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Nov. 17, 2003

There was the David Rivers “shoot out” with Joe Hamilton…and the ‘Hook and Ladder’…and the 21-point blown lead in Atlanta. The Virginia-Georgia Tech series has provided several memorable moments and this Saturday in Scott Stadium we could be looking at the same kind of scenario.

For the Cavaliers, it’s on the table…and very simple…win, become bowl-eligible, and carry a level of confidence into the Virginia Tech donnybrook. As UVA head football coach Al Groh told the assembled media, bowl talk has not been a part of the Cavalier jargon. Winning each game has.

“Bowl games take care of themselves,” he said. “This week is more about preparation than confidence. If we have a good week then we should be ready to play.”

It’s all very simple.

Last year Virginia established a tradition of talent and takeaways. When Groh was quizzed about having a false impression of the program he said no, not at all. He knows that to win consistently, it takes time to build depth. Depth is what separates the good teams from the great teams. The Cavaliers are getting there…the key word is ‘getting’. The ‘Hoos are not stockpiled with the dominating talent it takes to pull off a 9 or 10 win season, especially with the schedule being what it is. I know…this season the Cavs had Troy State and Western Michigan…but also traveled to Maryland, Clemson and NC State.

“We have to be a team that’s hard to beat…not a team that beats itself. Take last year…we don’t make the play in the end zone against (Philip) Rivers and State; we lose. If (Muffin) Curry doesn’t get the takeaway on the three yard line against North Carolina, they go up 28-7, instead of us marching 97 yards and making it 21-14. It might have made a big difference.”

“Turnovers are curious things. We have 50% of the takeaways we had last year. Many teams are lower this year…and why is that? Many of your fumbles are caused in the pocket…teams are getting rid of it sooner and their maximum protection is better. Kickers and turnovers…two pretty big keys.”

Groh is right.

It’s not the scheme…the 3-4 versus the 4-3…or play calling, or coordinators…it’s about scoring more points than the other guy. Putting yourself in position to win…and over the course of 80 some plays…and as close as the ACC is in power and parity…UVA has had one or two breakdowns that has cost the team victory. A perfect example is the third down roughing-the-passer call the Wahoos got tagged with against Maryland. It turned out to be a seven-point play. Last year, the Terps had three costly penalties in the first half that cost them dearly. That’s football.

As far as the Ramblin’ Wreck…Georgia Tech is good…and a mystery. The Yellow jacket’s defense has experienced linebackers and physical safeties that play down low and play a lot of zone. The Tech “D” features ACC leaders in tackles, sacks and interceptions. Offensively, Georgia Tech is big up front with a relentless running back…former walk on P.J. Daniels…and a speedy receiver with terrific hands…Jonathan Smith. How did they lose to Duke? Try freshman quarterback Reggie Ball’s four interceptions and a fumble.

Virginia’s running game got a bit better against Maryland and that could be a key this weekend. UVA will be able to score against Tech, but must find a way to put the Jackets in second and long and third and long.

Shoot Out? I think so…let’s hope the Cavs make one more play than the other guys.

Game Notables:

–Dave Johnson, Virginia beat writer from the Newport News Daily Press, released an interesting statistic. In ten opening game drives, the ‘Hoos have produced only 3 points. True.

–In Groh’s three years, Virginia is 13-4 at home and a perfect 4-0 in November and December.

–Schaub is now just three touchdown passes away from Shawn Moore’s record of 55. UVA’s #7 is also just 179 yards shy of the total offense mark set by Moore. If accomplished this season…Matt will own eight UVA quarterback career records. Last year he set eight single season marks including touchdown passes (28), completions (288), and yards (2976).

–While the ‘Hoos have lost four of the last five…Georgia Tech, which started 1-3, has won five of the last six.

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