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Canty evolving into a force for Cavs
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Oct 15, 2002

 
Early in the third quarter last Saturday, Virginia defensive end Chris Canty beat his blocker and met Clemson tailback Yusef Kelly in the backfield. Kelly slipped out of his grasp and ran for a first down, however, leaving Canty smacking his own helmet in disappointment.

Four plays later, on another third-and-short for the Tigers, Canty again shoved aside left tackle Gary Byrd and hit Kelly behind the line. This time he made no mistake, slinging Kelly down for a 3-yard loss.

Those two plays showed what makes Canty special - his ability to wreak havoc on an offense - and why UVa coach Al Groh calls him "an evolving talent."

Far from a finished product, the 6-foot-7, 290-pound sophomore has shown signs, especially in recent weeks, of becoming the dominant defender the Cavaliers desperately need on the line.

"I'm just starting to get to where my expectations were for this year," said Canty, who predicted "great and amazing things from myself" before the season.

"I still have a ways to go, but I'm starting to feel healthy now, man, finally. I really just want to help this team."

Canty, who made 23 tackles as a redshirt freshman, was expected to assume a prominent role this season. But he broke a bone in his right leg during spring practice. It healed slowly, forcing him to miss most of preseason camp and the first two games.

"As that commercial said, it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. She's got a mind of her own," UVa coach Al Groh said. "The rehabilitation and healing were not coming along as we originally were told because Mother Nature was going to decide when that leg was ready to play football again."

Canty saw his first action in Game 3 against South Carolina. He recorded his first career sack on his fourth play and ended up making seven tackles. He also came off the bench in each of the next two games as the coaches decided to bring him along slowly.

Now, he says, he is 100 percent - and playing like it. In his first start of the season against Duke, he made 12 tackles, including a sack. He recorded six tackles against Clemson, two behind the line of scrimmage, and now has 39 tackles for the season.

"Chris is a baller. He plays hard every day, every play," freshman linebacker Darryl Blackstock said. "He's big, he's fast, he can do it all out there. Chris is just an awesome player."

"He's had a huge impact for us," senior linebacker Merrill Robertson said. "He's a playmaker and that's what you need on defense."

Canty's return has been a godsend for UVa's young defensive line. By virtue of his 200 plays last season, he was the team's most experienced returning lineman. In his absence, freshmen Brennan Schmidt and Kwakou Robinson were the starting ends.

Canty provides a pass rush that is otherwise lacking on the line, and his infectious enthusiasm rubs off on his younger teammates.

"Chris is a great player. Getting him back helps a lot," said Schmidt, who still leads the defensive linemen with 41 tackles. "He's another high-motor guy. He's pretty vocal out there on the field. He's made us better as a defense."

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Virginia is 5-0 with Canty, 0-2 without him.

A Charlotte, N.C., native, he said he is looking forward to Saturday's home game against North Carolina. He wants to extend UVa's winning streak to six and keep getting closer to his potential.

"Being hurt in training camp, that was a tough time for me," Canty said. "It was very frustrating - very, very, very frustrating.

"Seeing my teammates working and sweating, I really wanted to be out there working with them. I felt I could contribute a lot of things to this team. Now that I'm finally able to do that, I just want to keep contributing more and more."

 

 

In search of some passion
/ Daily Progress sports editor
Oct 15, 2002

 
Where is Tony Dingle when you need him?

With the biggest game in two years coming up at Scott Stadium on Saturday, there wasn't an ounce of hostility showing toward Carolina. With the Blue Bellies of Chapel Hill cross the border and try to win a football game on Virginia soil for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president and Barney Miller was the best show on TV, there wasn't any trash-talking going on in the Cavaliers' locker room.

What happened to the good old days when Virginia players talked about how they hated that particular tint of blue so badly that it made them ill, that they wouldn't allow that color on anything in their homes. What happened to guys like Dingle, who talked about what he would do if he could get his hands on "Benedict Ronald" Curry?

I mean, what is this game on Saturday, a border war or a sleepover?

This game is HUGE, not only for Virginia's season but for the Cavaliers' immediate future. The only thing standing in UVa's way of gaining a sixth win, eight weeks into the season, is the Tar Heels.

There are only 24 teams in the six major BCS conferences and Notre Dame that have a chance to wake up Sunday morning with six or more victories in their pocket. Virginia is one of those.

While coaches and players say they don't pay much attention to polls and bowls at this juncture of the season, there's more excitement around Charlottesville than people might admit. The Cavs were mentioned in the Others Receiving Votes category of the AP poll this week. No doubt there will be several of those bowl reps, dressed like a fruit cup in their colorful blazers, wandering around Scott Stadium on Saturday to see what these Hoos are really about.

Well, Virginia had better treat Saturday as if it were a bowl game because the Tar Heels are coming to town aiming to spoil the Cavaliers' party. It is arguable that UNC knocked UVa out of a bowl game last season with a close game in Chapel Hill.

Now, they're marching into Charlottesville, coming to Al's House and they're not aiming to knock on the door. They want to kick it down, end two decades of futility here and laugh all the way back to the border.

You see, Carolina hasn't won at Scott Stadium since 1981. They never beat George Welsh here in 10 tries. Dick Crum couldn't do it. Mack Brown couldn't do it. Carl Torbush couldn't do it.

