Looking back on back memories for Cavs fans
On Nov. 3, 1990, 16th-ranked Georgia Tech beat No. 1 Virginia 41-38 on Scott Sisson's 37-yard field goal with seven seconds left.
That was Yellow Jackets' last victory in Charlottesville. They get a chance to end the drought on Saturday.
I was curious, so perhaps others are, too. Here's David Teel's game story from the Jackets' 1990:
By David Teel
Virginia, college football's most controversial No. 1 team in six years, fell from its pedestal Saturday, the victim of haunting offensive mistakes and a quarterback with a magician's sleight of hand.
The Cavaliers' dreams of a national championship, and probably an Atlantic Coast Conference title, were dashed as Scott Sisson's 37-yard field goal tumbled through the twilight and between the uprights with seven seconds remaining to give No. 16 Georgia Tech a 41-38 victory before a record crowd of 49,700 at Scott Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets (7-0-1, 5-0-1 in the ACC) can clinch the conference championship and a Florida Citrus Bowl berth with a victory Nov. 17 at Wake Forest. Virginia (7-1, 4-1), meanwhile, must digest failure in a game that brought unprecedented national attention to its program and was the first-ever November matchup of undefeated ACC teams.
"I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm disappointed," Virginia cornerback Tony Covington said. "They didn't beat us. We lost."
That will not matter to the pollsters, whose judgment of Virginia created more debate than any No. 1 ranking since Brigham Young's 1984 national championship. The Cavaliers will fall in the polls and out of the national championship picture.
Virginia's most glaring mistakes came after Sisson's 32-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining gave Tech its first lead at 38-35. Shawn Moore's 48-yard pass to Herman Moore and a subsequent dead-ball personal foul gave the Cavaliers first-and-five at the Tech 6-yard line.
Shawn Moore ran 4 yards, then Nikki Fisher 1 to give Virginia first-and-goal at the 1. Fisher was stuffed, and then guard Chris Stearns moved before the snap, the illegal procedure penalty pushing the Cavaliers back to the 6.
Moore's 5-yard pass to Moore set up third down from the 1, and Aaron Mundy then caught the apparent go-ahead pass. But Virginia had only six men on the line of scrimmage, one shy of the minimum and also an illegal procedure penalty. In fact, the Cavaliers had only 10 men on the field, which is legal. The seventh man on the line and 11th on the field should have been another tight end - Mark Cooke or Charles Keiningham.
After the 5-yard procedure penalty, linebacker Calvin Tiggle knocked down Moore's pass intended for Herman Moore in the end zone. With 2:34 remaining, Virginia coach George Welsh elected to have Jake McInerney kick a 23-yard field goal, which he converted to tie the game.
"Inexcusable," Welsh said of the goal line foul-ups.
"I wasn't going for a tie," he added. "We still had two-and-a-half minutes to go. Maybe they'll put the ball on the ground, or maybe the defense will rise up for a change."
It didn't. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Jones completed three consecutive passes, the final one a 15-yarder to Greg Lester on third-and-five from the Virginia 35. Sisson then kicked the game-winner on first down.
"It wasn't a long kick," Sisson said. "But pressure can get to you. ... I was trying not to think about it. I knew they were going to call some timeouts. I didn't want to stay on the field and let them freeze me, so I tried to go over and talk to the guys in the huddle."
Sisson's field goal capped a 27-point second-half for the Yellow Jackets, who trailed 28-14 at halftime after the Cavaliers scored on all five of their first-half possessions.
Jones was the catalyst, passing for 257 yards and two touchdowns and running for 52 more and another score. Jones' fakes and bootlegs keyed a misdirection offense that confused the Cavaliers.
"He's an athlete," Covington said of Jones. "If you don't contain him, it's going to be tough to beat Georgia Tech. ... We didn't in the second half, and you saw the results."
"Our Shawn is a great quarterback, too," Tech coach Bobby Ross said.
But the Yellow Jackets were reeling until Tiggle recovered Shawn Moore's fumble at the Virginia 28-yard line on the first play of the third quarter. Four plays later, Jerry Gilchrist scored on a 12-yard reverse, and Sisson's conversion made it 28-21.
Virginia promptly drove to the Tech 15, where Moore floated a pass in the left flat to Fisher. The ball bounced off Fisher's hands to Tiggle, who ran 38 yards to the Virginia 48. The Cavaliers held, but Scott Aldredge's punt pinned them at their own 4.
The Yellow Jackets stopped the Cavaliers on three plays, setting up a 46-yard touchdown drive, which Jones capped with a 26-yard pass to Emmett Merchant, who beat safety Keith McMeans on a post route to tie the game at 28.
The teams traded touchdowns, Virginia scoring on a 63-yard Moore-to-Moore hookup, Tech countering with William Bell's 6-yard run, to tie the game at 35 and set up the final sequences.
Shawn Moore passed for a school-record 344 yards and ran for three touchdowns. Herman Moore caught nine passes for a career-high 234 yards, and Terry Kirby rushed for 104 yards, his fifth consecutive game in triple figures.
Still, Welsh said, "We had too many mistakes on offense. The fumble and interception. ... We fouled up on the goal line. ... We didn't play good defense in the second half. We never stopped them. It all adds up to a loss."
Backups Jackson, Parr stepping up for U.Va.
By Michael Phillips
Published: October 21, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- A number of injuries that could have sunk Virginia this year instead had little effect on the team.
The Wahoos' backups follow the lead of their coach, who preaches the motto "next man up" in practice settings. The goal is to have the reserves trained just as well as the starters, so a replacement can be made seamlessly.
"You've got to be ready at all times," defensive end Zane Parr said. "You don't know when somebody in front of you could go down with an injury or not perform well."
Parr became the latest Cavs player to be thrown in when he replaced the injured Matt Conrath for the second half of last Saturday's game. With Conrath out for the week, Parr has moved up to the first team in practice this week.
Coach Al Groh said that he's been using the saying since he arrived at Virginia nine years ago, taking the general philosophy from his mentor, Bill Parcells.
"We understood that everybody on the team was expected to perform, and be ready to do so," Groh said. "We had some great examples of that the other night."
In particular he singled out fullback Rashawn Jackson, who had a career-high in yards and carries as he filled in for the injured Mikell Simpson.
Instead of the full-time workload catching Jackson off-guard, he said that he'd been receiving multiple carries in practice all year.
"It was just a normal week for me," he said. "I always prepared knowing I'd be the next man up."
The job of backup is hardly a picnic at Virginia, as evidenced by Parr's recent efforts. He's the top backup for all three defensive line positions, so he had to be ready to come in and play any of them.
In addition, he comes in to help out when the team is in the dime formation on third-and-long passing downs. At 265 pounds, he's one of the lighter linemen, but he puts his speed to work as one of the Cavs top pass rushers.
"In the dime it's more of a mindset to get to the quarterback and get a sack," he said. "Now it's a totally different mindset -- stop the run, and clog up the running lanes."
