Virginia to endure survivor series as players go missing
Since the end of the 2007 season, several Virginia football players at key
positions have left or have been removed from the team.
By Doug Doughty
When injuries threatened to derail Virginia’s 2007 football team, the Cavaliers
adopted a next-man-up philosophy that lifted them to the brink of a 10-win
season. That approach will be put to an even bigger test this year.
The Cavaliers knew they would lose All-America defensive end Chris Long. He was
a senior. They might have guessed they would lose All-ACC offensive tackle
Branden Albert, a junior who passed up his final season of eligibility and was
selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Can’t argue with that.
There were other seniors — prominent players like Tom Santi, Nate Lyles,
Jonathan Stupar — whose worth to the Cavaliers was reflected by their
invitations to NFL camps.
That’s normal attrition and hardly a reason for UVa fans to feel sorry for
But, what the Cavaliers have experienced since the end of the 2007 season is
abnormal, with more than a half-dozen underclassmen lost to academic suspension,
an honor offense and criminal misconduct.
Among the projected returnees who will not be available are starting quarterback
Jameel Sewell, starting defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald and starting cornerback
Sewell and Cook, who were among a group of four players declared academically
ineligible in January, are working toward a return in 2009.
Fitzgerald has transferred to Kansas State, where he will join another former
Cavalier, Olu Hall, who was declared academically ineligible prior to the 2007
Hall was rated the No. 1 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times in 2003.
Obviously, he was the Cavaliers’ top-rated in-state signee that year, as was
linebacker J’Courtney Williams in 2007.
Williams is gone now, too, having been dismissed from the team last winter after
he was arrested on charges of credit-card theft and credit-card fault.
Virginia has been plagued by attrition on other occasions, but seldom from such
a wide array of causes.
“Whatever it is, whatever the attrition is, we’ve moved on to the future,” UVa
head coach Al Groh said in an Aug. 14 teleconference. “Who’s here is here; who’s
gone is gone. That’s a different time frame. I’m finished talking about all of
In his defense, Groh did comment on the arrests of Williams and former defensive
back Mike Brown at the time of Williams’ removal from the roster.
“It’s unsettling,” Groh said. “Everybody within the organization is disturbed by
one misstep, so it just causes everybody to be that much more watchful [after]
two unfortunate incidents.
“Any miscue that we have, whether it’s community issues or internal issues, we
always address and reinforce immediately. We would hope the players have a
pretty clear understanding of what the value system is and what we expect here.”
So, what happened?
Three Virginia players were charged with alcohol-related violations this summer,
including quarterback contender Peter Lalich and starting offensive tackle Will
Groh said those matters have been addressed internally, but it begs the
questions, at what point and to what degree is a coach responsible for his
There were academic concerns even before the Cavaliers played in the Gator Bowl.
Cook was not allowed to board the bus that took the team to the Charlottesville
airport, and he did not play in the game. Tailback Mikell Simpson returned home
to Harrisburg, Pa., and flew to the bowl site by himself only after receiving
While conceding that coaches should be held accountable, Groh, a Roman Catholic,
likened the situation to a man who went to Mass each week and asked the Lord’s
help in winning the lottery. For two weeks, he prayed and nothing happened. The
third week, a voice came from above and told him, “Buy a ticket.”
“In the area of academics, I think our advisors have done a thorough and
diligent job,” Groh told reporters at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro,
Ga. “It’s as strong a staff as we’ve had at any point. Ultimately, the players
have got to buy a ticket.”
Insiders said that Groh repeatedly stressed academics during team meetings this
spring. So did strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Balis, and the team
responded with its highest cumulative grade-point average in nine years.
Generally, players don’t get in trouble during August. At Virginia, as with many
programs, the players stay in a hotel until school is in session. They have
curfews. Two-a-days leave them too tired to do much except practice, eat and
The rest of the year, players are frequently on their own, and the team is left
to police itself. Virginia has a core of senior leaders, including three of the
four co-captains, but Groh said the coaches keep their eyes out for
underclassmen who might serve in the next wave of team leaders.
Rashawn Jackson, a fourth-year junior fullback, hopes he meets that description.
Jackson comes from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J., the same school that
produced Brown, suspended following his arrest on a felony larceny charge.
“Part of being a team member is you have to be liable on and off the field,”
Jackson said. “If you’re out and you see your brother making a mistake, it would
probably be in your best interests to encourage him not to do so. I’ve done
that. I’m not really a partyer or a guy who goes out a lot, but if I see one of
our guys in a bad situation, I’m going to give him a hand or a shoulder to lean
on and get him out of there.”