Some of Virginia's best comebacks ever were staged against the Heels. Remember the Six-Million-Dollar interception when Mack Brown got greedy and went for a touchdown rather than a win-securing field goal. Antwan Harris picked off a pass and took it back 96 yards for a touchdown as UVa came back in a huge upset, knocking Carolina out of a Fiesta Bowl bid and a mega-million payday.

Curry and pal Bobby Blizzard stood on Scott Stadium turf and basked in the glory of committing to Virginia, then reneged and went elsewhere. Curry went to UNC, Blizzard to Kentucky. But Blizzard transferred to Carolina and will finally set foot in Scott Stadium again on Saturday, no doubt to a warm Virginia welcome.

Cavalier fans will surely show him some love.

North Carolina coach John Bunting said this week that he had not been aware that the Tar Heels hadn't won here since 1981.

"That's a long, long time," said Bunting. "Obviously we'd like to take care of that problem this weekend."

Every Tar Heel has been made well aware of it since Monday.

"Will I bring that up? Sure, I will," said Bunting.

If Virginia wants to play in a bowl game this year, if the Cavaliers want the nation to take notice of how far they've come in such a short span of time, if they want some of the big-time recruits they're chasing to take a little closer look, then this is a must game for the Wahoos.

North Carolina might be the most dangerous team Virginia will face this year. The Heels, who beat Syracuse and Arizona State on the road, who dominated N.C. State for the first half of last week's game, are teetering on a less-than-spectacular season.

Saddled with four losses already, the Heels still have to play Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State and Duke after Virginia. They can't afford many more losses or the season is essentially lost.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers' season could just begin if they notch number six this weekend.

"I think everybody is re-excited because of the winning streak," said senior offensive tackle Mike Mullins.

Cornerback Jamaine Winborne said that every game is a big game from here on out.

"Clemson was big, but North Carolina is even bigger because it's this week's game," said Winborne. "It's just another step we're taking. We want to show people that last Saturday wasn't a fluke."

Not bad guys, but you'll notice there wasn't any real juicy stuff. Maybe these guys are just smarter than the players of the past, careful not to have their quotes posted on a Carolina bulletin board.

"It's the South's oldest rivalry," said sophomore Alvin Pearman, who hails from Charlotte, N.C. "For me, personally, it's a big game because I'm from North Carolina. It's a big rivalry and I think everybody knows that."

After 106 games between the two, you would think that somebody could be nastier than that for gosh sakes.

Oh well, maybe they're saving it for 107th on Saturday.

 

 

Granby graduate starring for Tar Heels
By RICH RADFORD, The Virginian-Pilot
© October 16, 2002


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In search of a way to get faster, Dexter Reid didn’t run with mini-parachutes attached to his back to create wind resistance.

He didn’t do sprints in a lap pool or wear ankle weights to class.

“I raced cars,” said North Carolina’s standout junior free safety.

Don’t confuse Reid with Jeff Gordon. Instead of getting behind the wheel, Reid would get down in a sprinter’s start, then run like the dickens. While it can be said that Reid has “wheels,’’ he doesn’t have four of them. The cars always won, but not without a challenge.

“I could beat ’em for the first 15 or 20 yards,’’ said Reid, who grew up in Norfolk. “But you can only win for so long when you’re running against a machine.”

These days, some think Reid is the machine.

The 6-foot, 187-pound Granby High School graduate leads the ACC in tackles with an average of 13.5 per game. He’ll look to add to that number when the Tar Heels (2-4) visit Virginia (5-2) Saturday in Charlottesville.

Reid is the latest product of a South Hampton Roads factory that churns out standout defensive backs in much the same manner the local Ford truck plant produces F-150s.

Three former area stars — Dre’ Bly, James Boyd and James Whitley — are playing in defensive backfields in the NFL. And the area has enough defensive backs starting in Division I-A to outfit two units.

Kevin Knight, who played at Suffolk’s Lakeland High, also starts in the Tar Heels’ defensive backfield. Ronald Brewer, from Chesapeake’s Indian River High, is a backup at cornerback for the Tar Heels.

Both starting cornerbacks at Virginia Tech come from Hampton Roads: Ronyell Whitaker from Norfolk’s Lake Taylor High and DeAngelo Hall from Chesapeake’s Deep Creek High.

David Johnson from Virginia Beach’s Princess Anne High has started at Kentucky since his freshman year. Chris Crocker is a standout at Marshall. Jamaine Winborne starts at defensive back for Virginia.

The well is nowhere near running dry. Kellam High’s Robbie Catterton has already committed to Virginia while Lakeland’s Travis Miller, Western Branch’s Daniel Turner and Lake Taylor’s Phillip Holloman all draw the recruiters’ eyes.

And that’s just the senior class.

“Programs like Notre Dame and Michigan aren’t coming here looking for kids without reason,” Deep Creek coach David Cox said. “We put out talented, fast, skilled kids. And they know how to get faster. Back in the 1970s, either you could run or you couldn’t. Now kids say, ‘How can I get faster?’ And then they go about doing it. Most of them are track stars, too.’’

Indian River coach Cadillac Harris, who has also been head coach at Green Run, Maury and Elizabeth City State, believes that “when young players in this area began to read stories about kids in Florida who could run the 40 in 4.3 seconds, they figured they better find a way to get quicker.”

“There is a direct correlation between good speed and good football,” Harris said. “There’s also something to be said for consistency. Joe Paterno at Penn State once told me, ‘Cadillac, I’ve never had a lemon out of Tidewater.”

Whether you call it Tidewater or South Hampton Roads, Cox said the coaching fraternity here is doing an excellent job of feeding the beast.