If recent history is any indication, Groh will have him ready to go in that role on Saturday, just as the team's other backups have performed when needed.
The skill positions haven't been exempt, starting with Vic Hall being injured and moved to wide receiver, and then Jameel Sewell twisting his ankle, bringing in Marc Verica at the end of Saturday's game.
"Depth is very important," Groh said. "That's why we continue to actively coach and do things with lots of players who we don't expect to play that week, because as the season goes on, if their development can keep up, then they might be your new depth."
He's got the players buying in -- at some point, nearly every player has referenced the "next man up" philosophy when speaking with reporters this year.
Now that they've seen it happen on the field, they feel much more urgency when studying film or taking their practice snaps during the week.
"You've always got to get into your playbook," Parr said. "Just in case something happens and you've got to step up and play well on the field."
Support Fades, But 'Hoos Move Forward
Oct. 20, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- For its Sept. 5 opener, UVa's football team drew 54,587 fans to Scott Stadium. That wasn't a sellout -- the stadium's official capacity is 61,500 -- but the crowd was larger than many expected.
UVa officials would love to see 54,000 fans at Scott Stadium for 11th-ranked Georgia Tech's visit Saturday, but that may be wishful thinking.
A week after the Wahoos' stunning loss to William and Mary in the opener, only 48,336 fans showed up for nationally ranked TCU's visit to Scott Stadium.
Then came two road games, with a bye week in between. When the Cavaliers finally played at Scott Stadium again, on Oct. 10, it was Homecomings. Even so, only 45,371 turned out to see UVa crush Indiana 47-7.
That was Virginia's second consecutive victory. The 'Hoos (2-0, 3-3) ran their streak to three last weekend at Maryland and now lead the ACC's Coastal Division.
Georgia Tech (4-1, 6-1) is second, which makes Saturday's contest that much more meaningful. But thousands of tickets remain for the noon game.
Virginia linebacker Denzel Burrell said Monday that the team has to focus on other things.
"It's really important to have that sense of the community behind you, and everything like that, but we try not to worry about crowd size," said Burrell, a team captain.
"We understand that early in the season, the change in crowds was due to our losses. Obviously, we're trying to change that as much as we can now. We definitely ask for the support of as many Wahoo fans as we can get out there on Saturdays, because it's definitely a big help, not only to us, but definitely a tremendous difficulty to the other team.
"But we try not to worry about that. No matter how many fans we have in the crowd, we just try to keep going and hopefully continue to win."
-- Jeff White
The defense prepares for Georgia Tech
Oct 20, 2009
Virginia’s defenders will face a tough challenge this week against Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets are able to capitalize on confusion in the backfield to break off big plays.
To that end, coach Al Groh is preaching patience this week. The player assigned to shadow the quarterback can’t shift his focus is he feels the ball is headed elsewhere - he’s got to stick with the play.
“You want to make plays and be around the ball,“ linebacker Denzel Burrell said. “But as soon as you cheat, they’ll bring it to your side. They lull people to sleep….If you’re off your game plan for just one play, it can be a 60-yard touchdown.“
The Cavs are one of the few teams to have had success in the past against the Yellow Jackets, squeaking out a 24-17 victory in Atlanta last year. One of the keys was patience - while Georgia Tech runs the offense every week, each opponent is facing its first game against it.
“Coach Groh told everyone to stay calm the first couple drives, that they wouldn’t go our way,“ lineman Nate Collins said. “And they didn’t. But once we made adjustments, everything came together and we ended up stopping them the rest of the game.“
That’s going to put some pressure on the Virginia offense - if the defense allows an early score while adjusting, they’ll have to answer back with a touchdown of their own.
A sneak peek at Georgia Tech
Oct 20, 2009
U.Va. football players got their first look at this week’s opponent on the bus ride home from College Park after Saturday’s win at Maryland.
The bus was showing the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game, which was entering the fourth quarter when the team boarded. So who were the players rooting for?
“A lot of people were rooting for Georgia Tech,“ linebacker Denzel Burrell said. “We had a couple people sitting quietly - but a lot of people going for Georgia Tech, and a lot of people getting anxious to play them this weekend.“
What they saw was a triple-option offense that has lulled defenders into guarding the run, then struck with a big 60- or 70-yard pass downfield. That is, if they can stop the run in the first place.
“One of the things we noticed last year is that it was so fast out there at the beginning of the game,“ Burrell said. “We have to get ready for that this week in practice.“
Groh said that the biggest change from last year is the play of quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who has used his passing skill to introduce a few new wrinkles to the offense.
The coach said it was like a house that was repainted, but the structural foundation remains the same. Probably a good call for the Yellow Jackets, because as the Hokies will vouch, it’s a solid foundation.
‘Big C.C.‘ earns a starting spot for U.Va.
Oct 20, 2009
Defensive end Zane Parr, who earned the nickname ‘Big C.C.‘ for his 95-mph fastball in high school, will replace the injured Matt Conrath this weekend when Virginia takes on Georgia Tech.
Parr was a baseball player as a youngster, and growing up in Williamsport, Pa., he played on the same field used for the Little League World Series - an event he attended every year.
He earned the nickname, after pitcher C.C. Sabathia, because like the Yankees star he was a big lefthander with a dominating fastball. Since Parr is a Yankees fan, he’ll take a particular interest in tonight’s game, with Sabathia on the mound.
But an arm injury set him back sophomore year, and he decided to focus on football, ultimately receiving scholarship offers from U.Va. and Michigan.
The sophomore will get his first start of the season Saturday, replacing the injured Conrath, and says he’s ready to go.
“I’m always taking reps with the twos (backups),“ he said. “And sometimes I step up and play with the ones (starters). So I got reps regularly.“
He’s a pass-rush specialist who will use his speed to try to contain Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense.
Steady kicker boosts U.Va.
By Norm Wood
October 21, 2009
Though Robert Randolph could've gone to college and kicked on scholarship, his decision to walk on at Virginia has paid off.
Randolph, a sophomore from Naples, Fla., has made all nine of his field-goal attempts this fall. He has carved out a niche on a team that has four players kicking, including Jimmy Howell on punts, Chris Hinkebein on kickoffs and Drew Jarrett on extra points. Randolph has gained the confidence of coach Al Groh, who only wants to see Randolph work on getting the ball high more quickly.
"His growth has not really had to be in the area of accuracy," Groh said. "His growth has been in the speed of the operation and how quickly he can get height on the ball. … Both things usually are things that rookie kickers have to grow into, because clearly the intensity of the rush is much more so in college."
Randolph, 3-for-4 on field goals for U.Va. last season, said he has worked on getting fast height by moving the ball very close to the goalpost in practice.
"I guess you've just got to try to feel it out," said Randolph, whose longest kick came from 43 yards this season at North Carolina, but added he has made kicks from more than 50 yards in practice.