“Mike Brown is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him since we were in the
seventh grade. We’ve got a lot of happy memories.
“Of course, I was worried for him, but you’ve got to learn to separate friends,
family and business. So when it comes to us performing, I only worry about the
guys on the field. It’s not about the other guys right now. It’s about us.”
Winning 2007 season seems like ancient history for Virginia
After 2007’s surprising 9-4 record, Al Groh’s Cavaliers are picked to finish 5th
in the ACC Coastal Division this year.
By Doug Doughty
No discussion of this year’s “sleeper” teams in college football is complete
without mention of Texas Tech and its high-powered passing offense.
Nobody is talking about the team that had Texas Tech beaten for 57 minutes last
year in the Gator Bowl.
Maybe that’s because the 2007 Virginia football team no longer exists.
The Cavaliers fought their way into title contention by winning eight of nine
games after a 23-3 season-opening loss at Wyoming, but this year they are a
preseason choice for fifth out of six in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
“Our team continues to labor to get much respect in this conference,”
eighth-year Cavalier coach Al Groh said. “All we deal in is reality and reality
only becomes apparent the first of December.”
Maybe so, but there is no mistaking the personnel losses the Cavaliers (9-4
overall, 6-2 ACC) have absorbed since the end of the season, including
first-round NFL Draft picks Chris Long at defensive end and Branden Albert at
“There’s a lot of young players on the team that the coaches are really looking
forward to coaching,” Groh said. “You know, when Chris Long and Branden Albert
were getting ready to start, I don’t recall that there were too many people
saying, 'Oh, wow, this is incredible!’
“Now, everybody is wanting to know, 'What are you going to do without these
Long was named ACC defensive player of the year last season, when the Cavaliers
were ranked 16th in Division I-A in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense.
On the other hand, Virginia finished 101st out of 119 Division I-A in total
offense. The Cavaliers were 113th in total offense in 2006, their first season
with Mike Groh as coordinator.
That was also the first of two seasons with Jameel Sewell as quarterback, and
the Cavaliers might have thought Sewell would begin to pay dividends as a junior
starter. But he was declared academically ineligible in January.
Added to that was the departure of Albert and two other starters on the
offensive line, as well as the loss of tight ends Tom Santi and Jonathan Stupar.
Still, there is guarded optimism regarding the offense. Tailbacks Cedric Peerman
and Mikell Simpson combined to rush for 1,155 yards in roughly one half-season
apiece, and the Cavaliers welcome back 2006 leading receiver Kevin Ogletree.
Ogletree, who had 52 receptions as a sophomore, suffered a torn anterior
cruciate ligament in the spring of 2007 but was fortunate enough to have a
redshirt year at his disposal.
“Really, the Kevin Ogletree rehab story is over,” Groh said in mid-August.
Virginia has plenty of weapons offensively, including 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight
end John Phillips from Bath County.
The Cavaliers also have a potential first-round draft pick in 6-6, 315-pound
offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, but there is one gaping hole to be filled — at
Peter Lalich played in eight games as a true freshman and attempted 61 passes as
Sewell’s backup. After the Wyoming debacle, there were even calls for Lalich to
replace Sewell, but then the Cavaliers won six games in a row.
Virginia has recruited few quarterbacks in its history with credentials to match
Lalich’s, but there have been questions surrounding his commitment and focus. He
was charged with underage possession of alcohol this summer and has a string of
traffic citations on his record.
His rivals for the starting job are even more inexperienced. Sophomore Marc
Verica has no game experience.
Senior Scott Deke took two snaps during mop-up duty against Pittsburgh. Deke was
not planning to return for a fifth year until Sewell was lost.
The big question on defense surrounds the defensive line and not only because of
Long’s departure. Fellow defensive end Jeff Fitzgerald, who had shown the
potential to become a marquee player, was dismissed from school with two years
of eligibility remaining.
With two weeks to go before the Cavaliers’ Aug. 30 opener at home against No. 3
Southern Cal, UVa was considering redshirt freshman Matt Conrath to start at one
tackle spot. The other starter, 6-7, 270-pound senior Alex Field, has played 228
plays in his career.
That’s a month’s worth for UVa’s three senior linebackers — Jon Copper, Antonio
Appleby and preseason All-ACC choice Clint Sintim.
