touchdown that cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead from17-0 to 24-14.McMullen and Rivers teamed up again early in the fourth quarter on a42-yard scoring play that proved to be the game-winner. Faced withsecond-and-23 on the Tech 42, Rivers hit McMullen in stride with a perfecttoss to put the Cavaliers in the lead for good.He hauled in two touchdown passes from Dan Ellis against Buffalo among histhree receptions. Using his 6-4 frame to great advantage against the Bulls,both were of the “alley-oop” variety made famous by Shawn and Herman Moorein the early 1990s.
McMullen’s heroics reached their peak in the finale against Maryland as hepaced the team with six catches for 78 yards and saved his best for last.:He made an amazing grab of an Ellis toss that looked to be overthrown onUVa’s final drive of the game. Three plays later he again used a superiorheight advantage to outjump a defender and haul in the winning touchdownpass with 26 seconds remaining.
Jones Shows Up Every Day
Despite leading the ACC in rushing for the second year in a row, tailbackThomas Jones inexplicably failed to get the attention he deserves.He finished third in the nation in both rushing and all-purpose yards,setting Virginia and ACC records in both areas. He also led the nation withfour 200-yard games and led ACC running backs with 22 receptions for 239yards.
In his third year as the starting tailback, perhaps it’s important to alsonote his durability. A testament to his offseason work ethic, Jones has notmissed a game in his career, while starting the last 34 at tailback.He made the 31st consecutive start of his career against Florida State toadd to his list of school records- most consecutive starts by a tailback.Terry Kirby got the starting nod 30 straight games from 1990-92 and heldthe previous record.
Just as amazing as his streak of consecutive starts is the fact that Joneshas never missed so much as a practice during his career at Virginia.
Experienced Line Opens Holes for Jones
Head coach George Welsh has always emphasized the need to have a strongrunning game and this year has been no different.Virginia features who we believe is the nation’s top running back in ThomasJones. Jones rushed for 1798 yards this season (163.5/g), third in thecountry.
Leading the way for Jones is a battle-tested line that features threereturning starters and another player who started five games last year.The line is headlined by two first-team All-Americans-guard Noel LaMontagneand center John St. Clair.A senior tri-captain, LaMontagne is the most experienced lineman with 31career starts under his belt. Showing outstanding versatility, he replacedan injured Josh Lawson in the starting line-up at left tackle for the finalfour games of the season. A two-time first-team All-ACC pick, he is thefirst UVa guard named to the first-team two years in a row since Roy Brownin 1988-89.
Joining LaMontagne on the left side of the line is Josh Lawson, afirst-team All-Freshman by The Sporting News last season. However, Lawsonwas injured late in the season and missed two of the last four games.Jared Woodson moved into LaMontagne’s guard spot, while LaMontagne moveddown the line replacing Lawson for the final four games.St. Clair is the first All-American at center in school history. One of thetop (and most underrated) centers in the country, he is quietly moldinghimself into one of the top center prospects available in the upcoming NFLdraft. He also received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top blocker inthe ACC.
Sophomore Evan Routzahn, a starter in five games at left guard last season,has moved to right guard and is considered a very promising player byWelsh. He is joined by junior Brad Barnes, the right tackle. Barnes sawlimited action in his first two years, but has worked hard to forge his wayinto the line-up and is considered by Welsh the most improved player on theoffensive line. Barnes was selected the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Weekfor his play in UVa’s win over N.C. State.
Primary back-ups along the line include George Seals at center and DustinKeith at tackle. Keith has also seen action at center.
Anderson Quietly Turns in Fabulous Year
As the oldest member of the defensive front, Maurice Anderson has used thewisdom that comes with age and experience to his advantage this season.He turned in the best season of his career in 1999 despite a series ofnagging injuries that might have sidelined other players.Throughout most of his career he has had to play behind more heraldedlinemen including Antonio Dingle, Patrick Kerney and Todd White, but thisseason he is showed what he can do.Anderson began the year in fine fashion by leading Virginia in tackles forthe first time in his career with 10 stops vs. North Carolina.He turned in his second double-digit outing of the year against Duke with10 tackles and established a career high with 13 stops in the finaleagainst Maryland.Adept at plugging the middle of the line, Anderson made at least seventackles in six games this season.With three games of at least 10 tackles, he is the first UVa defensivetackle to have as many as three double-digit performances since StuartAnderson in 1980.Anderson is also the first UVa defensive tackle to lead the team intackles in a game since White in 1994 and is the first Cavalier defensivetackle to lead twice in a season since at least 1989.Anderson finished third on the team with 74 tackles, far surpassing hisprevious career high of 31 in 1997. The 74 tackles are the most by a UVadefensive tackle since White had 77 in 1995 and third most by a defensivetackle in school history.
