Story Links

Oct. 16, 2000

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader

Virginia (4-2, 3-1) at Florida State (6-1, 4-0)
Oct. 21, 2000
3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Doak S. Campbell Stadium
Tallahassee, Fla.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Following a week off, Virginia returns to action this Saturday (Oct. 21) against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. The Cavaliers have won their last two games prior to the off week-Wake Forest and Maryland. Virginia is 4-2 overall this season and in third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 3-1 league record.

The Seminoles rebounded from the disappointing loss to Miami (Fla.) by downing Duke 63-14 at home last Saturday. Florida State comes into Saturday’s game ranked sixth in both The Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls this week. They had been ranked #1 prior to the loss to Miami.

Virginia hasn’t found its trips to Florida to be much fun. The Cavaliers have lost all 10 games in school history played in Florida, including several by wide margins.

The Cavaliers handed Florida State its first loss in ACC play with a 33-28 win in Charlottesville in 1995, but they have not fared well in Tallahassee. Aside from a narrow 31-24 loss in 1996, the Cavaliers have been dominated by the Seminoles, losing three games by at least 26 points.

Television: Saturday’s game is being televised regionally on ABC. Brad Nessler calls the play by play, while Bob Griese is the color analyst. Lynn Swann is the sideline reporter.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WWWV in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Frank Quayle, the 1968 ACC Football Player of the Year, provides the color commentary, while Quayle’s former teammate and quarterback Gene Arnette provides sideline analysis.

The Series vs. the Seminoles

Florida State holds a 7-1 advantage in the series with Virginia that began when the Seminoles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 1992 season. Virginia handed the Seminoles their first conference loss, ending a 29-game league winning streak, with a 33-28 win in Charlottesville in 1995.

Since UVa’s win in 1995, Florida State has put together four convincing wins over the Cavaliers, winning by an average of 22.3 points.
After scoring just 13 points (in a 13-3 win in 1992) in the first meeting between the two schools, the Seminole offense has been in high gear vs. Virginia, scoring at least 28 points in the the last seven games, including at least 40 points four times. Overall the Seminoles are averaging 35.0 points per game in the series. That is the second-highest total for any opponent Virginia has played more than once in its history (Michigan has averaged 37.3 points in three games vs. UVa).

The two teams have battled each other on almost even terms in the first half of the last two games, but the Seminoles have dominated UVa in the second half, holding the Cavaliers scoreless each time. Virginia trailed 21-14 at halftime two years ago, but gave up 24 unanswered points in the second half and lost by 31 (45-14). Last season, Virginia led the Seminoles 10-7 at the half, but FSU scored 28 second half points, while blanking the Cavaliers en route to a 35-10 win.

The Seminoles’ scoring outbursts shouldn’t come as a surprise as they have scored at least 21 consecutive points in five of the eight meetings (1993-30, 1994-34, 1997-21, 1998-24, 1999-28).
The Cavaliers’ 10 points last season are their fewest in the series since scoring 14 in 1993.

FSU head coach Bobby Bowden compiled a 2-0 record against Virginia while the head coach at West Virginia (1972, 48-10, 1973, 42-17). George Welsh lost to Florida State 38-6 in 1978 while the head coach at Navy.
Virginia’s win over the #2 Seminoles in 1995 marks the highest ranked team the Cavaliers have ever beaten.

Coming Out of an Off Week

The Cavaliers return to action this Saturday against sixth-ranked Florida State after having last week off.
Off weeks have been a mixed bag for Virginia under head coach George Welsh. The Cavaliers have posted an 11-11 record under Welsh in games following an off week.

It should be noted, however, that Virginia’s win over Florida State in 1995 was preceded by an off week. The Cavaliers have also lost twice to the Seminoles following an off week (1993, ’99)

Florida State Moves by the Pass

Florida State has gained more yards passing than rushing in each of the last seven games against Virginia, including gaining more than 300 yards through the air on six occasions.
Last season the Seminoles passed for 305 yards, while rushing for just 98. The 403 yards of total offense is FSU’s fewest vs. UVa (beating out a 406-yard performance in 1998).