Sintim, whose pass-rushing ability becomes even more critical in Long’s absence,
enters his final season with 16 career sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
He was one of Virginia’s two preseason All-ACC picks, along with Monroe.
“Obviously, I have to do my part,” Sintim said, “but I don’t necessarily think
he’s [Long] replaceable.”
There are some other story lines this year, including the debut of new defensive
coordinator Bob Pruett, a former Marshall head coach who succeeds Mike London,
now the head coach at Richmond.
Also, Virginia must replace place-kicker Chris Gould, whose best season came in
2007, when UVa won five games by one or two points.
There was a fine line between winning and losing last year, and maybe that’s why
the forecasters have been less than bullish on UVa this year.
UVa was picked behind three teams it defeated last season, including a Miami
team it drubbed 48-0 in the Hurricanes’ final game at the Orange Bowl
“I’m not bitter,” Sintim said.
“I understand we’ve lost some guys. We’re in the business of 'what have you done
Cavaliers punter 'not just a specialist'
Virginia freshman Jimmy Howell is more athletic than your average punter.
By NORM WOOD | 247-4642
August 22, 2008
In the first few days after Jimmy Howell arrived in
Charlottesville this summer, he made a habit of walking a few hundred yards out
of his Gooch Dorm room and past Scott Stadium.
He'd stand there in front of the stadium, trying to visualize what it would be
like to stand about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage Aug. 30 with Southern
California's line barreling down on him as he tried to punt. That's what punters
do — put in the mental reps.
The only problem with this particular mind's eye exercise was a lack of a
practical comparison. Howell couldn't imagine it. He'd envisioned himself doing
a lot of things in sports — kicking, passing, booting a soccer ball, shooting a
3-pointer — and he'd succeeded in the real-life applications of all those
Seeing himself on the field against USC was unfathomable.
"You really can't," said Howell, a 6-foot-6, 238-pound freshman from Florence,
S.C. "I mean, coming out of high school, I tried to visualize just coming (to
UVa) and working with this team. I couldn't even think about USC. You just can't
do it until you're right there in the spot."
He won't have to think about it much longer. He'll actually get to do it. Howell
will be UVa's starting punter against USC, according to UVa coach Al Groh.
Howell will almost certainly be the Cavaliers' only true freshman starter in the
game, and Groh believes he's ready.
"Jimmy doesn't have the consistency we hope that the future brings, but when he
hits his best ball ... it is high and it is far and he's got a pretty decent
sense of direction based on the coverage and the rush where the ball should best
be kicked," Groh said. "For a young fella coming in under these circumstances,
he's shown a good sense of calm and presence. He seems and indicates that he's
comfortable with his opportunity, so all of that combined to make us feel good
about going ahead with that."
Groh, who said Howell may be the most athletic punter he's coached, has been a
fan of Howell's since seeing him at UVa's football camp in the summer of 2007.
Howell, who committed to Northwestern before de-committing and heading to UVa,
played an entire day at tight end in UVa's camp.
That's right ... tight end.
Howell also played quarterback at West Florence High, and went to a few camps as
He was even selected the "Outstanding Quarterback" at an SCVarsity.com camp when
he was in high school.
He played varsity soccer as early as his freshman year, and lettered twice in
both soccer and basketball in high school. All of that while graduating from
high school with a 4.25 grade-point average. He plans to pursue something in
either the law or medicine fields.
"This guy is an athlete," UVa special-teams coordinator and linebackers coach
Bob Diaco said. "He's not just a specialist. He could embarrass you on the
basketball court. He can throw and hit a baseball. He's got some tools that make
him unique. You could probably put him on a ski slope and he'd be great at that,
Howell's eighth-grade soccer coach actually was the first person to encourage
him to give punting a try. He was a varsity punter as a freshman and sophomore
at Wilson High in Florence before he transferred to West Florence before his
junior year. He averaged more than 43 yards per punt as a senior and was
considered by most recruiting analysts to be one of the nation's top 25 punters.
Now, he'll join UVa place-kicker Yannick Reyering as first-year college football
players with starting roles. Groh named Reyering, a 24-year-old senior from
Mettingen, Germany, who led the Cavaliers' men's soccer team in scoring for
three seasons, a starter Wednesday.
"I think it's pretty sweet," said Howell regarding Reyering's success on the
soccer field. "We call ourselves the international team."