“If a college coach comes to my place, or goes to Western Branch to see Lew Johnston or Granby to see Dave Hudak and asks, ‘Who else in the area can play?’ we’re going to tell them they need to go look at this kid at that school.”

Reid, however, is arguably having the best year of the bunch.

Last season while playing on a senior-dominated unit that included national Defensive Player of the Year Julius Peppers and top-five NFL draft pick Ryan Sims, Reid had 99 tackles.

This year, he is on pace to finish with more than 150, a total topped by only one Tar Heel since 1990 — linebacker Dwight Hollier. Barring a big slowdown in production, Reid will shatter the UNC record for tackles by a defensive back of 118, set by Billy-Dee Greenwood in 1999.

Coming into the season, The Sporting News rated Reid as the second-best safety in the country. He was also on the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. The screening committee is expected to announce 10 finalists in about two weeks.

It would come as little surprise if Reid makes the list, and when he walks into Scott Stadium on Saturday, the Cavaliers and their faithful will all too well remember him from last season. His 67-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the Tar Heels’ 30-24 victory.

But Reid reminds that the spotlight can be as harrowing as it is rewarding.

“The defensive back spot has become a limelight position,” Reid said. “But you’ve got to take the good with the bad. College football might be a majority of zone defenses, but when the ball goes up and there is a wide receiver and a defensive back, then it’s a one-on-one game.

“If a lineman misses an assignment, it’s lost in the shuffle. If a defensive back misses. …

“To play back there, you have to have some thick skin. You are always on the island and constantly have your critics. The media can get tough on you, so if you’re a DB you better have a short memory. Deion Sanders and Ronnie Lott were two of the best all-time, and they got burned their fair share. The key is, are you willing to bounce back?”

Knight, who rooms with Reid, said that Reid bounces back mentally and physically.

“He’s a warrior,” Knight said. “We can play on Saturday and he’ll put an ice pack on after the game and be ready to go on Sunday. Sometimes, I don’t know how he does it.”

Reid packs a wallop when he hits opponents, and much of that wallop is caused by the buildup.

Reid, who also starred in track and basketball at Granby, has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds.

“I’m fast because the man upstairs blessed me and because of my heredity,” Reid said.

And his explanation for South Hampton Roads’ proliferation of speedy defensive backs?

Said Reid, with a grin: “I’d like to say it’s something in the water.”

 

 

Stepping in, and stepping up
UVa linebacker Rich Bedesem gets significant playing time against Clemson and makes the most of it.

By DOUG DOUGHTY
THE ROANOKE TIMES

   CHARLOTTESVILLE - At the end of his one-year coaching tenure at Virginia, Dick Bedesem could not have imagined that he would be making Scott Stadium a regular stop almost 20 years later.

    Bedesem coached the Cavaliers' offensive backfield in 1981, but he never had an on-field experience to match what he felt as a spectator Saturday.

    Rich Bedesem, the oldest of Dick and Robin Bedesem's five children, took over for an injured Angelo Crowell at linebacker and contributed nine tackles and a critical interception as Virginia knocked off Clemson 22-17.

    "We were all jumping up and down," said Dick Bedesem, who was at the game with his wife and his son's girlfriend. "It was a very proud moment for a lot of reasons. Richie had been through a lot of adversity."

    Rich Bedesem was one of a handful of signees who played as a freshmen in 2000, ex-coach George Welsh's last season, and put himself in a position to receive ample playing time last year under Al Groh.

    Indeed, when starting inside linebacker Merrill Robertson suffered a dislocated ankle in the season opener at Wisconsin, Bedesem was the logical choice to take his place.

    However, in practice the next week, Bedesem suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and required reconstructive knee surgery.

    "I was fortunate, in a sense, because I had not been redshirted," Bedesem said. "The injury came early enough that I could get an extra year."

    On the other hand, he was looking at six months of intensive rehab if he wanted to make an impression in the spring. On top of that, UVa was in the process of signing two of the nation's top linebacker prospects, Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham.

    "I just looked at it as, if they're going to be real good, it's going to make me work harder and make me be a better player," Bedesem said.

    Brooks and Parham could be franchise players, but Brooks is at Hargrave Military Academy after failing to meet NCAA eligibility requirements and Parham has a back problem. Bedesem has been the chief back-up for Crowell and Robertson.

    "I had been on the field for Merrill," Bedesem said. "Then, Merrill came back on the field. I got ready to go off and he said, 'No, you're still in.' I didn't know Angelo had gone to the locker room. I never did find out what was wrong with him.

    "I wasn't really nervous. I played at Wisconsin last year. I've played at Florida State two times. The only difference this time was, I was playing at the end of the game, at the end of a game when it mattered."

    Assuming Crowell's job of setting the defense was the least of Bedesem's concerns.

    "I think there's a certain understanding that goes with growing up around football [as] coaches' sons," said Groh, whose own son, Mike, played and now coaches for the Cavaliers. "He certainly exhibits that."

    One of the major influences in Rich Bedesem's career was his grandfather, Dick Sr., who was the head coach at Villanova and later Delaware Valley State and Neshaminy (Pa.) High School.

    The older Dick Bedesem was at Villanova when it dropped football, which may account in a roundabout way for his grandson being at Virginia. Dick Jr., a former Villanova quarterback, was on his father's staff at the time and landed at Virginia.

    "It all happened so quickly," Dick Jr. said. "I had just gotten married, Villanova dropped football at Easter and Richie was born the next fall."

