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Nov. 17, 2005

Virginia’s football players didn’t need any motivation Monday when they hit the practice field…after all, this is Virginia-Virginia Tech week. The one week that showcases the top two football programs in the state. As the Cavs left the locker room and walked through the practice field gate they were greeted by Cavalier safety Nate Lyles. Against Georgia Tech, late in the first quarter, Lyles attempted to stop Yellowjackets’ running back P.J. Daniels from an off the edge, full steam ahead run. Daniels had built up speed and the collision resembled two mountain rams battling for supremacy. After Daniels knee caught Nate under the chinstrap, Lyles’ head snapped back a bit and he went down in a heap, motionless. Several minutes later, medical personnel were ushering Lyles to the locker room where his facemask was removed with a screwdriver so his helmet could carefully be lifted off of his head. He gave a half hearted “thumbs up” to 60,000 fans as he was being driven off the field. After a day and a night at the University hospital, Lyles was strong enough to show up on the sidelines for the first day of game prep.

“The only thing we could do was cross our fingers,” Al Groh said referring to the collision. “Nate is a very good technique player and very aggressive. His head wasn’t down, but he ran into a tackle breaker. It was great to see him up and around.”

Virginia’s players responded. Holding Georgia Tech to two touchdowns and a field goal set the tone for the most important week in quite some time, and the Cavs are breeding confidence. The offensive line seems to be in sync, Wali Lundy has found his stride, Jason Snelling is acting like the Jason Snelling of old, and the defense, loaded with more young guys than a shopping mall video game room, is breeding confidence.

Consider this…over the last 4 outings, UVA is giving up just 11 points per game, and over the last 16 quarters the `Hoos defense has only coughed up 6 touchdowns. Only 3 TD’s have been scored in the last 12 quarters.

“Confidence is important,” Groh said. “Collectively and individually. It seems we have gained a lot of confidence over the past two weeks.”

Virginia will need that and more.

The Hokies are fuming over the Miami loss (27-7) and have had several days to think about it. An off weekend last week gave Virginia Tech plenty of time to heal emotional scars and put together a solid game plan. And that doesn’t sit well with some, including Groh.

“In this day and time there is a lot at stake for teams in this conference. I don’t think any team should have an open date in November. It gives teams a definite advantage,” Groh said.

And the ACC appears headed in that direction next year when schools are playing 12-game schedules. With a Thursday night game against Boston College on October 27th, the Hokies will have played one game in 23 days when the arrive in Charlottesville. Coaches are going to recommend no off days during the stretch drive.

When asked about the timing of the game, and which team might have the edge, Groh…respecting the quality of Virginia Tech…asked the media, “Is there ever a good time to catch an alligator?”

“This is the best team this year by far (that we have played). The numbers say that. In eight or nine of the top 14 statistical categories Tech is near the top. They have mature talent, they are experienced, and the schemes are well put together.”

And then there is Vick. Marcus Vick.

“He has matured in his intensity and his day to day preparation,” Groh said. “I don’t think it’s fair to compare (Marques) Hagans and Vick. I don’t do that. But they are both impact players for their team.”

And speaking of the game day intangibles, UVA offensive tackle Brad Butler, speaking to the media for the first time since the “Boston Knee Party”, said the game itself overshadows everything.

“Say what you want,’ Butler said. “This is Tech week. I know this is my last game at home with guys like “Schmitty” (Brennan Schmidt) and Wali (Lundy) but none of that matters. We know it’s an important game against a terrific opponent and we know we need to win. We are going to concentrate on all the little things during the week that will help us win.”


During the weekly press conference on Tuesday Coach Groh was asked about the availability of the four UVA players, Ottawa Anderson, Kwakou Robinson, Tony Franklin and Vince Redd, who were suspended for the Georgia Tech game. Groh said none have been ruled out, but none of them have been ruled in.

Groh also let it be known that one team cannot steal a game plan from another and copy it exactly. Virginia’s head football coach was asked about the things Miami did to shut down Virginia Tech’s offense and force six turnovers.

“Most wouldn’t feel comfortable doing what they did. We’re playing with different cards.”

The group of fourth and fifth year players who will be honored Saturday have a lot to be proud of…including three consecutive bowl bids (soon to be a fourth) and a 25-6 record at home. Overall they are 36-24. Virginia has won 21 of the last 23 games at home.

If Wali Lundy scores two touchdowns Saturday he will join a select group of ACC legends. NC State’s Ted Brown (51) and UNC’s Leon Johnson are the only players in ACC history to score over 50 TDs. At 48 TDs, Lundy is fifth in ACC history.

If Marques Hagans throws for 194 yards or more, he will pass UVA quarterback coach Mike Groh for fifth place all time in career passing yards. Groh has 4366, and Hagans sits at 4173.

Defensive end and captain Brennan Schmidt will start his 49th consecutive game this Saturday, moving past Tyrone Lewis (1988-’91) for the most starts in school history. Punter Will Brice also started 49 games.

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