In high school, Randolph never gave much thought about kicking for the football team before his sophomore year. He was a soccer guy, but the Naples High football coach told him he'd have a better chance of earning a scholarship in football than soccer. Randolph was sold. He ended up kicking for a Class 3A state champion in his senior year.
He could've gone to New Mexico State on scholarship, but decided to come to U.Va. instead because the school is larger, closer to home and has a good academic reputation. Now, his goal is to earn a scholarship at U.Va.
"That's something I've definitely been working towards," Randolph said.
With defensive end Matt Conrath nursing a sprained ankle he suffered in last Saturday's 20-9 win at Maryland, sophomore Zane Parr has been working with Nate Collins at first-team end this week in practice. Lafayette High graduate Will Hill, a freshman, remains at second-team end. Freshman Brent Urban will move up to second-team end if Conrath can't play Saturday against No. 11 Georgia Tech.
SHUTTING IT DOWN
After giving up 76 rushing yards in the first quarter of last season's 24-17 win at Georgia Tech, U.Va. surrendered just 80 rushing yards the rest of the game against the triple-option attack. U.Va.'s defense may be coming into Saturday's game in the right frame of mind. It has given up 82 rushing yards per game during the current three-game winning streak.
BEEN A WHILE
The last time U.Va. defeated a team as highly ranked as No. 11 Georgia Tech was Nov. 6, 1999, when the Cavaliers won 45-38 against the No. 7-ranked Yellow Jackets.
49U.Va. has turned the ball over just once in its last 49 possessions (an interception in the second quarter against Southern Mississippi).
Jackets rushing to top of chart
By Norm Wood Daily Press
October 21, 2009
1Georgia Tech (6-1, 4-1) | Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the nation's most dangerous rushing duo — Josh Nesbitt, left, and Jonathan Dwyer, who are averaging a combined 174 yards per game.
2 Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1) | Defensive coordinator Bud Foster, right, expected Georgia Tech to gain at least 150 rushing yards last Saturday. He had no plans for his defense to give up 309 yards.
3Miami (5-1, 2-1) | Quarterback Jacory Harris, right, may steal most of the headlines, but the Hurricanes also are 25th in the nation in total defense (306 yards per game).
4Boston College (5-2, 3-2) | After being dubbed underachievers before the season by media for a second straight year, the Eagles again are making a mockery of preseason predictions.
5Clemson (3-3, 2-2) | Winning by 35 points against Wake Forest last weekend helped relieve some of the pressure from coach Dabo Swinney.
6Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) | Though he already has thrown more interceptions this season (nine) than he did all of last season (seven), Riley Skinner, right, still is completing 67 percent of his passes.
7Virginia (3-3, 2-0) | A win against No. 11 Georgia Tech would be enormous for coach Al Groh's job security and U.Va.'s bowl chances, and it would rocket the Cavaliers into the top five of this poll.
8Duke (3-3, 1-1) | Winnable games still remain against Maryland, Wake Forest, at North Carolina and at U.Va., which means coach David Cutcliffe, right, and Duke have a shot at its first bowl appearance since 1994.
9North Carolina (4-2, 0-2) | The good: UNC is third in the nation in total defense (237.7 yards per game). The bad: UNC is 117th in total offense (282 yards). The ugly: Virginia Tech, Miami and BC still are on the schedule.
10 Florida State (2-4, 0-3) | Quarterback Christian Ponder, right, is good (297 passing yards per game, nine TDs, one INT), but only one BCS conference program (Washington State) has a worse defense than FSU (427 yards per game; 107th in total defense).
11N.C. State (3-4, 0-3) | Losing its first three ACC games by an average of 20 points per game and having just one win against an FBS opponent (Pittsburgh) has N.C. State treading water at midseason.
12Maryland (2-5, 1-2) | The Terrapins are either last or second-to-last in the ACC in scoring offense, scoring defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, sacks against, turnover margin and kickoff coverage.
Copyright © 2009, Newport News, Va., Daily Press
ACC football gets offensive
The ACC still can’t match other conferences’ Heisman quarterbacks, dynamic receivers and All-American tailbacks. But after five consecutive seasons of feeble offenses, league teams are scoring more points and producing more fan-friendly games.
Miami 38, Florida State 34.
Georgia Tech 49, FSU 44.
Wake Forest 42, Maryland 32.
Duke 49, North Carolina State 28.
Southern Mississippi 37, Virginia 34.
That’s just a handful of examples, and the primary reason is experienced quality quarterbacks. Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis, Florida State’s Christian Ponder, Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt, Miami’s Jacory Harris, North Carolina State’s Russell Wilson, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor and Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner – incumbents all -- are having excellent seasons.
Granted, we’re just halfway through the season, and offensive output tends to wane as teams encounter the teeth of conference play. But some of the numbers are striking.
For example, last season Wilson was the only ACC quarterback with a passer rating of better than 130. This year, seven are above that mark, paced by Taylor’s 159.9 (last season Taylor was at 103.3).
Florida State, meanwhile, was the only conference team to average better than 30 points in 2008. This year Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Duke and Boston College are scoring more than 30 a game.
The ACC-wide upgrade is evident in the national stats as well. Last season, Georgia Tech led the conference in total offense at 372.5 yards, which ranked 50th in the bowl subdivision. This week, Florida State (27th), Georgia Tech (31st) and Duke (44th) are among the top 50, and six ACC teams average better than 375 yards.
It’s also worth examining the lower end of the rankings. In 2007 and ‘08, nine of the 12 ACC teams were below 80th in total offense. Eight were below 80th in ’06. This week, only Maryland, Clemson and Virginia are that low.
Not to completely disparage the offenses of past years. To be fair, the ACC has been home to some great defenders.
N.C. State’s Mario Williams, Clemson’s Gaines Adams and Virginia’s Chris Long were the first defensive players selected in the NFL drafts of 2006-08, respectively. Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry was the second defensive player and No. 4 overall pick in 2009.
Moreover, of the 13 ACC players chosen in the first three rounds of April’s draft, nine were defensive.
The last ACC team, by the way, to rank among the nation’s top 10 in scoring was N.C. State in 2003. The Wolfpack averaged 37.6 points, eighth-best, with a pretty fair quarterback in Philip Rivers.
We’ll leave you with a question: If the voting were today, for whom would you vote first-team all-ACC quarterback?
His 1-for-7 passing effort against Virginia Tech on Saturday notwithstanding, we’d go with Georgia Tech’s Nesbitt over Florida State’s Ponder. Nesbitt’s skillful running of the triple-option has the Yellow Jackets ranked 11th nationally in spite of a porous defense.
Ponder (nine touchdown passes, one pick, 296.8 yards per game) has great stats, but the Seminoles are 0-3 in the ACC. Results matter.
It’s no coincidence that the ACC’s best quarterbacks staged the season’s wildest conference game to date, albeit against some shoddy defense. Ponder threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-44 loss; Nesbitt countered with 140 yards and three scores on 27 carries, and added 131 passing yards, 73 on a touchdown strike to DeMaryius Thomas.