    Then, after the Cavaliers went 1-10, head coach Dick Bestwick accepted a buyout of his contract and successor George Welsh did not retain any of Bestwick's assistants. Dick Jr., then 27, never coached again.

    "I put my family ahead of my career," said Bedesem, who took a position in advertising at the Philadelphia Enquirer, where he remains 20 years later. "Virginia opened my eyes to the [realities] of major-college football."

    When he could, he helped with his father's teams and it wasn't long before 3- or 4-year-old Rich was tagging along to practice. Richard Bedesem III even lived with his grandparents for a time in high school.

    The family was going through a move and needed to pay extra attention to Rich's younger brother, Brian, who was 15 1/2 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer.

    Brian Bedesem, now at Millersville State College, has been cancer-free for two years. However, when Rich was a senior at Council Rock High School in Holland, Pa., his grandfather died after a brief illness.

    "It was during football season," Dick Jr. said. "They asked Richie if he wanted to play that week against Central Bucks West, but there was no question he was going to play. Coach [Mike] Pettine came up to him after the game and said, 'This was the greatest performance [by an opponent] in my coaching tenure here at West.'"

    His father left Charlottesville with generally favorable impressions, but Rich was under no subtle pressure to attend UVa. He had been to Penn State's camp after his sophomore year and chose UVa from among 4-5 schools that invited him to come to camp after his junior year.

    "It's hard to say why he chose Virginia," Dick Jr. said. "Richie had always been a Virginia fan. Maybe it was because he was born there. You'd have to ask him."

    "I didn't know anything about Charlottesville. I was only here for six months," said Bedesem, the only UVa player born in Charlottesville.

    Two days after he was born, UVa won its only game of the 1981 season, defeating VMI 13-10. A lot has changed since. Capacity at Scott Stadium has grown from 42,000 to 61,500, Astroturf has been replaced by natural grass, and the Cavaliers have back-to-back victories over Clemson.

    "No question, if my dad were still around, he would have been there Saturday," Dick Jr. said. "When you see [Richie] get an opportunity like that, you look up in the sky and think that maybe somebody's looking after him."

 

 

Early dividends for Cavs
Groh's recruits play major roles for UVa
By A.J. CARR, Staff Writer

Halfway through his second season in Charlottesville, Virginia football coach Al Groh can see the results of his ambitious recruiting efforts by glancing at the lineup card.

Three true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and six sophomores start for the Cavaliers, making them the youngest team in the ACC -- and perhaps the most surprising.

Projected to finish eighth in a preseason media poll, Virginia (5-2, 3-1 ACC) is third heading into its home game Saturday against North Carolina.

Already able to boast about Virginia's strong academic reputation and football tradition, Groh uses his NFL experience to appeal to prospects.

So far, that pitch is working. College Football News rated Virginia's 2002 freshman class No. 2 in the country and SuperPrep, a recruiting service, ranked it ninth.

"We've tried to turn up the recruiting energy here however possible," Groh said. "It's a [vital part] of our daily life."

That includes sending what one Virginia official described as a "flood" of mail to prospects.

In all, 13 true freshmen have contributed this season. Offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, linebacker Darryl Blackstock and running back Wali Lundy are starting in their first season.

Blackstock is the team's third-leading tackler with 60 total hits, Lundy leads the Cavaliers in rushing (44 yards per game), receptions (38, first in the ACC) and all-purpose yardage (125.7 per game) and benefits from the blocking of Ferguson, who turned down Michigan State and Syracuse.

"Coaches with schemes but without talent become coaches of unimportant teams," Groh said. "Talent trumps tactics most of the time. Our challenge is to acquire the top talent. If we can put together another class like this past one ... "

He's off to a good start. Jordy Lipsey, a top-rated offensive lineman at Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla., picked Virginia last week over No. 1 Miami.

"He told me he was impressed with the caliber of kids Virginia is recruiting and that he felt Virginia is the No. 1 public institution in the country," said Allen Wallace of SuperPrep magazine.

Groh's 14 seasons in the NFL -- including one year as head coach of the New York Jets -- give him additional clout.

"I got used to coaching pro football players, and I plan on continuing to do that," Groh said. "It's just that I will do it before they get to the NFL. We want that type of talent."

Wallace said many high school stars think they'd be better off playing for coaches with pro experience. He added that Groh is known as an enthusiastic coach "who sells well, makes a favorable impression" and gives younger players a chance to play.

Freshman defensive end Kwakou Robinson said Groh's NFL background influenced his decision to sign with Virginia.

"I knew if I couldn't make it to the draft, he could help me out, get me a tryout," said Robinson, a 6-foot-4, 322-pound former Parade All-America from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Lundy, a SuperPrep All-America from Willingboro, N.J., said Groh recruited him "real hard. He was very aggressive. He wouldn't stop. He doesn't let up."

Virginia senior Mike Mullins said he can see the difference in the new players, noting that they are bigger, stronger and faster.

Groh is tapping more than his NFL background to attract talent. The players like his system -- a 3-4 defense and NFL-style offense run by coordinator Bill Musgrave, former offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers.

"[Groh's] bringing in a new age of football, a pro-style offense and defense and intensity within the coaching staff," Mullins said. "They're fired up, and it's rubbing off on the players."

The Cavaliers, with only six senior starters, have won five straight games but aren't bowling over opponents yet. Their last three victories have been by a combined 14 points, and they have been outgained by each of their past four opponents.