Trojans without peer
August 24, 2008
Don't be fooled by all the reports of limping, gimping and
scratching emanating from Southern Calfornia's preseason
training camp. This is an honest-to-Rockne college football
dynasty headed for Saturday's season opener at Virginia.
Yes, quarterback Mark Sanchez and tailback Joe McKnight are
nicked, and yes, jock itch spread in the locker room faster than
Obama's veep text.
Why, there's even the misguided notion that jet lag and the
specter of the Sept. 13 game against No. 2 Ohio State will leave
the third-ranked Trojans vulnerable against the Cavaliers.
Don't buy it.
Coach Pete Carroll and his staff are remarkably adept at
procuring and developing All-American talent at every position.
Check that. USC hasn't had an all-Pacific 10 place-kicker since
1974 (surely you remember Chris Limahelu).
The Trojans are the subject of NCAA and Pac-10 probes into
alleged payments from an agent to 2005 Heisman Trophy winner
Reggie Bush, but until the case is resolved, it's best to assess
Carroll's Trojans on the field. And during the last six seasons
they are clearly without peer.
Two national championships, three Heisman winners and six
consecutive conference titles (won or shared). A 70-8 overall
record, 5-1 in Bowl Championship Series games.
NFL teams selected 10 Trojans in April's draft, four in the
opening round, three in the second. By way of comparison, the
Cavaliers boast four first-round picks in the last eight drafts
Such personnel turnover would devastate most programs, perhaps
for years. That's unlikely at USC.
Safety Taylor Mays headlines a defense teeming with potential
All-Americans. If Sanchez (knee) is sidelined, Arkansas transfer
and 2005 national prep player of the year Mitch Mustain is a
probable replacement; if McKnight (elbow) doesn't start, Stafon
Johnson (6.9 yards per carry and three 100-yard games last
season) is more than capable.
Virginia coach Al Groh calls USC the most talented program he's
evaluated since Florida State in the early 1990s, when as an NFL
assistant he scouted the Seminoles.
"They just replace one All-American with a potential
All-American that nobody's heard of," Groh said of the Trojans.
The same could be said of Florida State, the gold standard of
In 14 consecutive seasons, 1987-2000, Bobby Bowden's Seminoles
finished among the Associated Press' final top four, more than
double USC's current streak of six. They won two national
championships and went 11-3 in major bowls, once winning nine
Miami claimed four national titles from 1983-94 but was 6-6 in
bowls during that stretch and twice finished outside the top 10.
Most remarkable, the Hurricanes did this under three coaches:
Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.
Can Southern California extend its dominance to a decade and
beyond? As good as Carroll is, and as alluring as Los Angeles
can be, the odds are stacked against the Trojans.
There are simply too many moving parts, from players leaving
early for the pros to scholarship limits to coaching
That said, USC's run rates with college football's other
Oklahoma's wishbone under Barry Switzer went 54-3-1 from
1971-75, won a pair of national championships and twice finished
No. 2; Miami was 46-4 from 2000-03, a stretch that included a
34-game winning streak and BCS title.
The final five of Tom Osborne's 25 seasons as Nebraska's coach
were the best. The Cornhuskers earned three national
championships and went 60-3, 38-1 against Big 8/Big 12
College football's longest winning streak, 47 games, belongs to
Oklahoma and was part of the Sooners' 60-3-1 run from 1953-58
under Bud Wilkinson (Chris Schenkel was not his offensive
coordinator). But that was 50 years ago, and comparing college
football then and now is like comparing Western Union and the
No Division I-A program, not even USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma or
Louisiana State, is capable of winning 47 straight. It just
In fact, since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936,
no school has won three consecutive AP titles. USC came within
19 seconds at the January 2006, Rose Bowl, only to lose a
classic to No. 2 Texas on Vince Young's last-minute touchdown.
Yes, the Trojans were that close to authoring major college
football's greatest mini-dynasty — unless you count reigning
three-time I-AA champ Appalachian State.
Injury now a joking matter to USC's Mark Sanchez
By David Wharton and Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 24, 2008
Finally, the truth comes out.
Mark Sanchez and his dislocated kneecap? A clever ruse to escape
the drudgery of practice.
Moments after USC's training camp officially ended Saturday,
Sanchez grinned and laid out his master plan. Last summer, he
missed time with a broken thumb; this year it was the knee.
"I mean, I'm skating through the practices like they're
nothing," he said.