It’s not quite Graham Harrell playing pitch-and-catch last season with Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech, but for the ACC, it will do.
Posted by David Teel
UVa kicker eager for status change
UVa's Robert Randolph hopes his streak of made field goals will earn him a scholarship.
By Doug Doughty | The Roanoke Times
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Almost as noteworthy as Robert Randolph's 2008 Virginia place-kicking debut was the canary-yellow suit in which he held his first meeting with the media.
"That'll be coming out again," Randolph said this week. "I've got a seersucker one as well."
Randolph's wardrobe Saturday had more of a charcoal tint to it, but his clothes weren't the story after a 20-9 victory over Maryland.
Randolph's two field goals against the Terps lifted him to 9-for-9 for the season and 12-for-13 for his UVa career, including 11 in a row.
The UVa record for most consecutive field-goal attempts without a miss is 14, established by Jake McInerney in 1989.
Randolph attempted a 39-yarder that was blocked last year at North Carolina or else he might be perfect.
Virginia couldn't reward him with a clothing contract; that would be prohibited by the NCAA. But the Cavaliers could put him on scholarship.
Randolph came to Virginia in the summer of 2008 as an invited walk-on, and that status hasn't changed.
"Coach [Al Groh] hasn't approached me about it yet," Randolph said. "That's something I've definitely been working towards.
"I came here knowing that I'd have a chance to get playing time and eventually earn a scholarship my second or third year."
Virginia already has a scholarship kicker in the program, redshirt sophomore Chris Hinkebein. Just as Randolph was joining the UVa program, the Cavaliers successfully persuaded ex-soccer All-American Yannick Reyering to kick last season.
Reyering was still around last spring when the Cavaliers added another kicker, All-Tidewater selection Drew Jarrett from Virginia Beach.
Reyering was gone by the fall, but Groh did not tip his hand until the season opener against William and Mary, when Hinkebein came out for kickoffs and Randolph handled field goals and extra points.
That's the way things remained until the fourth week of the season, when Jarrett started kicking extra points.
Groh said this week that he thinks the competition has kept all of his kickers sharp, although Hinkebein's inconsistency on kickoffs has been a matter of some concern.
Two of Hinkebein's kickoffs sailed out of bounds in Game 5 against Indiana, at which point Groh summoned Randolph and advised him to "squib" the ball down the field.
Keeping the ball low hasn't been a problem for Randolph (5-foot-10, 160-pounds), who played soccer for 15 years and was on soccer travel teams for 10 years
"That was my main sport, the thing I loved to do the most," said Randolph, who was a defender, playing mostly in the middle. "My high school coach actually came to a soccer game my sophomore year and asked me to kick in the spring.
"It was not something I'd aspired to do, but I had kicked a football before. When my coach asked me to do it, I definitely said I'd give it a try. Probably the most difficult thing is not being in the game the whole time and then having to go in and perform."
Coach Bill Kramer also told Randolph that scholarship opportunities were greater in football than college soccer, where most of the grants are partials.
By the time he was a junior at Naples High School, Randolph had won the kicking job for a team that went 15-0 and won the Florida Class 3A championship when he was a senior.
Randolph was 11-for-16 on field goals as a senior and appeared headed to Division I-A New Mexico State on a full scholarship before Virginia entered the picture.
"It's a bigger school and I definitely wanted to come to a bigger school," said Randolph, who preferred the academics and also noted that Virginia "was closer to home."
Groh's chief concern with Randolph from the start was the height of his kicks, although that hasn't been a problem this season.
The next frontier for Randolph is distance. His longest field-goal attempt in two seasons has been a 42-yarder and his kickoffs do not approach the end zone. As a result, Randolph trained at a swimming pool this past summer to improve his leg strength.
"You can look at him; there's not a lot of muscle mass there," Groh said. "Let's put it this way: They probably don't make those yellow suits in big-man sizes."
Soccer roots translate into lofty kicks
Randolph’s perfect season starts with adjustment in form, ability to create higher trajectory on kick
Aaron Bernstein, Cavalier Daily Staff Writer
Featured / Football / Sports
October 21, 2009 0
Sophomore kicker Robert Randolph leads Virginia with 33 points and has converted all nine of his field goal attempts this season, including two last week against Maryland. Photo by Jason O. Watson.
Some may find it surprising that sophomore kicker Robert Randolph is the Cavaliers’ leading scorer so far this season. After all, in college football, kickers are usually only noticed when they fail to deliver on crucial field goals. Six games into the season, however, Randolph has delivered on every opportunity and has maintained an unblemished record.
Randolph is a perfect 9-for-9 on his field goal attempts this season, and his 33 total points match the margin by which the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents. Last Saturday’s game against Maryland underscored the importance of having such a consistent kicker. Randolph’s two made field goals were the only Virginia points that resulted from sustained offensive drives, while the opposing kicker’s two missed field goals sealed the Terrapins’ fate. The rain didn’t seem to faze him at all.
“That’s the thing a lot of people have a problem with — trying to adjust,” Randolph said. “[For me] it’s mainly just trying to stay the same on every kick.”
Although he may seem like a veteran kicker, Randolph has just begun to grow into his role. He did not start playing football until his junior year at Naples High School in Florida. Growing up, soccer was his primary sport, which he played for 15 years, including 10 on a travel team. He started as a center defender throughout his high school career, even after he took up football.
“My high school [football] coach actually came to a soccer game my sophomore year and asked me to kick in the spring, so I kicked in the spring and did well,” Randolph said.
His foray into the new sport paid quick dividends when his team went undefeated and won the Florida AAA State Championship his senior year. Still, Randolph’s transition from soccer to football was far from seamless.
“Kicking is maybe a one-time deal,” Randolph said. “That was probably the most difficult thing to get used to — not being in the game completely the whole time and then having to go in and perform.”
Playing the continuous 90 minutes of a soccer game is different than trotting out for a few — though critical — moments of a football game. But Randolph’s training may suggest a similar approach to the sport.
He spent nearly five days a week last summer building strength and endurance, often through pool workouts. Now, he nails 50-plus yard field goals in practice while focusing on another transition from soccer to football: the trajectory of his kicks.
“It’s like a guy with his golf shot — you either hit line drives or hit the ball with a little bit of an arc on it,” coach Al Groh said. “It’s to your benefit to get a little bit of a trajectory on it. Then the less the golfer is stubborn or the kicker is stubborn, they’re gonna change to what’s most effective.”
The sophomore realizes much of his improvement will come from personal adjustments.
“You just gotta feel it out,” Randolph said. “I try to practice on the goal post and move the ball up in the end zone, so I’m real close to the goal post, and just try to figure out what works best for me to get the ball up. Whether it’s how far I lean off the ball, how low my foot gets — just gotta feel it out.”
The loft of the kick is important for Randolph because it can improve accuracy and help avoid dreaded, game-changing blocked kicks. That’s not to say, however, that soccer-style kicking is not applicable in football. Distance is vital too, and the occasional squib kick lets Randolph return to his roots.