Isabelle Reaches Double Digits Four Times
Junior linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle has gotten better with each game as hefills the rather large shoes of current NFL starter Wali Rainer in theCavalier defense.Isabelle, who saw limited action in his first two seasons behind Rainer,led the Cavaliers with 14 tackles against Clemson early in the season. The14 tackles is a career high, topping the eight he had against Florida Stateas a 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 against Virginia Tech due to the death of his mother,Deberah, but returned vs. Duke to lead the team once again with 10 tackles.A bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for the finale against Maryland,but he is expected to play in the Micronpc.com Bowl vs. Illinois.A very smart player who is still learning on the job, Isabelle led the teamin tackling and tied for 14th in the ACC, averaging 8.7 stops per game. His78 tackles were second overall on the squad.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* hurryVa. Tech DNPDuke 5 5 10* QBS, hurry, PBUN.C. State 4 3 7* FR, int.Fla. State 4 2 6 FCGa. Tech 4 2 6 int.Buffalo 5 3 8*Maryland DNP* led team
Taylor Returns with a Vengeance
Linebacker Shannon Taylor sat out last season for personal reasons. But thelay-off didn’t seem to be a setback based on his performance this season ashe was named second-team All-ACC.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 led the team with six sacks this season.He was one of the few defensive bright spots against Clemson. He tied hiscareer high at the time with seven tackles (since broken) against theTigers, 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.
He tied his career high with three tackles for loss against top-rankedFlorida State. That is also the team high this season.Taylor led the team with six quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for lostyardage. He also led the team with 81 tackles, while finishing second intackling behind Yubrenal Isabelle with an average of 7.4 stops per game.
Kiddie Corps Get Pickoffs
Virginia intercepted 15 passes this season, with more than half (eight) byfreshmen safeties.
The safety tandem of Shernard Newby and Chris Williams (both red-shirtfreshmen) teamed to intercept passes in the same game twice-North Carolinaand Wake Forest. The North Carolina game was the first college game forboth.
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 to help lead UVa to the win.Evans’ first interception vs. the Cougars came in the first quarter and setup UVa’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.Evans intercepted Florida State’s Chris Weinke late in the first quarterfor his fourth interception of the season, which ties the school record formost interceptions by a true freshman. Kevin Cook had four in 1986.Evans is just the second true freshman to lead the team in interceptions.Carl Smith (no relation to the former football player who gave the donationto expand UVa’s football stadium) tied for the team lead with two in 1991.
Greene Sends Kickoffs to the End Zone
For the second year in a row, David Greene is handling the kick-off dutiesfor the Cavaliers, while Todd Braverman is the kicker for field goals andextra points.Greene possesses the stronger leg, which makes him the ideal kick-off man.Last season in his first action, he did all the kicking off. In 59 kickoffshe had 14 touchbacks, while typically placing the ball deep.
Showing off added strength and a year’s experience, Greene has boomed 40 of63 kickoffs this season into the endzone, resulting in 26 touchbacks. Theopponents are averaging 21.6 yards per return against UVa’s kickoffcoverage team.
Braverman Boots 50-Yard Winner
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, would have won it for Virginia, but instead theball drifted wide right. (Braverman shouldn’t be blamed for either loss asVirginia held 21-point leads in both contests.)
The uncertainty of his position continued into this preseason and he wasn’tannounced as the kicker for this season until the week of the NorthCarolina game.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 victorykick vs. the Tar Heels is the longest game-winning field goal in schoolhistory.
He made 33 of34 extra points and eight of 11 field goal attempts thisseason, while finishing second on the team in scoring with 57 points. Hehad a streak of 70 consecutive successful PATs end against Buffalo.Building a different streak, Braverman has made his last four field goalattempts and five of his last six.