But then the grin evaporated and the junior quarterback talked
about the anguish of being injured, the worries of
rehabilitation and, now, his relief at recovering ahead of
Saturday marked his first attempt at playing in a scrimmage-like
situation, running the first team offense for more than a dozen
That included rolling out, throwing on the run and even
scrambling on occasion. He missed a few receivers and, during
seven-on-seven drills, overthrew a streaking Ronald Johnson,
overexcited about getting back into action.
But his passes had zip and, on a fumbled snap, Sanchez showed no
hesitation diving on the ball.
"I didn't want to [mention the] fumbled snap," Sanchez said.
"Did I look fast, though?"
Fast enough to reinforce expectations that he will be ready for
the season opener at Virginia on Saturday. As for his backup,
practice was also noteworthy in regards to who did not play. At
least not much.
Sanchez and Aaron Corp split most of the snaps, with Mitch
Mustain getting only limited duty. Mustain said he was not
"I guess that's just the way it worked out," he said. "I have no
Coach Pete Carroll did not give a reason for Mustain's light
workload and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian suggested the
coaches might not announce a No. 2 quarterback for now.
"You want to keep both of them motivated and competing," he said
of Corp and Mustain.
Sanchez still faces a few more milestones in his recovery. After
wearing flat-soled shoes this weekend, he will switch to cleats
Monday or Tuesday. There is also the issue of contact.
"I think I'm going to need to get tackled a couple times," he
said, adding: "Just to get the feel back."
Cornerback Cary Harris returned to practice wearing armor to
protect the shoulder he injured in the Trojans' second
"Cary's got a real nice harness on there right now and a
bullet-proof vest," Carroll joked. "You can't hurt that guy
Cornerback Shareece Wright was held out again because of groin
soreness, but Carroll said he would probably return Monday.
In the meantime, senior Josh Pinkard and junior Kevin Thomas
have been working with the first-unit defense.
Though game-week practices start Monday, USC has already
installed a game plan for Virginia, coaches feeding it to the
team in bits and pieces this week.
"That doesn't mean much unless we can do it right," Carroll
said. "So this week will be about cleaning it all up."
The Trojans are off today. . . . Tailback C.J. Gable (hip) said
he would practice Monday and be ready for the opener. . . .
Carroll said the status of recruit Nick Perry remained uncertain
pending Perry's second attempt at completing a test.
ACC can talk a good game
Caulton Tudor, Staff WriterComment on this story
There have been nights this summer when Virginia football
player Clint Sintim has had trouble falling asleep. That's the
degree of his excitement about the Cavaliers' opening game
Saturday against visiting Southern California.
"Just thinking about that game gives me the chills," Sintim, a
senior linebacker, said recently. "I've had it on my mind since
the end of the last game last season. Being on the same field
with Southern Cal in Scott Stadium -- what a blast that's going
For the Cavaliers and their ACC brethren, the prayer is that it
will indeed be a blast, and not a blasting.
The same goes for at least two other conference openers this
week -- N.C. State at South Carolina on Thursday and Clemson vs.
Alabama on Saturday in Atlanta.
"It's a great chance for a lot of our teams to show the world
what we can do," Clemson defender Michael Hamlin said. "Those
are the kinds of games players sort of live for."
Those are also the kinds of games that routinely have kept the
ACC's national image modest. Including an 0-2 stand by Miami and
Florida State against Florida, Miami's trip to Oklahoma, an
ear-ringing loss by Virginia Tech at Louisiana State and
Maryland's 17-point setback against West Virginia last season,
many of the ACC's big-game excursions resulted not only in
defeat, but in outright embarrassment.
"Last year is over and done. It's gone," said Jason Fox, Miami's
best offensive lineman. "Rather than moan about it, the best
thing for the teams in the league to do is use it for motivation
and make people forget."
That is definitely the collective league stance as the
opportunity for redemption approaches. Traditional powers
Florida State, Miami and Clemson expect to be much improved
while at least three others -- State, North Carolina and Duke --
think fast progress has been made by new coaching staffs. Two
others -- Virginia Tech and Wake Forest -- insist there will be
"Top to bottom, the ACC's going to be better -- a lot better, I
think," said Jeff Jagodzinski, beginning his second season at
But will it?