“If you were to try to shoot a soccer ball real hard and keep it low, you’d have to get your chest and knee over the ball to not get it elevated, so that helps, in that aspect,” he said.
Still, Randolph’s main focus is on diverging from his soccer experiences and getting more of an arc on his kicks.
“It’s pretty easy [to notice],” Groh said of Randolph’s progression. “The hold’s down here, and the ball’s up here. You can see the arc of the ball.”
As long as he maintains this continual progression, Virginia fans can expect Randolph’s importance to the team to follow the trajectory of his kicks.
Grohtober? Not exactly
Aaron Perryman, Cavalier Daily Columnist
October 21, 2009 0
If you follow Virginia football somewhat closely, chances are
you’ve heard of “Grohtober” and are familiar with its meaning. With Virginia’s
hard-fought win against Maryland Saturday, the Cavaliers have won their last
seven games played in October and 12 of the last 13. Their last October loss
came Oct. 27, 2007 when they fell 29-24 to N.C. State.
The beginning of this 12-for-13 October winning streak can be traced all the way back to 2006, when Virginia defeated North Carolina and N.C. State to close out the month after suffering early October losses to East Carolina and Maryland. The N.C. State loss in 2007 was Virginia’s only October loss that year. Last season, the team went undefeated in October, starting the month with a bang in a 31-0 home thumping of the Terrapins after being outscored 128-36 in the first four games of the season. Virginia went only 5-7 on the year; four of those five wins came in October. Once the calendar turned to November, the Hoos promptly dropped their final four games of the season.
This October trend has caused some fans to refer to October as “Grohtober,” citing that Al Groh does his best coaching in October. Is this notion a reality or a myth? I went back to review Groh’s entire career at Virginia to see how this theory actually stacks up against the stats. Certainly, in the past couple years this seems to be the case, but I also wanted to know if the pattern stretched all the way back to 2001 — Groh’s first season at Virginia.
The following list is the Cavaliers’ record in October for each season during Groh’s tenure: 2001: 0-4; 2002: 3-1; 2003: 2-2; 2004: 2-1; 2005: 1-3; 2006: 2-2; 2007: 3-1; 2008: 4-0; 2009: 3-0. So, Groh’s total career record in October is 20-14, which translates to a winning percentage of 59 percent, slightly higher than Groh’s overall winning percentage of 56 percent. Based on these numbers, we can say that Groh’s teams have won fairly consistently in October except during his first year. The trend, however, is in no way overwhelming and the pattern is more prominent in recent years.
Now, let’s turn to November. I figured this was when Groh might be at his worst, and indeed, the statistics supported that idea. Groh carries a 13-17 record in November, which translates to a winning percentage of 43 percent. (Note: Bowl games are not included in this analysis of November games, but one game played in December of 2001 against Penn State is included because 2001 is the only year during Groh’s career to have a December game in the regular season.) Last year’s 0-4 November record is really what brought the overall record down.
For the most part, the Cavs play .500 football under Groh’s coaching — in fact, from 2002-2005, every Virginia team went 2-2 in November. I think last year’s November has left a perception that the Cavaliers stink late in the season, but if you look more closely at the games at hand, we were a handful of plays away from defeating both Miami and Virginia Tech, which would have evened Groh’s record in that month to 15-15.
Finally, let’s examine Groh’s September record. I know what you’re thinking here: Groh’s Cavaliers have been perennial slow starters. I read an article in the The Diamondback, the Maryland student newspaper, claiming this fact before Saturday’s game. But, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” Unlike the Grohtober and November theories — which contain a kernel of truth — the evidence for slow-starting Septembers just isn’t there. Sure, Groh’s last two teams have gone a combined 1-6 in September, but — even with those two years factored in — the Wahoos have performed surprisingly well under his direction in September, compiling a record of 23-14, which translates to a winning percentage of 62 percent. (Note: Games played in August were included with the September games.)
So, what have we learned from this exercise? First, Grohtober isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I would not want to be a coach right now preparing my team for the Cavaliers in October. But for the most part, Groh has compiled about the same record in October as he has during his entire career.
Second, something has changed in recent years that has caused a normally solid September team to look absolutely atrocious the past two years during that opening month — not to mention the fact that the Cavaliers have lost four consecutive season openers, even in 2007 when the team went 9-4. This is a disturbing change. Teams that are consistently strong start out seasons strongly. Virginia will not be able to compete regularly if these slow starts become an increasingly growing trend. It seems as though Groh has been unable to prepare his teams for their opening games recently, and as a result, they have been fighting from behind from the start. The resiliency Groh’s teams have shown the past two years has been great, but it shouldn’t take a weak start for Groh to get the attention of his players or for him to start motivating them. Last season’s team may have simply burnt out after fighting just to get back to respectability.
Third, good teams finish seasons on a high note. Ideally, I want the Cavs to play an entire season during which they look great every month of the season. But if I had to choose two months when I’d want them at their best, it would be September and November. I wish the Cavaliers would start out great and end great, making necessary adjustments at the end of October, when other teams have just begun to figure them out. Luckily, Virginia has won at least one game each November except for last year, and it usually has managed to win two. So, prospects aren’t all that bleak for November this season, though that is when the schedule gets really tough.
For now, even though the Grohtober theory doesn’t apply to Groh’s entire Virginia career, we are definitely in the midst of a unique October winning streak. Saturday, we will find out just how reliable the theory is, as the Ramblin’ Wreck looks to run all over it, leaving discrediting evidence in its wake.
Dan Stalcup, Cavalier Daily Senior Associate Editor
October 21, 2009 0
In a recap column titled “Next man up” that ran Monday, Andrew
Seidman succeeded in telling you what the Virginia-Maryland football game at
College Park, Md. looked like on the field.
Now, I want to tell you what it felt like and explain how it deepened my understanding of what it means to be a sports fan.
Perhaps you are one of the few thousand Wahoo fans I spied in the stadium. If so, much of this will be redundant or obvious. Keep up the good work — a traveling fan is the best kind of fan.
The story of this past weekend actually begins two years ago yesterday: the Cavaliers’ most recent visit to College Park before last Saturday.
I was in the crowd that Saturday afternoon, when some fourth-string sophomore running back named Mikell Simpson outgained the entire Maryland team. It is and will likely remain the most thrilling and memorable Virginia football game I’ve attended.
Fast forward to 2009 — I knew I had to return to Maryland to see the sequel to that match-up. I had a hunch that the 2007 Cardiac Cavs may have left just a little bit of Virginia magic on the field, and that this year’s matchup would be another nail-biter that would end up in favor of the Orange and Blue.
It turns out my hunch was both right and wrong.
From the perspective of quality of play, it was an absolutely awful game, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Virginia’s offensive line stood about as strong as balsa wood. Quarterbacks made poor decision after poor decision.