Virginia netted only 2 yards rushing against Duke but won 27-22 on Oct. 5, thanks in part to flea-flicker trickery and clutch plays by quarterback Matt Schaub and receiver Billy McMullen.

The Cavaliers rallied from a 27-10 halftime deficit to beat Wake Forest 38-34 last month. On Saturday, they conquered Clemson 22-17, dominating the second half.

"[Groh] puts an attitude in us that no matter what's going on, we're going to win," McMullen said. "He [emphasizes] you've got to be better than your opponent every day. He's got a motor I've never seen before. I think he gets up at 4 in the morning ... goes until I don't know when."

Until he gets where he wants to go.

"We want to challenge for the ACC championship," Groh said, "and challenge for the national championship."

 

 

Surprising Cavaliers surging toward bowl trip
By Gregg Doyel
Special to ESPN.com
 
Projected in the preseason as the eighth-place team in the ACC, ahead only of Duke, Virginia has bamboozled the "experts" -- including this one, tragically -- with a mixture of young and old players that seem to have two things in common: amazing resilience and awesome talent.

After beating Clemson at home this past Saturday, the Cavaliers are riding a five-game winning streak, their longest in four years, and are looking like a sure-fire bowl team in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.

Not that Virginia coach Al Groh would ever say such a thing.

"My attitude right now is (we're) just trying to find where the sixth (win) is going to come from," he says. "We've got six more (games), so I'm trying to find where the next one is going to come from. Should we be so fortunate to get that one, then we're going to try hard to find where the seventh's one going to come from."

And maybe then No. 8 and No. 9.

Virginia is winning the hard way, but it's winning nonetheless. The Cavaliers have made a habit of trailing in the second half and then rallying, including a 17-point comeback against a Wake Forest team that has defeated Georgia Tech and Purdue. In all, Virginia has outscored its last 10 foes after halftime, winning seven of those games.

The formula has included a handful of veterans -- junior quarterback Matt Schaub, senior receiver Billy McMullen, senior linebacker Angelo Crowell and an all-upperclassman secondary -- sprinkled throughout one of the youngest rosters in the country.

Of its 95-player roster, only 10 are seniors, while 44 are true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. That includes tight end Heath Miller, a huge surprise at tight end for two reasons. One, he has seven touchdown catches -- the most ever by a Virginia tight end, and the second-best total in ACC history. And two, Miller was recruited as a quarterback.

Three of the team's top four rushers are freshmen, led by Wali Lundy, a former all-state receiver whose 11 catches against Clemson set a Virginia record for a running back, and tied the school mark at any position. Lundy leads the ACC with 38 catches.

Other freshmen in key roles include starting tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and linebacker Darryl Blackstock, who leads the country's true freshmen with six sacks. Both are members of a 2002 recruiting class ranked among the Top 10 in the country.

Groh hopes to duplicate that success next year, the next and the next.

"Seeing the talent they've brought to this program motivates me and our staff to try to bring in more talent," Groh said. "Recruiting will be the lifeblood of this program."

Schaub is the heartbeat. Maligned throughout last season as a co-starter along with Bryson Spinner (who transferred) and benched this season for the start of the second game, Schaub has rebounded from a Game 2 benching to become the No. 5-rated passer in the country. He has thrown for 1,527 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions, providing an unexpected challenge to N.C. State's Philip Rivers for All-ACC honors.

Along with making a star of Miller, Schaub has thrown three touchdowns to another tight end, Patrick Estes, while also getting the ball to All-American candidate McMullen (30 catches).

"It's like night and day from what I saw (of Schaub) last year," says Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. "I thought we saw a kid who didn't seem to be real confident, seemed to have happy feet in the pocket, just did not seem to be a take-charge kind of kid.

"This year, it's the complete opposite. He's someone who seems to have control of the offense, seems to understand the offense and sits in the pocket well. He makes all the throws. He's got a nice touch underneath, but against us the difference was deep balls. There were a couple throws he made I don't care how well we played them -- they were going to be completed."

To qualify for a bowl, the Cavs still must win at least one more game. Even with a closing schedule of North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Penn State, N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia Tech ... book it. Virginia has shown too much tenacity and talent to slip now.

 

 

Tar Heels can't wait to take show on the road
UNC,winless at home, will try for its first ACC win Saturday at Virginia

By Bill Cole
JOURNAL REPORTER
 

CHAPEL HILL

Recovering from what Coach John Bunting called being taken behind the woodshed and given a whipping at home, North Carolina will search for its first ACC victory this week by taking to the road.

Leaving home might be in North Carolina's best interest. If there's one place the team needs to get away from right now it's Kenan Stadium, where four games have meant four losses, the most recent coming last Saturday when N.C. State stormed to a 34-17 victory.

The Tar Heels are headed for their first winless season in Kenan since the 1952 season and only the second since the stadium was built in 1927.

"I'd rather play on the road now," said tight end Bobby Blizzard. "I wish the rest of our games were on the road. We've played good enough to win, but for some reason we just can't finish a game."

There's a catch to this road game, however. It's at Virginia.

North Carolina hasn't won in Charlottesville since 1981. That's 10 games, four North Carolina coaches and four presidential administrations ago.

Bunting was still playing for the Philadelphia Eagles when North Carolina last won at Virginia. But North Carolina has won at Syracuse and at Arizona State this season, so Bunting said that a third road win is possible.

But before that happens, he said, every North Carolina player who steps on the field at Scott Stadium has to play better than he did against N.C. State.