The '07 season ended with a imposing exodus of skill-position
personnel, led by former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, and
that's been the ACC's most obvious shortcoming for several
years. The league really hasn't had an abundance of consistent
offensive big-play makers since the 2002 season. Even then, no
league team finished higher in the final polls than the Wolfpack
at No. 11 in the coaches' ranking and No. 12 in the Associated
"There's no substitute for quickness," Florida State coach Bobby
Bowden said. "But it goes in cycles, too. If you look around the
league, I think you see that quickness level getting back up
Clemson should have enough offensive pop to get past Alabama,
although it certainly won't be easy. But on paper, Virginia and
State will find it difficult to match pace with Southern
California and South Carolina.
At worst, the ACC needs to go 1-2, with a pair of competitive
losses, in these three big-top openers. An 0-3 run, complicated
by a wipeout or two, would equate to a devastating weekend that
would be difficult to overcome.
Then, there's the David factor.
Miami, Georgia Tech, Carolina, Boston College, Maryland, Duke
and even Virginia Tech (against East Carolina in Charlotte) are
playing down in their openers. In some cases, ACC teams are
playing way, way down. One loss, or even a few close shaves, in
those games would give rise to eyebrows far and near.
Few leagues do better on the football talking points than the
ACC. But the time always arrives when talking has to evolve into
doing. That time is at hand.
30 things to know about USC
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Published: August 23, 2008
Here we are, less than a week from perhaps the biggest home opener in Scott
With Southern Cal coming to town, we thought it appropriate to introduce fans
with 30 things you should know about the Trojans:
No. 1: From the start, let’s make sure we get it right. It’s not Southern Cal,
even though people often use that name. The school prefers to be called Southern
California or USC and for its teams to be referred to as the Trojans or Troy.
They feel it’s inappropriate to be called Southern Cal, noting that it’s the
same as calling North Carolina, “North Car.”
No. 2: Under coach Pete Carroll, the Trojans have become the first ever to boast
three Heisman Trophy winners within a four-year span. In all, USC has seven
Heisman winners, including one it can’t be very proud of in O.J. Simpson.
No. 3: USC and UVa began football programs in the same year, 1888. However, USC
fielded rugby teams and not football squads in 1911, 1912, and 1913, the same
three-year span that Cavalier football teams went posted a collective 21-6
No. 4: Southern Cal owns a 10-6 record against members of the ACC.
No. 5: The school’s athletic director Mike Garrett, who has held the post since
1993), is somewhat familiar with this part of Virginia. We were told that he
used to own a place at Wintergreen and would vacation there each summer and play
No. 6: Garrett, by the way, won the Heisman in 1965 when he became the first in
a long line of great USC
I-formation tailbacks, followed by Simpson, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles
White and Marcus Allen. Reggie Bush was the most recent star Trojan tailback.
No. 7: Two former Washington Redskins head coaches were once assistant coaches
at USC — Joe Gibbs and Norv Turner.
No. 8: One of the greatest alumni of USC was known more for his acting skills
than his football: John Wayne, “the Duke,” was a tackle for the Trojans in 1925
and 1926, although he played under his real name of Marion Morrison, a name that
wouldn’t fly on the silver screen. Beginning in 1980, the Wayne family started a
scholarship for a USC player in John Wayne’s name.
No. 9: Just for kicks, some other famous alumni of USC: actors Will Ferrell,
John Ritter, Cybil Shepherd, Forest Whitaker, Marlo Thomas and Fess Parker.
Others of note: Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf; astronaut Neil Armstrong; columnist Art
Buchwald; opera star Marilyn Horne; Hollywood directors Ron Howard (yes, Opie),
George Lucas, Sam Peckinpah; and former NFL great and football play-by-play man
No. 10: USC will bring its full band to Scott Stadium. It’s called “The Spirit
of Troy.” If you watch
much college football, you will be familiar with two of the songs: “Fight On,”
usually played after first downs and scores, and “Tribute to Troy,” which seems
to be played over and over and over, but is supposed to be played after every
No. 11: By the way, one USC alum we didn’t mention previously was a former
member of the Trojans’ marching band, famed trumpeter Herb Alpert.
No. 12: And, for heaven’s sake, yes, USC’s Song Girls will be in attendance.
We’ve been asked that question more than any other since the game was announced.
They’re famous for their white sweaters and have been proclaimed one of the best
things about college football by veteran ESPN gridiron connoisseur Beano Cook.
No. 13: No, the USC horse, “Traveler,” is not scheduled to make the trip. We
don’t think that Traveler actually travels.