But there was plenty of magic in the game as a fan experience. It’s games like these — gut-wrenching, physical, cold and wet — that cut football down to its most fundamental and human elements. Saturday’s game wasn’t a battle of systems and schemes as much as it was a battle of wills.
Saturday was cold and ugly from the start. The rain contributed to turning what should have been a three-hour car trip into four and a half hours.
I carpooled and sat with third-year College student Anthony Conty, known for the ridiculous duct-tape orange and blue suit he wears to Virginia sporting events.
We walked into the stadium, pride and Virginia spirit glowing in our hearts, only to witness … not much of anything. Everything was bleak and gray. The bleachers were remarkably empty and grew more so as the clock ticked. I’d be surprised if half of the 44,000 in attendance made it to the beginning of the third quarter.
Unbeknownst to us, our front row seats happened to be right in the area where Maryland student hecklers like to sneak in. Conty and I spent most of the game coming up with cheers to counter these meanie-bo-beanie Terps fans.
My editors won’t allow me to reprint most of the things these taunters shouted at any Cavalier football player who crossed in front of them. Let’s just say several of these Maryland students believe junior long-snapper Danny Aiken is something that rhymes with “ducking witch.”
Still, it was mostly playful in spirit and the hecklers left nearby Virginia fans alone.
By kickoff, my toes had already started to go numb. With temperatures dipping to the low 40s, in rain and mist, and on metal bleachers, the stinging cold was nonstop.
The first half was — at best — bland football, and the entire stadium’s patience was tested. The loudest noise from fans of both sides was booing announcements of media timeouts.
I was beginning to doubt whether the game could end up being even remotely interesting when sophomore wide receiever Kris Burd made a bizarre catch halfway through the third quarter.
What happened, as I saw it from my seat on the other side of the stadium, was that senior quarterback Jameel Sewell’s wobbly pass was caught by one of the two Maryland defenders … but, wait, the refs called it a Virginia catch?
With something to cheer about at last, we watched the big screen as the ball slipped out of a Terp’s fingertips and literally landed on the chest of a horizontal Burd, who was lying about an inch from the sideline.
Though that drive only amounted to a field goal, it gave Virginia the spark it needed to ultimately outshine Maryland. A few minutes later, in a play nearly as fluke-like as Burd’s reception, senior defensive end Nate Collins caught a batted pass and returned it for a touchdown.
I could really start to hear the Virginia fans at this point.
The players could hear the Virginia fans, too. Several of them acknowledged us, including sophomore punter Jimmy Howell, who nodded at me after I complimented his solid 37-yarder, and sophomore receiver Jared Green, who pointed to Conty as he grabbed his jersey, as if to compliment his duct tape jacket.
As the clock wound down and the Terrapin fans headed toward the exits, I was struck with a different kind of magic than what I experienced in 2007. In spite of the uncomfortable conditions and sloppy play, I was bonding with a small but enthusiastic group of instantaneous friends.
I wasn’t a speck of orange and blue in an otherwise red, black and gold stadium. I was one member of a community. Like any true community — whether it is a family or a religious group or a sports team — there was an unspoken bond between the lingering Cavalier fans and Virginia players.
It didn’t feel strange in the slightest when people I’d never met high-fived me or asked me to get in their pictures memorializing another Virginia victory. We’re all Cavaliers. What does it matter if I don’t know everyone’s name?
That’s the magic of being a traveling sports fan. Whether you walk away from the game disappointed or elated, you’re a member of a group on a journey.
I firmly believe that the underlying appeal of sports is that it is a microcosm of everything it means to be a human. Perhaps, then, trekking to an away game is the most simple and meaningful action a fan can take. After all, what is life but one long journey?
‘Next man up’ Parr steps in for Cavs
By Jay Jenkins
Published: October 21, 2009
It was obvious to every person in Scott Stadium two years ago that defensive end Chris Long was Virginia’s best pass-rushing performer.
Last year, Clint Sintim assumed that role as he nailed the opposing quarterback 13 times behind the line of scrimmage.
With Long and Sintim having moved on to the NFL, it is debatable which player currently wearing a Cavalier uniform has the best ability to reach an opposing signal-caller.
In a revelation that may surprise Virginia fans, defensive end Nate Collins has the answer: Zane Parr.
“I think Zane is a great pass rusher,” Collins said. “He is probably the best pure pass rusher on our team.
“He has a lot of speed. He sort of has the outside linebacker’s mentality, so that makes pass rushing come second nature to him.”
That will certainly be needed in the weeks that lie ahead with sophomore Matt Conrath likely out of action for up to a month with a high-ankle sprain.
Luckily for Parr, also a sophomore, he has gotten his feet wet in special packages, namely on third downs.
After failing to make a tackle against William & Mary, Parr has registered 13 stops over the past five games.
A pair of those tackles came after Conrath exited Virginia’s victory at Maryland on Saturday.
“Perhaps the player who’s having the best year on our defensive team is Matt Conrath, and that was an awesome job by Zane Parr, not only to go in for Matt, but to go in on the side opposite where he usually plays,” said Virginia coach Al Groh.
Parr said his limited playing time prepared him for what he encountered in the base defense.
“Playing the nickel and dime stuff helped me a lot going in there,” Parr said. “We always talk in practice about the ‘next man up’ and I was just ready all throughout practices in case somebody went down.
“I knew, if I had to, that I could go in there and try to help out the defense make plays.”
Virginia (3-3, 2-0 ACC) may be without Conrath, quarterback Jameel Sewell (ankle) and tailback Mikell Simpson (neck) as No. 11 Georgia Tech (6-1, 4-1) invades on Saturday.
Finding replacements, however, has been a harsh reality at Virginia in recent campaigns.
“It’s a reality of the season,” Groh said. “Like so many things that we think that we do that are positive for the team, very few of them are internally created. We’ve learned all these things from somebody else who has exposed them to us or have been willing to share them.
“I guess the first time I was really deeply involved in this type of team attitude, I don’t remember the next man up or the words that we used, but it was certainly the attitude. Coach [Bill] Parcells with the Giants and progressively through the other stops that we made … we understood that everybody on the team was expected to perform and be ready to do so. We had some good examples of that [at Maryland].”
Parr, listed at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, plans to use Conrath as a source of information in practices and games. That was certainly the case against the Terps.
“Matt was telling me some things before I went in about what the tackle was doing and what I should look for,” Parr recounted. “He kept me in good spirits and thanked me after the game. It meant a lot to me.”
As tough as losing Conrath will be for the weeks that lie ahead, Groh said the team is confident with Parr on the field.
“He’s been such an effective player on the dime team, really inside, helped that be a more effective unit,” he said. “We had some concerns about it coming in, and he’s helped it to be a much more effective unit.
“We thought it would take a little bit of time for development because all of them except for Collins are really new in their roles, but it has come on pretty nicely.
“He’s been a good part of it. He did a very nice job the other day throughout the second half.”