The Seminoles have turned in three of the top-11 single-game passing performances against UVa, including a 487-yard performance in 1995, the top performance ever against UVa. The Seminoles’ 397 yards passing in 1994 is fifth all-time against Virginia, while their 355 yards in 1993 is 11th.

In the last seven meetings Florida State has averaged 339.3 yards passing per game, while completing 61.1 percent of its passes. The Seminoles have averaged 157.0 yards rushing and 4.2 yards per carry during that time.

Virginia Finds Running Success vs. Seminoles

Florida State has featured some of the nation’s top defenses throughout the ’80s and ’90s and have been especially tough against the run during that time.

Not many teams have had success on the ground against the Seminoles, with Virginia having as much success as anybody.
Since joining the ACC in 1992, the Seminoles have allowed opposing backs to rush for at least 100 yards 14 times in the regular season, including 11 by ACC players. Led by Tiki Barber’s three 100-yard games and one by Thomas Jones, Virginia leads the way with four 100-yard rushers. Next on the list is Maryland (LaMont Jordan had two) and N.C. State (two by Tremayne Stephens) with three each, while Clemson has had one. Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest have never had a 100-yard rusher vs. Florida State since the ‘Noles joined the conference in 1992.

Virginia is the only ACC team that has rushed for at least 125 yards in seven of eight meetings vs. FSU. (N.C. State joins UVa with eight 100-yard games against the Seminoles, but the Wolfpack have been held to between 100-125 yards three times).

N.C. State leads the way among ACC schools in rushing against FSU, averaging 143.5 ypg. Virginia isn’t far behind with an average of 140.8 ypg.

A look at the ACC, plus Florida and Miami (Fla.), on the ground against the Seminoles is shown below.

School Avg/G Avg/Att.

1. N.C. State 143.5 3.7
2. Virginia 140.8 3.6
3. Clemson 115.0 2.9
4. Miami (F) 89.6 2.6
5. Georgia Tech 87.8 2.3
6. Duke 84.7 2.4
7. Maryland 84.0 2.5
8. North Carolina 81.2 2.1
9. Florida 63.8 2.4
10. Wake Forest 42.0 1.3

Virginia Doesn’t Find Florida So Sunny

The state of Florida is nicknamed the “Sunshine State” but it has been anything but for the Cavaliers on the gridiron. Virginia has played 10 games in the state of Florida and has lost each time, frequently by wide margins.

The Cavaliers’ first game in the state, a 55-10 loss to 19th-ranked Florida in 1959, was an omen of things to come for the gridders from the north as most of Virginia’s trips to Florida have resulted in some nightmarish performances.
Virginia has given up at least 31 points in every game played in Florida and is allowing 41.6 points per game.

On the other hand, the Cavaliers have never scored more than 24 points in the Sunshine State and are averaging 16.9 points per game overall.
The last trip to Florida resulted in a 63-21 loss to Illinois in last season’s Bowl in Miami. It’s interesting to note that that game is the only time Virginia’s opponent hasn’t been ranked at game time.

A look at UVa’s games in Florida is below.

Opp. Opp. UVa
Year rank Opp. site Pts Pts

1959 19 Florida Gainesville 55 10
1989 11 Illinois Orlando 31 21
1991 20 Oklahoma Jacksonville 48 14
1993 1 FSU Tallahassee 40 14
1993 15 BC Miami/Ft. L 31 13
1994 3 FSU Tallahassee 41 17
1996 3 FSU Tallahassee 31 24
1996 19 Miami (F) Miami/Ft. L 31 21
1998 6 FSU Tallahassee 45 14
1999 NR Illinois Miami/Ft. L 63 21

Ellis Moves Up UVa Passing Charts

Quarterback Dan Ellis used a torrid late-season run last season to finish eighth in the country in passing efficiency.
He hasn’t seemed to let the offseason slow him down. In fact, he’s done even better.

So far this season Ellis is completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 1406 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ellis has frequently made the opposition pay this season for concentrating on stopping the run.

Last month against Richmond he completed 19 of 28 attempts for 299 yards and a score.
Duke put good pressure on Ellis in UVa’s first road game but he was undeterred by the Blue Devils with 20 completions in 30 attempts for 333 yards and three touchdowns.