"I don't think we're going to get bigger," Bunting said. "I don't think we're going to get any faster. I don't think we're going to get a lot stronger.... But we can get smarter in football. And we can get better in our technique."

Bunting said that with improvement, the defense can force a pass rush on quarterback Matt Schaub and slow the running game that the Cavaliers use as the second part of their attack.

While Bunting said he's most concerned about getting his players in the right spots to make tackles, cornerback Kevin Knight said the players feel frustrated and that coming back from the N.C. State loss will be difficult.

Quarterback Darian Durant took the loss hard, saying that his fumble in the third quarter was the deciding factor in the game. The Heels were leading 17-13 when Durant fumbled. They were down 20-17 one play and one extra point later.

Bunting said he understands why Durant feels responsible for the loss and why the players are perplexed with their inability to win at home. But he said he wants all of that forgotten and for the players to prepare for a team with a five-game winning streak.

"We've got to keep working; we've got to keep grinding away," Bunting said. "To me it's a grind. I'm not going to nurse anybody. I'm just going to grind on them to get it done.

"You've got to make them understand that this isn't a new phenomenon. This is not something that's happened just to them. And they can't fall into the trap of feeling sorry for themselves and think everything is all a bunch of gloom. There's a bright side: We get to play next week."

Defensive end Isaac Mooring could provide some help this week if he's cleared to play by team trainers. Mooring had surgery for two broken bones on his right hand that forced him to miss the past three games. If Mooring can't play, Bunting said he's considering removing Xavier Rainey, Alden Blizzard and Brian Rackley from redshirt seasons and playing them on the line.

The team's travel routine will be altered. The Tar Heels will travel by bus to Charlottesville on Friday and stop in Lynchburg, Va., for lunch. Bunting jokingly said he might take the players to an amusement park on the way up.

The team will fly back after the game. Bunting said his intention is to create the close conditions that brought the team together at Arizona State and led to a 38-35 victory.

"We'll just keep working on the technique thing and try to give them a scheme that they can understand and work with, execute and maintain," Bunting said. "That's the whole thing: we've got to be able to maintain."

 

 

Blizzard returns to Virginia as Tar Heel

Associated Press
 

CHAPEL HILL - Bobby Blizzard had decided he would follow the crowd to Virginia.

He and two longtime friends - including Ronald Curry - orally committed to play for the Cavaliers out of Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia. It seemed like the perfect plan.

But Blizzard soon changed his mind. He ended up at Kentucky. When things didn't work out there after two seasons, he transferred to North Carolina, where Curry had settled.

The Tar Heels travel to Virginia on Saturday, and the 6-foot-3 tight end is preparing for his first trip as an opponent to the stadium he originally planned to call home.

"Actually I can't wait to get my hands on them," Blizzard said Tuesday. "It will be an emotional game for me."

Blizzard has split time with Zach Hilton at tight end for the Tar Heels (2-4, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who are coming off a 34-17 loss to No. 13 North Carolina State. He has 12 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns, including a 22-yard touchdown catch against the Wolfpack.

"He is a good, good player who has a chance to become a great player," North Carolina coach John Bunting said.

Blizzard said he, Curry and Darnell Hollier had planned to go to the same college after playing football together for years. Then came the day in 1997 when Blizzard got a call from his teammates.

"They were like, 'We're going to Virginia. Are you coming?"' Blizzard said.

Blizzard followed suit, joining his teammates at Scott Stadium the next day to watch Virginia's game against Auburn. But he soon had second thoughts.

He talked with his parents and decided that he wasn't thinking for himself. He said he wasn't sure if Virginia's offense would use his skills as a receiver. Kentucky passed often.

"I didn't want to block nobody at the time," Blizzard said. "I wanted to go where I was going to get the ball."

Blizzard spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy before playing two years for the Wildcats, catching 30 passes for 275 yards. But he decided to transfer to North Carolina in the summer of 2001.

Curry was entering his senior season with the Tar Heels, but Blizzard had to sit out the year as a transfer. He worked with the scout team, facing off with future NFL first-round picks Julius Peppers and Ryan Sims.

Since arriving in Chapel Hill out of shape at 280 pounds he has slimmed down to 262 pounds.

"Since he's been here, he's kind of retooled his body," Bunting said. "He's a lot stronger, he's a lot better conditioned, and he's a lot faster than he was when he got here."

Blizzard hasn't been to Scott Stadium since the Auburn game he attended with his Hampton teammates five years ago. He said he's aware of how Virginia fans booed Curry mercilessly both times he played there.

But Blizzard isn't worried.

"I just wanted to go with my buddies," Blizzard said. "It just didn't end up like it was supposed to."

Notes: North Carolina hasn't won at Virginia since taking a 17-14 win in 1981. Bunting said he'll talk with his team about the streak. "That's a long, long time," he said. "Obviously we'd like to take care of that problem this weekend." ... The Tar Heels have won both of their road games, but are 0-4 at home. ... Bunting is 4-0 all-time against Virginia, winning three times as a player and last year's game as coach. ... Safety Dexter Reid leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in tackles with 82. ... Darian Durant has thrown for 683 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.

 

UNC linemen eating it up

 
By Neil Amato : The Herald-Sun
namato@heraldsun.com
Oct 15, 2002 : 11:41 pm ET

CHAPEL HILL -- It’s Wednesday night, so that can mean only one thing for the North Carolina offensive line: Dinner, together.