Johnson says Tech will keep working on kickingBy Doug Roberson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
.The Jackets gave up returns of 21, 29, 58 and 31 yards to the Hokies in Saturday's 28-23 win. For the season, Tech is 111th out of 120 Division I teams in kickoff coverage, allowing an average of 25.32 yards per return.
For a team like Virginia that's struggling on offense, giving them a short field isn't a recipe for success.
Johnson said there's not much they can do, other than to keep working on it.
"It's like offense and defense, if you have 3-4 knuckleheads that run down there and go the wrong way it's not going to be very successful," Johnson said. "It's not for lack of effort, it's paying attention to detail and being accountable and responsible. It would also help if we kicked the ball better."
Johnson said improving can be as simple as paying attention.
"It's not rocket science to figure out if you're running down the field and a guy's trying to block you in, don't run in," Johnson said. "It's no different than offense or defense. Sometimes you're not going to make the play. Sometimes you have to turn it back in to the other six guys that are on the inside."
Right guard Joseph Gilbert will start Saturday's game against Virginia. He started against the Hokies, as he has done the previous six games, but was benched in the first quarter after he was called for holding twice on one drive. Omoregie Uzzi replaced Gilbert.
Josh Nesbitt needs 102 rushing yards against the Cavaliers to surpass Joe Hamilton as Tech's career rushing leader for quarterbacks. Hamilton rushed for 1,758 yards from 1996-99. Nesbitt has 1,657 yards.
During the past four games Nesbitt is averaging 103 rushing yards a game and 237.2 yards of total offense. He has also scored eight touchdowns.
Time of possession
During the Jackets' four-game winning streak, they are holding onto the ball an average of 37 minutes, 8 seconds per game, compared to the opponents 21 minutes, 38 seconds.
The only team to hold onto the ball longer that the Jackets this season was Miami, which bettered Tech, 33:35-26:25.
While Virginia's defense ranks third in the ACC at 293.8 yards per game, it should be noted that its three-game win streak has been built against teams that are currently ranked 66th (Indiana), 88th (Maryland), and 117th (North Carolina) in total offense this season. Two of its three losses -- Southern Miss and TCU -- are currently 33rd and 16th respectively.
Georgia Tech is 31st in the country at 417.1 yards of offense per game.
by HooYa Tuesday Afternoon UVA Quarterback Hoos-GT Noon Saturday Scott Stadium
by Trent Thurston, October 20th 04:53pm
Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback Virginia Versus #12 GA Tech Noon
10.24.09 Scott Stadium www.youtube.com/watch www.youtube.com/watch
If you had told me four weeks ago that the biggest game of the ACC schedule this weekend would be UVA-GT in Charlottesville, I would have told you to lay off the hallucinogens! But, it’s true. Virginia has turned an 0-3 start into 3-3, and 2-0 in their division, and is currently in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division. Las Vegas likes Georgia Tech to win this one by 4.5 or 5, but look for that to go higher if Sewell and Conrath aren’t able to go for Virginia.
The Hoos have won their only two ACC contests of the 2009 season, and they are coming off two straight wins on the road (Carolina and dreaded Maryland). Georgia Tech, is fresh off a stunning, Atlanta Saturday night, prime-time defeat of our country cousins to the SW, Virginia Tech.
We all are aware of the insanely difficult time GT has had in Charlottesville since the Scott Sisson 1990 game GT-UVA game. The Rambling Wreck of GT has not won here, since that beautiful autumn day 19 years ago here at Scott. Right after that memorable game in Scott Stadium, the Alman Brothers Band played a concert at U-Hall. I went to both, and I just remember sitting in the same seat that was my basketball seat along with three friends, and we all drained our flasks of bourbon, while not uttering a word for the entire 3 hour concert. That loss, as Virginia lost their only ever #1 in the AP Poll ranking, was the most disappointing sporting event of my entire life.
I will have much more information for you, Hoos fans, as we get closer to Saturday. So, check back! Here are some items that stood out to me as I was preparing for the game Saturday:
~ Georgia Tech is averaging 32.4 points per game and UVA is holding their opponents to 18.7 points per contest.
~ Georgia Tech is ranked #12 in the BCS poll. In the AP poll GT is #11, which is their highest ranking since 2001.
~ The home team in this series has won 12 of the last 14 meetings. UVA leads the series all-time 16-14-1.
~ Last Five Meetings
2008 Virginia 24, @ Georgia Tech 17
2007 @ Virginia 28, Georgia Tech 23
2006 @ Georgia Tech 24, Virginia 7
2005 @ Virginia 27, Georgia Tech 17
2004 Virginia 30, @ Georgia Tech 10
~ The winner of this game takes over sole possession of 1st place in the Coastal Division of the ACC.
~ Over the last three games, GT has averaged 457 yards of total offense, 39.7 points per game, and 307.7 yards of rushing per contest!
~ GT’s sophomore punt-returner Jerrard Tarrant leads the ACC in punt return average with 24.9 yards per attempt. That is an amazing number if he can keep that up. UVA must not get beat on special teams to have a chance to win this game.
~ The Rambling Wreck is outscoring their opponents 76-28 in the 1st quarter this season.
~ The Wahoos have not beaten a Associate Press ranked team as high #11 since beating #7 GT in 1999.
~ The Hoos are 12-18 against ranked teams under Al Groh. During the same stretch, UVA is 9-8 at home versus ranked teams.
~ The last time Virginia lost at home in October, was all the way back on October 14, 2006 to Maryland.
~ 37 percent of all UVA players to see time this season have been freshmen (27-73). Amazingly high!
~ UVA is one of only two teams (San Jose State), to convert 100% of their red zone scoring opportunities. The Hoos are 17-17 (10 TD, 7FG) and all the TD’s have come by the way of the run, not the pass.
~ Rashawn Jackson scored the first touchdown of his entire career last week at Maryland.
~ Georgia Tech runs the triple-option offense which is run by only a handful of teams in major college football. Navy, Air Force, Army, GT, that’s the only teams I can think of that actually run this extremely difficult to defend offensive system. It’s totally reliant on the QB to make a lightning quick decision to: hand-off to the fullback, pitch to the halfback, run it himself, or (rarely) throw it downfield to a receiver.
What is your predictions for the game readers? Can Al Groh continue Groh-Toberferst? Will Jameel play? How much will the loss of Matt Conrath hurt the defensive front for Virginia? Can Verica step-up or is Vic Hall going to come in to save the day and season for the Hoos? WIll Riko Smalls see his first QB action for the Hoos?
My prediction: Virginia 24 Georgia Tech 24. Overtime, the Hoos win it on a Mikell Simpson scamper up the right side for the winning touchdown! UVA 31-GT 24!!! Go Hoos, beat the fighting Scott Sisson’s.