Ellis has moved very quickly up several of Virginia’s all-time passing charts during the first half of the season. He has thrown 28 career touchdown passes, fifth in school history. He has also thrown for 3738 yards, sixth in school history. His place on the career yards passing and career touchdown passes lists is shown below.

Player, years passing yds.

1. Shawn Moore, 1987-90 6629
2. Scott Gardner, 1972-75 5218
3. Aaron Brooks, 1995-98 5118
4. Mike Groh, 1992-95 4366
5. Don Majkowski, 1983-86 3901
6. Dan Ellis, 1997-pres. 3738

Player, years TD passes

1. Shawn Moore, 1987-90 55
2. Scott Gardner, 1972-75 33
T2. Aaron Brooks, 1995-98 33
4. Mike Groh, 1992-95 29
5. Dan Ellis, 1997-pres. 28

Five Cavaliers Return as Graduate Students

Five members of Virginia’s 2000 football team are participating this fall as graduate students. The group includes: offensive tackle Brad Barnes, wide receiver Kevin Coffey, center Dustin Keith, linebacker Byron Thweatt and fullback Patrick Washington.

Barnes and Keith received their undergraduate degrees in sociology, while Coffey and Thweatt earned their degrees in history and Washington in economics.

The UVa program has had approximately 70 players participate as graduate students over the past 11 seasons.

A Tale of Two Halves

Virginia has been a fast starting team this season, scoring 116 of its 163 points in the first half. In the first quarter the Cavaliers are outscoring their opponents by an incredible 65-3 margin!

Virginia has scored at least 10 points in the first quarter on four occasions this season, with a 21-point outburst vs. Maryland the most points in the first quarter. The only points the Cavaliers have allowed in the first period is a field goal by Clemson.

The Wahoos are outscoring the opposition in the second quarter by a 51-30 margin, but the second half, however, is a completely different story.

In the third quarter the Cavaliers have been outscored 48-31, while in the fourth quarter the opponents are ahead 34-16.
Virginia’s 16 points (10-6) vs. Duke is its best second half output this season. The only other time the Cavaliers have reached double figures in the second half was the 14 points (7-7) against Brigham Young.

Virginia failed to score in the second half against Clemson, scored three points against Maryland and seven points vs. both Richmond and Wake Forest.

Welsh Seventh Among Active Wins Leaders

Head coach George Welsh, tabbed by The Sporting News as the nation’s best coach two years ago, is seventh in wins among active Division I-A coaches.

In his 28th season as a collegiate head coach, Welsh has won 187 games at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), and is 23rd in NCAA Division I-A history.

Welsh is the winningest coach in the history of both UVa and Navy. The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant (Alabama, Kentucky) and Arizona’s Dick Toomey (Arizona, Hawaii) are the only other coaches to be the winningest coach at two different schools.

Welsh’s overall career record is 187-128-4 (.592).

The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 132-82-3 record in 19 seasons at Virginia. His 83 wins in ACC games is also a record.

A look at the winningest active coaches is below.

1. Joe Paterno, Penn State (35 yrs.) 319 wins
2. Bobby Bowden, Fla. State (35) 309
3. LaVell Edwards, BYU (29) 254
4. Lou Holtz, So. Carolina (29) 221
5. Don Nehlen, West Va. (30) 199
6. John Cooper, Ohio State (24) 189
7. George Welsh, UVa (28) 187

UVa Among National Leaders in Turnover Margin

Until the Maryland game, the Cavaliers had been remarkably careful with the football. They had committed just two turnovers (both interceptions) in the season’s first five games.

But against Maryland, turnovers almost proved to be UVa’s downfall. The Cavaliers committed a season-high four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions). The Terps returned an interception 69 yards for their first touchdown and used a second interception to set up another touchdown.

The season’s first two turnovers (prior to the Maryland game) did prove deadly for the Cavaliers. The lone miscue against Brigham Young was an interception in overtime that ended Virginia’s drive, while Clemson turned an interception in its own end zone into a scoring drive that broke open what was a tight contest at the time.

On the other hand, Virginia has made the opposition pay for its mistakes. The Cavaliers used two interceptions against BYU to jump to an early 21-0 lead, while a Richmond fumble on the Spiders’ first play from scrimmage set up UVa for a quick second touchdown.