No. 14: Virginia will become the 34th state (plus Japan) where the Trojans have
No. 15: Carroll owns a
76-14 record (84.4 percent), making him the winningest active coach in major
No. 16: He has coached 30 first-team All-Americans in his previous seven seasons
No. 17: During that same span, 42 of his players have been NFL draft picks,
including 11 taken in the first round.
No. 18: Southern Cal is the all-time leader in first round NFL draft choices
with 71, followed by Ohio State with 66. No ACC team ranks in the top 15 in this
No. 19: USC is 5-2 all-time in games played in August.
No. 20: This will not be Carroll’s first visit to Scott Stadium. He was N.C.
State’s defensive coordinator under Monte Kiffin from 1980-82, and the Wolfpack
won both appearances in Charlottesville against teams coached by Dick Bestwick
and George Welsh (Welsh’s first year).
No. 21: USC has 33,500 students, of which 16,500 are undergraduates.
No. 22: The Trojans’ depth chart goes nine deep at split end, nine deep at
flanker, and seven deep at tailback.
No.23: Carroll and UVa coach Al Groh have criss-crossed a bit in their careers,
but never really gone head-to-head in scheming against one another because they
were both defensive coaches for most of their careers. They both were head coach
of the New York Jets for one year only, with Carroll resigning after a 6-10
record to become defensive coordinator of the 49ers and Groh resigning after a
9-7 record to become UVa’s head coach.
No. 24: USC has a record of 84-23-8 in season openers (.765) and is 26-7-1 in
No. 25: If you’re expecting the Trojans to score a jillion points on the
Cavaliers, you might want to look at last season’s USC results. In six of their
games, the Trojans didn’t exactly blow away the opposition: won 27-24 at
Washington; lost 24-23 vs. Stanford; won 20-13 vs. Arizona; lost 24-17 at
Oregon; won 24-7 at Cal; and won 24-7 vs. UCLA.
No. 26: USC senior linebacker Clay Matthews may have met Groh before, but may
not remember. Groh coached Matthews’ father, also named Clay, in 1992 while
serving as linebacker coach for the Cleveland Browns. Matthews, who was in his
next-to-last season, played in 278 games, third-most in NFL history. The elder
Matthews also played at USC.
No. 27: Virginia thought it had a good chance to land linebacker Brian Cushing
of Park Ridge, N.J., a few years ago until USC came into the picture. Cushing is
now a senior All-American candidate for the Trojans.
No. 28: There are 82 Californians on the USC roster and no one from Virginia.
No. 29: USC’s team will be leaving Los Angeles at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday on a
U.S. Airways flight and will arrive in Charlottesville at 9:30 p.m. Like most
visiting teams, the Trojans will stay at the Doubletree hotel. They will depart
C’Ville at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night and arrive back in L.A. at 11:30 p.m.
No. 30: Virginia will return the visit to USC on Sept. 11, 2010. It will be
USC’s second game of the season after opening Sept. 4 at Hawaii.
The ACC had grandiose visions of football supremacy when it added Virginia Tech,
Miami and Boston College. But those hopes have not materialized, and the league
remains in the shadow of the SEC.
File photo | The Roanoke Times
The ACC had high hopes that expansion would turn the league into a football
superpower admired across the land.
It hasn't happened. If anything, the league's reputation has been slipping.
The ACC is not considered one of the nation's top football leagues a la the
Southeastern Conference or Big 12. It has never landed two teams in the Bowl
Championship Series in the same year, unlike the aforementioned leagues or the
Pacific 10 or Big Ten.
The ACC is in a "down cycle," said ABC analyst Bob Griese. He considers the SEC
the nation's best league.
"The SEC, ... it just seems like with the amount of players and recruits that
they get, and the teams [it has], and the coaching jobs all these guys are
doing, they're the dominant [league]," Griese said.
The ACC was ranked sixth among the 11 Division I-A conferences in The Sporting
News' preview magazine, the lowest ranking among the BCS leagues. Lindy's ranked
the ACC fifth in its preview magazine.
There are only three ACC teams in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll,
compared to six SEC teams, five Big 12 teams and four Big Ten teams. The five
other BCS leagues each have at least one team ranked ahead of the ACC's
top-ranked member, No. 9 Clemson.
That wasn't what the ACC expected when Virginia Tech and five-time national
champ Miami came aboard in 2004, followed by fellow Big East import Boston
College a year later.
"I think we're the best [league]," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said in the summer
"I think we're looked upon as being on equal footing [with the SEC]," ACC
commissioner John Swofford said in the summer of 2005.
