Story Links

Aug. 22, 2002

Associated Press Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Virginia is hoping that the earliest season opener in Division I college football history will help the Cavaliers come back from their first losing season in 15 years.

Virginia plays host to Colorado State in the Jim Thorpe Classic on Thursday night.

The Cavaliers, under second-year Coach Al Groh, are trying to forget about last year’s 5-7 record, but the team has just a handful of seniors on the roster. Colorado State, meantime, has gone to a school-record three straight bowl games and is expected to contend for the Mountain West Conference championship, along with Utah and Brigham Young.

Virginia and Colorado State will play a 13-game schedule this year; the NCAA is allowing schools to play 12 games this season, and teams that compete in early-season “classics” are allowed a 13th game.

Groh and Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick disagree on the benefits of a 13th game.

“It’s one more game in our long-term development, whether that is our next 13 games or our next 25 games,” Groh said. “We work hard all year, probably endure a greater physical toll than any other sport, and for all that we’re rewarded with less games than any other sport. The opportunity to have fun, play one more game is a positive opportunity.”

By contrast, Lubick said he hopes he’s seen the last of the 13-game season for a while.

“I would be in favor of that once every four or five years,” he said. “I am happy for this reason: We will get all the exposure and everything we thought we would from this game. To be the first game, I think, there is something special.”

Groh will rely heavily on underclassmen this year, including a freshman class that was rated among the nation’s 10 best.

During Tuesday’s practice, Groh reviewed the basics for his young team, going into detail about exactly what players should pack in their game bag. He jokingly providing diapers to some of the fresh faces.

“That tended to create a little more looseness,” Groh said.

Junior Matt Schaub, who split time at quarterback last year with Bryson Spinner, became the starter by default when Spinner transferred.

“The young guys bring a lot of talent that we might not have had before,” Schaub said. “That’s our job, to bring the younger guys along and give them the confidence they need to step up and make plays.”

The Rams also will start a junior quarterback who started about half the games last year. But Bradlee Van Pelt, son of former New York Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt, also is a threat as a runner.

“We have the possibility of going 12-1 or 13-0,” Van Pelt said. “You have to shoot high. That’s what we’re going to do this year. We have the talent; we have the coaches. We have all the ingredients.”

They also have a tough schedule. After Virginia, the Rams will face Colorado and UCLA.

“The ACC is a good football conference,” Lubick said. “They have good teams in that conference, but we’d like to think that we have good teams in the Mountain West Conference, too.”

Print Friendly Version