The Cavaliers’ only touchdown against Clemson came via a fumbled punt at the 3-yard line that Antwoine Womack used to score on the next play from scrimmage.

The Cavaliers also used interceptions against Wake Forest (by Tim Spruill) and Maryland (by Ahmad Hawkins) to score first half touchdowns.

Overall, UVa has gained twice as many turnovers (12-6) as lost and ranks 16th in the country in turnover margin.

Eight True Frosh See Action in ’00

Tailback Jonathan Ward rushed for 33 yards against Duke in his collegiate debut and is the eighth true freshman to play for UVa this season.
Linebacker Rich Bedesem (saw first action from scrimmage vs. Richmond), defensive tackle Andrew Hoffman, defensive end Raymond Mann and cornerback Art Thomas all saw action in the opener vs. Brigham Young. Cornerback Almondo Curry, wide receiver Michael McGrew and safety Jamaine Winborne saw their first action the next week against Richmond.

The eight true freshmen to play this season represent Virginia’s largest group since 1983 when 10 rookies played.

Opening Drive Success

Virginia has scored touchdowns on its opening drive in each of the last two games and has scored on its opening drive four times overall this season.

The Cavaliers received the opening kickoff in the last game against Maryland and promptly marched 80 yards in 13 plays to reach paydirt on Tyree Foreman’s four-yard dash to the end zone.

Two games ago the Cavaliers forced Wake Forest to punt and began their initial possession at the 16-yard line. It only took them nine plays to cover the 84 yards to the end zone as Antwoine Womack bolted 40 yards on his second carry of the game to put the Cavaliers on the board.
Earlier this season Virginia scored on its first possession against Brigham Young and Richmond.

Against BYU, the Cavaliers marched 80 yards in eight plays with Arlen Harris‘ 28-yard burst up the middle getting UVa on the scoreboard first.

The next week against Richmond, Womack started the scoring with a five-yard run that ended a 13-play, 78-yard drive and put Virginia ahead for good.

Interestingly, Virginia also scored on its first drive four times last season: North Carolina (FG), BYU (TD), Buffalo (TD) and Maryland (FG).

UVa in Elite Company

Virginia is one of only four Division I-A programs in the country which has posted at least 13 consecutive seasons of seven or more wins.
UVa joins Florida State as the only other Atlantic Coast Conference team to accomplish that feat. The other two schools are Nebraska from the Big 12 and Big Ten power Michigan.

Womack Eyes Top-20 Rushing Chart

Junior tailback Antwoine Womack didn’t seem to be affected by a year away from the game based on his performance in the season opener against Brigham Young.

In his first game since 1998, Womack erupted for a then career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries. He scored twice, including a 67-yard jaunt early in the fourth quarter.

The performance pushed him over the 1000-yard mark for career rushing, just the 33rd player in school history to top the 1000-yard mark for his career.

After being held to a combined 173 in the next three games against Richmond, Duke and Clemson, Womack has topped the century mark the last two weeks.

He broke loose for a career-high 180 yards against Wake Forest in what is probably the best all-around game of his career. He carried 26 times and scored on a 40-yard burst in the first quarter for UVa’s first touchdown. He also caught two passes for 22 yards.

The last time out against Maryland he toted the pigskin 29 times for 133 yards (4.6 avg.) to mark the first time he rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games in two years. He also caught one pass that he turned into a 41-yard gain for the Cavaliers’ longest pass play of the afternoon and was named the ACC co-Offensive Back of the Week for his play.

Curiously, he is the first running back named the league’s offensive back of the week this season.
Womack was at his best in the second half against the Terps, gaining 88 yards on 16 carries (5.5 avg.), including 60 in the fourth quarter.

He is the second-leading rusher in the ACC this season with an average of 107.7 yards per game.
The players directly ahead of Womack on Virginia’s career rushing chart are listed below.

Player, years rushing yds.

15. Gary Helman, 1969-71 1832
16. Antonio Rice, 1982-86 1726
17. Greg Taylor, 1977-79, 81 1653
18. Jerrod Washington, 1990-93 1651
19. Bill Dudley, 1939-41 1631
20. David Sloan, 1973-76 1567
21. Antwoine Womack, ’97-’98, ’00. 1562

Thweatt is Rare Four-Year Starter

All-America candidate linebacker Byron Thweatt looks like he’s put last season’s injury plagued campaign behind him.
Hampered with an injured shoulder in 1999 that limited his effectiveness, Thweatt’s value to the team became evident when he wasn’t able to take a break.