The emphasis, though, is more on "together" than "dinner." Yes, calories are crucial to the line, but none of the players need to lose weight and some of the younger ones are trying to put on 30 pounds or more. But the players and their coach believe the time bonding is just as important to becoming the kind of blocking unit they hope to be.

That’s why they regularly meet for meals, sometimes at a restaurant, sometimes in the film room and sometimes at the home of offensive line coach Hal Hunter.

More than any other position, the line takes the most time to get synchronized. There are myriad blocking techniques, but all must be done in step with four others.

"We’re the only guys on the team who have to have 100 percent contact and togetherness to be successful," center Jason Brown said. "We have to be in tune with one another. …

"It’s almost like developing a sixth sense, a feeling of knowing what the guy next to you is doing."

On Wednesdays, the guy next to Brown might be passing the queso dip or getting a refill on a basket of chips at Monterrey, a Mexican restaurant that has become a favorite of the line. Guard Jeb Terry entertains the guys by conversing in Spanish with the waiters; Brown gets a good-natured ribbing for talking on a cell phone to his girlfriend.

About once a month, the players converge on Hunter’s house for a Thursday night meal (the NCAA deals with such events by saying only that they can happen "occasionally").

The players join Hunter’s sons in some video games before partaking of the food Hal’s wife, Tracy, has prepared. Sometimes they watch the Thursday night college game; sometimes, Hunter wonders if he’s going to have a few 300-pound, overnight guests.

"The food is so good," Terry said. "You’ll walk in there with your stomach swollen and just go lay on the couch or something. We kind of have to force some guys to leave. We don’t want to intrude too much. There comes that time when you have to start dragging guys off the floor."

The only rule for these get-togethers at Hunter’s: No football talk.

"They get a chance to see me as me and with my wife and kids and not as a guy that’s always grinding on them," Hunter said. "I think spending time together outside of football is important. I’ve never had a good offensive line that hasn’t spent time together as a group away from the facility."

It wasn’t Hunter’s idea that the players meet for meals away from his house. That they decided to do on their own, to develop a closeness they hadn’t seen in previous UNC blocking units.

Offensive line was once an annual strong point for the Tar Heels, who churned out 1,000-yard rushers at a higher rate than any other program. But it was a weak point even in the mid-1990s, when the Tar Heels won 10-plus games three times.

UNC hasn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 1992, and its current blockers still have work to do. Hunter knows it, and so do the players. The Tar Heels (2-4, 0-2 ACC) have allowed the most sacks in the conference, though playing from behind and abandoning the run is one reason for that.

Still, this group seems to have a solid upside, with three sophomores and two juniors starting. Hunter said he sees the line taking more than baby steps.

"They understand who they’re playing next to, and the communication’s starting to come," said Hunter, who has coached the offensive line at five other Division I-A schools. "We made progress against Syracuse, especially the second half. We played well against Texas and Georgia Tech."

But the line has struggled some since, in a victory over Arizona State and a loss to N.C. State. Both teams hounded quarterback Darian Durant, even though Durant threw five touchdown passes against the Sun Devils. Hunter said that experience, in the long run, could be good for the line.

"I think it’s a good reality check," Hunter said. "You have to stay humble. They can’t start to think they’re a finished product. That isn’t the way to go. So I would say we’re heading the right direction, but we took a step back and now have to head back in the right direction."

UNC coach John Bunting has said one of the keys to this season and future ones is the development of the line. He sees the group developing unity but wants better performance.

"They’re the salt of the earth, those offensive linemen," Bunting said. "Because they get beat down a lot, they hang together, they work together. It’s so important for them to have the most teamwork on the team."

 

 

Heels hope this trip breaks long drought

10-16-02
By LARRY KEECH, Staff Writer
News & Record

CHAPEL HILL -- When North Carolina's football team left Virginia's Scott Stadium with a surprisingly difficult 17-14 victory in 1981, there were no clues that it wouldn't happen again for 20-plus years ... and counting.

Since then, the Tar Heels have made 10 quiet bus trips home from Charlottesville. They will be bucking the odds yet again when they try to end the drought Saturday (Noon, WFMY-2).

"I was not familiar with the situation with regard to Virginia," said John Bunting, who will visit Charlottesville for the first time as UNC's head coach.

Despite the drought, Bunting's 2-4 Tar Heels are no more than a 5-point underdog against a UVa team that has won five straight games since opening the 2002 season with two losses.

Virginia's mastery of longtime rival Carolina at Scott Stadium is a vestige of the traditional "home field advantage" that no longer seems quite so difficult for visiting teams to overcome.

Indeed, Bunting's '02 Tar Heels currently have a 2-0 record on the road as opposed to their 0-4 record in Chapel Hill.

Bunting's background as an NFL player and assistant coach enables him to take road games in stride, and his positive attitude about them seems to rub off on his players.

"I've always liked playing on the road," Bunting said Tuesday. "I guess the fans and the noise can still bother some teams. But playing in a different atmosphere is fun for me. Overcoming the hostility is a challenge."

Bunting said his approach to road games emphasizes camaraderie and fun.

"When we make the bus trip to Charlottesville on Friday, we'll stop for lunch on the way up there and try to find some group activity that will be fun when we get there," Bunting said. "The coaching staff is going to spend time with the players instead of going on recruiting assignments Friday night."

So far this season, Bunting's thorough midweek preparation for road games and more relaxed approach to the trips themselves has paid off with a 30-22 win at Syracuse and a 38-35 victory at Arizona State.