No one is saying that anymore.
Expansion has certainly fattened ACC members' wallets. But the ACC has lost
eight straight BCS bowls since Florida State beat then-Big East member Virginia
Tech in the Sugar Bowl in January 2000, which greatly tarnishes the league's
reputation. The Hokies were responsible for the latest loss, falling to Kansas
in the Orange Bowl last January.
"You've got to start winning those BCS games," ABC and ESPN commentator Doug
Flutie said. "The SEC has been stronger. ... Would a team from the ACC or Big
Ten with two losses be put in the national title game [like LSU last season]? I
don't think so."
"We have not done well in the BCS and ...that shows ... whether or not your
conference is good, is winning on the highest stage," Georgia Tech offensive
tackle Andrew Gardner said.
The ACC hasn't produced a national champion since that FSU win over the Hokies.
The league hasn't even had a team in the BCS title game since FSU lost to
Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in January 2001.
"You've got to have a national champion come out of your conference, which they
used to [have]," said Rick "Doc" Walker, the analyst for the ACC's syndicated
game of the week. "Without the flash team -- no LSU, no USC, no Florida State in
the old days or Miami in the old days, you're not going to get the [media]
The biggest reason for the ACC's decline?
"We've been down," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said of his Seminoles.
"Miami's been down."
FSU and Miami have won a combined seven national titles. The Seminoles finished
among the top five in the final AP poll for 14 straight years, ending with the
2000 season. But FSU has lost at least four games in five of the past seven
seasons, and is coming off its second straight 7-6 campaign.
Miami went unbeaten in 2001, capping the season with its fifth national crown.
The Hurricanes, though, went 7-6 in 2006 and 5-7 last fall.
"Miami [was] not going to stay up there and do what they were doing," Griese
said. "Florida State finishing in the top [five] ... that just doesn't go on and
on. You have to have some down years.
"I'm not surprised the [ACC] thing has hit a down cycle, and I won't be
surprised when it comes back."
At the end of the 2005 season, the ACC's first year with 12 teams, the league
went 5-3 in bowl games. But last season, the ACC went just 2-6 in bowls -- its
fewest wins since going 1-4 in the bowls that followed the 2000 season.
Last season's losses included the Hokies' defeat in the Orange Bowl; Clemson's
overtime loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta; and Virginia's loss
to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl.
"If we come out this year and win the Gator Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the ...
Chick-fil-A Bowl, people are going to be like, 'Wow, the ACC is back big-time,'"
Gardner said. "That'll do a lot to change the perception nationally."
The ACC was just 11-15 against the other BCS conferences last year, including
both regular-season and bowl games. That included a 3-6 mark against the SEC and
a 2-4 mark against the Big 12. That does not include losses to the likes of
Wyoming, Central Florida and East Carolina.
The regular season featured LSU's 48-7 thrashing of the Hokies, Oklahoma's 51-13
rout of Miami, and West Virginia's 31-14 win over Maryland.
And then there was Florida's 45-12 undressing of FSU, and Georgia's 31-17
victory over Georgia Tech. The two SEC teams have owned those series in recent
"The SEC and the ACC, we're kind of like rivals," Georgia Tech defensive tackle
Vance Walker said. "We need to beat them. That's the bottom line.
"It all goes back to just winning nonconference games against them; bowl games,
too. We can win the national championship, but if we lose to somebody from the
SEC, that just makes it even worse, to let the nation know the SEC's better than
The ACC will have plenty of chances to test itself against the SEC this year.
Clemson opens against Alabama at the Georgia Dome. Clemson and North Carolina
State both face South Carolina. Florida State and Miami will both take on
Florida. Wake Forest will meet Mississippi and Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech will
face Mississippi State and Georgia.
"If all this [Clemson] hype is for real, we'll go out there [against Alabama]
and play good and we'll get out of there with a win," Clemson quarterback Cullen
Harper said. "ACC vs. SEC, ACC's got to step up and start winning these games.
... We've got to show up ..."
At least there is one area where the ACC has bragging rights -- the NFL Draft.
The ACC has had 115 players picked in the last three drafts combined, more than
any other league. The SEC is second with 112.
If only all those picks translated into a greater number of prestigious wins.
"Look at the NFL Draft," Hokies quarterback Sean Glennon said. "I don't think
it's a lack of talent [in the ACC, but] I will say the SEC seems to be the