Currently the team’s leading tackler with an average of 10.2 tackles per game, Thweatt is ninth in school history with 323 tackles and has a good shot at completing his career in the top five now that he’s back in good health.

With 41 consecutive starts under his bet, It is also interesting to note that he is just the fifth linebacker in school history to be a four-year starter since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972. The short list currently includes Bryan Hollomon, Charles McDaniel, Jamie Sharper and Russ Swan.

The list of players who have been four-year starters at Virginia for George Welsh include WRs Demetrius “Pete” Allen and Tyrone Davis, Ps Will Brice and Jeff Walker, OG Roy Brown, DT Ron Carey, OT Jim Dombrowski, DEs Mike Frederick and Chris Slade, Ss Tyrone Lewis and Keith McMeans, LBs McDaniel, Sharper and Swan, and C Tim Morris.

Tailback Quartet Replaces Jones

Thomas Jones finished his career last season as UVa’s all-time leading rusher. Not surprisingly, his loss figured to leave a rather large void in the offense this season.

However, as expected, a committee of four has served as his replacement. And the numbers, as shown in the chart below, indicate that the running game hasn’t missed a beat.
Sophomore Arlen Harris started the opener against Brigham Young and rushed for a career-high 79 yards on 18 carries. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a 28-yard bolt up the middle for UVa’s first score. He hurt his knee in the game and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 8 and missed the next four weeks. He returned to practice the week prior to the Maryland game, but did not play vs. the Terps. He is expected to be able to play vs. Florida State.

Junior Antwoine Womack stepped into the starting line-up due to Harris’ injury and has remained there. He rushed for 160 yards and two scores vs. BYU and is UVa’s leading rusher with 646 yards. Womack has gone over 100 yards the last two games-career-high 180 vs. Wake Forest, 133 vs. Maryland.

Junior Tyree Foreman is perhaps the team’s most versatile back since he can also fill in at fullback if needed. Considered the player with the best “football smarts” on the team, he is also an outstanding receiver who has surprising speed for a man his size.

Foreman has rushed for a career-high 176 yards and five touchdowns this year and is coming off perhaps the best game of his career. A native of Sandy Spring, Md., he rushed for a career-best 64 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland the last time out.

True freshman Jonathan Ward, a a high school All-American from Poway, Calif., saw his first action against Duke with 33 yards on just seven carries. A bruising runner with great potential according to the coaching staff, he has played in every game since and gained 80 yards total.
Overall Virginia is second in the ACC in rushing with an average of 184.5 ypg. The Cavaliers are averaging 4.2 yards per carry and join Clemson as are the only ACC teams averaging more than four yards per carry this season.

The chart below shows Virginia’s 2000 backfield after six games compared to Jones thru six games last year.

Player 2000 1999

Womack 646 DNP
Foreman 176 97*
Ward 80 H.S.
Harris 79 112*
Jones NFL 888
Total 981 888
* entire season

The Big Play Bugaboo

One of Virginia’s problems defensively this season has been a propensity to give up big plays, either for scores or to help set up scores.
Brigham Young used two big plays in the second half-a 31-yard pass play early in the third quarter and a 70-yard pass late in the third-to help set up short touchdown runs as the Cougars came back from a 21-0 deficit to post a 38-35 win in overtime.

Duke used a 33-yard pass to set up its only touchdown and cut UVa’s lead to 20-10 midway through the third quarter. The Blue Devils never got closer, however, and fell 26-10.

Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler drove the Cavaliers batty with long touchdown runs of 45 and 75 yards, while connecting with Jackie Robinson on a 30-yard scoring strike to turn what would otherwise have been a close game into a 31-10 victory. Take away those three plays and the Tigers gained just 331 yards of offense. It should also be noted that the Tigers scored their other touchdown on a 69-yard punt return. Clemson’s shortest touchdown was the 30-yard pass to Robinson.