Bunting's three predecessors -- Dick Crum, Mack Brown and Carl Torbush -- apparently imparted more tension to their players in the last 10 visits to Charlottesville.

Even though Carolina won that '81 game, it might have set the tone for the next 10. Crum's Heels were ranked No. 13 nationally when they matched a 7-2 record against the Cavaliers' 1-8 mark.

Even though Kelvin Bryant rushed for 171 of UNC's 320 yards on the ground and Rod Elkins passed for 117 more, Carolina barely hung on for a three-point win. While the Heels rolled to a 10-2 finish that included a Gator Bowl victory over Lou Holtz' Arkansas team in the "fog bowl," Virginia finished 1-10 in Dick Bestwick's last season as head coach.

That win was UNC's 13th in 14 games against Virginia. It also gave the Heels 23-7 record against UVa since the ACC was formed in 1953 and a 50-33-3 mark in the series.

George Welsh succeeded Bestwick as the Cavs' head coach. His 13-5-1 record against Carolina included the 10-0 mark at Scott Stadium.

Brown's record against Virginia was 3-7 overall and 0-5 at Charlottesville.

The most memorable Brown vs. Welsh game took place in 1996, when Brown was cast in the role of Captain Ahab and Virginia became his Moby Dick.

Carolina came into Scott Stadium with an 8-1 record, a No. 6 ranking and a Fiesta Bowl bid on the line against a Virginia team with a 6-3 record.

The Tar Heels appeared to have the game in hand with a 17-3 lead and the ball deep in UVa territory in the waning minutes. Then Chris Keldorf's third-down pass was intercepted by freshman Antwan Harris of Raleigh and returned 95 yards.

Another Virginia touchdown tied the game, and Rafael Garcia's 32-yard field goal won it.

Most of Carolina's current players, including nine Virginians, were barely born in 1981.

"The '81 game was a little before my time," said tight end Bobby Blizzard of Hampton.

 

 

Line Of Duty
Perseverance mark of Cavs' blockers

 

TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

 
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Virginia's most talented and most experienced offensive lineman, junior center Kevin Bailey, played less than two games before suffering a season-ending knee surgery Aug. 31 at Florida State.

His backup, sophomore Mark Farrington, also happened to be the first-string left guard. Farrington hurt his left knee in the same game, though not as seriously as Bailey, and left Doak Campbell Stadium on crutches.

With Bailey out, senior right tackle Mike Mullins and sophomore right guard Elton Brown were the line's only "veterans." Each entered the year with four career starts.

For a line that wasn't considered a strength heading into Al Groh's second season as U.Va.'s coach, this was not an auspicious beginning. More than one observer figured the Cavaliers' offense would sputter and stall because of attrition up front.

"I think people on the outside would say that, but everybody on the offensive line can play," redshirt freshman Brian Barthelmes said. "That's something that nobody on the outside knew."

Outsiders are starting to catch on. Offensive-line coach Ron Prince's charges don't dominate -U.Va. ranks eighth among ACC teams in rushing offense -but they've persevered under trying circumstances.

The Cavaliers (3-1, 5-2), winners of five straight, are averaging 31 points. They've allowed only eight sacks, the third-fewest in the ACC, and have given junior quarterback Matt Schaub enough time to complete 69.7 percent of his passes.

"We just have a lot of people stepping up," the 6-6, 324-pound Brown said. People such as redshirt freshman center Zac Yarbrough, who began the season as a third-teamer and never had snapped the ball to a quarterback in a college game before Bailey got hurt. And junior guard Ben Carber, who dressed for seven games last season and played in none. And Farrington, who played only on special teams in 2001. And Barthelmes, who began the season at left tackle but, after injuries to Farrington and Carber, began training at left guard two weeks ago.

"He's kind of a brawler," Groh said.

The 6-7, 286-pound Barthelmes started at guard last weekend against Clemson and is expected to line up there Saturday on U.Va.'s first series against visiting UNC. Yarbrough has an injured thumb on his snapping hand, but for another week at least, the game of musical chairs at center and left guard appears to be on pause.

"For a little bit there it was Bailey and Farrington, and then it was Bailey and Carber, and then it was Yarbrough and Carber, and then it was Yarbrough and Farrington back in, and then it was Yarbrough and Barthelmes," Groh said.

The pillars have been Mullins, Brown and true freshman D'Brickashaw Ferguson. At 265 pounds, Ferguson is decidedly light for a Division I-A offensive tackle. No matter. He's started at the important left spot - he's responsible for protecting Schaub's blind side - since the opening game.

"There's been two or three games now that we've played where, in talking with a friend of mine before the game, an opposing coach that obviously was looking at these tapes all week long, they say, 'Whoa, that No. 66, he's something, isn't he?' " Groh said. "Just the physical skills he shows at that position, they're pretty apparent."

In 2001, Brown became the first true freshman in 28 years to start on U.Va.'s offensive line. Brown didn't start his first game until Nov. 3, though, and he had veterans on either side of him.

"Now, D'Brickashaw's gone out there without that luxury," Groh said. "Of all the players that he's played beside this year, he's had by far the most snaps, and he's a true rookie."

The best news for Virginia might be this: Of the offensive linemen on its two-deep, Mullins is the lone senior and Carber the only junior. Mullins' understudy is Brad Butler, a 6-8, 271-pound true freshman.

"When I get out of here, this line's going to be set," Mullins said. "That's great for the future of the team."