Wake Forest got 125 of its 307 total yards on three big plays by quarterback Anthony Young. Young raced 35 yards on a scramble in the second quarter and scrambled again for 53 yards in the third period to set up Wake’s lone touchdown. He also completed a 37-yard pass that helped set up a field goal attempt (that ended up being blocked).

Maryland used big plays to score all of its touchdowns in UVa’s last game. Defensive back Shawn Forte stepped in front of a Virginia receiver and raced 69 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to cut UVa’s lead to just 28-10 when it could very easily have been 31-3 or worse.

Offensively, the Terps scored their first touchdown on a 61-yard screen pass to Matt Kalapinski who rumbled downfield to paydirt. Their second score was set-up by a 31-yard pass play that got them deep in Virginia territory. That drive was capped by a touchdown pass on fourth down.

A look at the impact these big plays have had in each game is shown in the chart below. For our purposes we define big plays as runs or passes that cover at least 30 yards.

# big plays total offense minus
Opp. & yds big plays

Brigham Young 4-168 372
Richmond 0 241
Duke 1-33 298
Clemson 3-150* 331
Wake Forest 3-125 182
Maryland 2-92** 224
* doesn’t include 69-yard punt return for TD
** doesn’t include 69-yard interception for TD

Linebackers Lead the Way

Virginia’s linebacking quartet of Angelo Crowell, Donny Green, Yubrenal Isabelle and Byron Thweatt have been among Virginia’s leading defensive performers this season. Not surprisingly, they are the team’s leading tacklers this season.

Thweatt, an All-America candidate who doesn’t get the attention he deserves, leads the team in tackling with an average of 10.2 stops per game. One of the few four-year starters in school history, Thweatt has put last season’s disappointing year behind him. He paced the team in tackles in the first four games this season, recording career highs in the first three. He was named the ACC ACC Defensive Back of the Week following his 15-tackle performance against Duke on Sept. 16.

Yubrenal Isabelle has been UVa’s leading tackler the last two weeks-against Wake Forest and Maryland. A solid performer in the middle, he is second on the team with an average of 9.2 tackles per game. He has reached double figures on four occasions this season with a high of 12 tackles against Brigham Young.

Donny Green sat out last season due to personal reasons, but has bolstered the defense with his play so far this fall. A starter in the last two contests, Green is averaging 9.0 tackles per game. With 54 tackles already, he is well on his way to establishing a new career high for tackles (85 in 1998). He made a career-high 12 tackles against Richmond and came back with 11 the next week vs. Duke.

Sophomore Angelo Crowell, younger brother of Detroit Lions wide receiver Germane Crowell, began the season in the starting line-up but gave way to Green two games ago. Nonetheless he is still considered a “starter” by defensive coordinator Rick Lantz because he still sees lots of time from scrimmage. He reached double figures in the first three games of the season with a career high of 13 in the opener against Brigham Young. Crowell is averaging 8.5 tackles per game and has already surpassed his tackle total from last season.

Receiving Corps is Deep and Experienced

The strongest unit on the offense this season is likely to be the receiving corps led by senior Kevin Coffey, sophomore Billy McMullen and tight end Billy Baber.

Coffey and McMullen tied for the team lead with 28 receptions last year, while McMullen’s 483 yards paced the team. In fact, McMullen set a school record for most receptions by a freshman. Coffey hauled in seven scoring tosses, while McMullen had six.

McMullen is the team’s leading receiver once again with 24 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns. Coffey has caught just 15 passes (for 203 yards and two touchdowns), but has extended his streak to 28 consecutive regular season games with a reception.

Joining them are senior Demetrius Dotson, sophomores James Johnson and Tavon Mason and true freshman Michael McGrew.

Dotson was putting together a fine season last year until he injured his knee in the season’s sixth game and missed the rest of the season. While healthy he caught 11 passes and averaged nearly 20 yards per catch.

In what might be the best performance of his career, the Staten Island, N.Y., native gained a career-high 99 yards on four receptions in the season opener against Brigham Young. Two of his receptions were magnificent diving grabs, including a 42-yarder and a 35-yarder. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a eight-yard play late in the first half against Duke. He is second on the squad with 16 receptions for 237 yards and a score.

Johnson showed promise as a true freshman two years ago, playing in 10 regular season games, but he missed last season and was red-shirted. He caught two passes in his return vs. BYU. He electrified the crowd by out-leaping a Richmond defender to snatch a pass and scoot 50 yards for the first touchdown of his career. He also returned a punt 61 yards, but the return was nullified by a penalty.

Mason, one of the team’s fastest players, caught 12 passes last fall as a primary back-up. He has caught three passes this season.
The tight end position is also strong with Baber, a senior, and junior Chris Luzar seeing the most significant action.

Baber has been a spot starter throughout his career behind the oft-injured Casey Crawford. He caught 17 passes, including four for touchdowns, the most by a UVa tight end since 1994 and has 49 career receptions.

Luzar has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, but at 6-7 he’s a very tall target and teams with Baber to give the Cavaliers a talented duo of tight ends.

This season’s numbers by the receiving corps are illustrated in the column below.

Player Rec. Yds. Avg. TD FD or TD

McMullen 24 381 15.9 2 15
Dotson 16 237 14.8 1 10
Coffey 15 203 13.5 2 7
Johnson 13 176 13.5 1 7
Baber (TE) 13 154 11.8 0 11
Mason 3 70 23.3 1 3
C. Luzar (TE) 2 13 6.5 0 1
McGrew 1 6 6.0 0 0

Virginia’s Secondary is Very Young

Of prime concern to the coaching staff this season has been the shape of the secondary. With just one returning starter, sophomore safety Jerton Evans, things look dicey at first glance for Virginia’s last line of defense.

In the opener vs. Brigham Young, the corners were manned by seniors Ahmad Hawkins and Tim Spruill.

No stranger to defensive backs, Hawkins switched from wide receiver to cornerback in the spring. His knowledge of playing wide receiver certainly gives him some insight into the mind of receivers.

Spruill was a starter two years ago and started six games last season in what proved to be an up-and-down campaign. Still he’s the team’s most experienced defensive back who brings leadership and stability to the secondary.

Spruill suffered a toe injury against BYU, forcing sophomore Rashad Roberson into the starting line-up for the Richmond and Duke games, but Spruill returned to the starting line-up against Clemson and has remained there.

Evans, a freshman All-American last fall, started the final 10 games of the season and led the team with four interceptions. Despite being just a second-year player, he is the most experienced safety on the roster.
Sophomore Shernard Newby has started at the other safety spot throughout this season. He played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman with two starts.

Among the reserves only junior safety Devon Simmons had any collegiate experience prior to this season. He was a key reserve two years ago, but did not play last season for personal reasons.
True freshman Jamaine Winborne is the only other safety to see action this season.

True freshmen Almondo Curry and Art Thomas join Roberson as the top back-ups at cornerback.

Offensive Line Replaces Two All-Americans

Last season consensus All-American tailback Thomas Jones had the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in school history. But this season, Arlen Harris, Antwoine Womack, Tyree Foreman and Dan Ellis have not had the benefit of All-Americans Noel LaMontagne and John St. Clair, who graduated and moved on to the NFL.

Despite the notable losses, the line has been a strength for this year’s offense once again. Right tackle Brad Barnes headlines the offensive line group. Named the team’s most improved player last season, he is considered among the top tackles in the ACC.

Left tackle Jermese Jones, the team’s biggest player, missed last season due to injury, but he has unlimited potential. He made the first start of his career against Brigham Young and has added an athletic presence to the important left tackle spot.

Fifth-year player Dustin Keith moved into the center spot vacated by St. Clair. He spent the last two years at tackle, but was moved to center in the spring (after spending a brief amount of time at defensive tackle). He is the only player currently able to play who has ever appeared at center in a college game.

Evan Routzahn returns to the right guard spot next to Barnes. An underrated performer, Routzahn is a powerful blocker who rarely comes out of the game.

Junior Jared Woodson, a local product from Western Albemarle High School, started the first three games of the season at left guard, but has been lost for the season due to a herniated disc in his neck.
Junior Josh Lawson is one of the line’s most significant performers because of his versatility. He spent the early part of the season backing up Jones and Woodson, but moved into the starting line-up due to Woodson’s injury. He was the starter at left tackle the two previous seasons and was named a freshman All-American two years ago.

Print Friendly Version