Transcript from Al Groh's Weekly Press Conference
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 10/19/2009
COACH GROH: About as good as challenge as we could look for this week in an opponent. Sure could make a pretty strong argument, the hottest team in the ACC with a unique system of play in two of the three elements of their team. Much is made of the uniqueness of the Georgia Tech offense, but they do some very, very creative things with their special teams that makes their special teams amongst the very most effective and the most difficult to prepare for any particular year. We had the same issue last year, and they were really kind of ahead of the curve on a lot of things that they're doing with their special teams, and as a result they frequently gain a big field position advantage in each one of the turnarounds, which then puts this ground eating offense in a very advantageous position to start with.
So it's clear to see how they've tried to link the two of them up together, and it's worked very effectively. So they'll make it quite a bit of a different type of a week for us in many respects.
QUESTION: Can you talk about their different formations?
COACH GROH: Well, as you have seen from some of these other teams now as we've spoken frequently with the development of really I would say if I use the word alternative punt systems, that would be incorrect. Innovative and progressing punt systems. In other words, it's a new era in terms of punting the ball. And it continues to grow that way, just as with many of the different offenses.
Let's say a few years ago when different elements of, A, the West Coast offense came up, it was one offense. Now there's all sorts of things that fall into that category. We saw the spread offense; that was an offense. Everybody did the same thing that was in it. Now it's really inaccurate to try to classify something just based on being a spread offense or a West Coast offense.
It's the same thing here now with that shield punt. It's inaccurate just to say they're in a shield punt. It can go so many different directions based on the personality and the philosophy of the team, and they have been very creative and progressive with what they're doing with formations, and as a result of what they're doing they have a very good idea how to deal with it on the other side. So it's not just the punt team but things they're doing with their punt return and punt block teams to combat those other teams that have it. They have some answers to those situations while other people are still searching for them.
QUESTION: A coach that faced them last year talked about how they use the fullback in a different way and that they've tweaked their offense.
COACH GROH: It certainly is, but the core plays remain the same. That's like saying that I would say that they got a new set of shutters, maybe painted the front door, but the foundation is still the same and the structure of the house is still the same.
So without the effectiveness of the lead back inside, Dwyer, who clearly is a terrific player, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year last year, they've been very smart in what they've done with their offense, so I would say they're certainly bright enough not to diminish his effectiveness in the offense.
What has increased is the overall contribution and effectiveness of the quarterback.
QUESTION: How much of an advantage is it to use the film from last year when you won in Atlanta?
COACH GROH: Well, certainly it is a smoother week than it was last year. At least we have a set of ideas going into the week, whereas last year it was really well into the week before, one, we had to just go to the practice field and see it. Well, now we can watch the game video and see things that worked, and we can also see things that were really an issue. It wasn't all perfect. We had a lot of issues during the course of the game.
Some of those issues were solved frankly because we had an effective offense that day and cut down on time of possession. So we've looked at those things. We know where our problems are, and clearly they've got projectors, too, so we would expect a counter move on their part.
QUESTION: How much did turnovers help last year?
COACH GROH: Well, one, as happens, it's the story of a lot of games, but we were the beneficiaries of some turnovers during the course of the game that clearly helped us out in some circumstances.
But as I say, that's the story of most games. Most teams that win are the beneficiaries of such, and most teams that lose, that's part of how your team plays or standards or whatever. Sometimes it's just a question of good fortune. So that was one of the real big factors, and that cut down on the amount of plays that they had, and then we were very productive on our end offensively, particularly in terms of ball movement, which allowed us to have the ball quite a bit.
We're pretty decent in the points scoring area, so those two things combined gave us a good result, which is to say other than that we stonewalled them.
QUESTION: How about Nesbitt?
COACH GROH: Clearly that was a pretty as in any system, the quarterback position is the key, and decision making is one of the significant talents. Those things that are evident to observers from a distance, whether they're throwing it overhand or throwing it underhand on options, people from a distance just see the physical skills. But the decision making process is one of the primary skills in being a really good quarterback, and the decisions that the option quarterbacks have to make come so quickly, frequently within a split second of the ball being snapped, and right at the line of scrimmage as opposed to further back, I'd say that one is more difficult than the other, but one happens faster than the other.
And so accumulated experience in that type of system, fast decision system, option offense, it's really critical to a player being able to play well. So it's very, very evident that Josh is now a season and a half into this offense as opposed to a half season the last time that we saw him.
QUESTION: Who gets to be Nesbitt in practice and is it particularly important this week that the scout team gives you a good week?
COACH GROH: Yeah, it is. It's not only different plays, but it's a different blocking style. We have to get accustomed to not only the schemes, the tracks that the blockers are going on, but how they're trying to block us when we get there. The players have been priming for it. They understand that they're vital to the overall performance of the team, and we tried to get them started on it last night. So we have to teach them about these defensive players. Riko will be one of them, yeah, for sure.
QUESTION: How do you go about teaching something that's not necessarily a play? Turnovers have been such a big part of the last few games. How do you go about teaching something like that?
COACH GROH: Well, it's a fundamental. We're a fundamental based team. We drill fundamentals all the time. There's fundamentals of block protection, there's fundamentals of downfield blocking, and there's fundamentals about how to secure the ball. We're very resolute and determined in those things.
We try to coach it on every play. Every coach is responsible for it, but typically within a position coach coaching his players how to handle the ball, we're as interesting in coaching how the ball is secured to how the player is running the play. You could run those plays beautifully, and those tracks, everything is real pretty. Fumble the ball at the end, then not only was the play not as good as it looked, it now becomes what was a well run play becomes a detriment to winning. So our attitude is why wouldn't anybody be resolute and diligent?
We went through a stage there, I think it was either a two or three year span where we had less fumbles than any team in the country, Wali Lundy, Alvin Pearman, Jason Snelling. But we haven't relaxed our diligence, but in some cases we didn't get as much compliance as we needed. But we're always working on that, and there's some players here in the past that have displayed a significant running skill that we couldn't play Russian roulette with. So we just couldn't afford to put them out there where they could do something that might cause us to lose. The players understand that.
I know one particular year, I guess it was '91, when the Giants won the Super Bowl, it was a very good team obviously to win the Super Bowl, but also had less turnovers than any team in the NFL. So those teams tie in they don't compensate for not having talent, but they certainly enable you to maximize whatever talent you have on your team.
QUESTION: Your front seven does not have some of the big names that it has in the past but it has been playing very well. What has been the key to their success?
COACH GROH: Sure. Well, that's only with we play definitely with that group, Zach and their predecessors, and that included another very athletic member of that front line, which was Jeffrey Fitzgerald. So we played in a different fashion with those players as opposed to when we had guys like Chris Canty, Andrew Hoffman, Brennan Schmidt outside. Copper inside, Brooks inside. That was a different type of looking front seven, not just in skill level but in body types and the different skills that they had. When we had these other kids we played in a different fashion with them, now we've adjusted to the players that we have right now.
So it's just as Jay mentioned earlier about a coach that Georgia Tech has made changes in their system, probably without dramatic philosophical changes, you probably could say that about our team on a regular basis.
QUESTION: If Zane Parr moves into the first group, do you have to give him relief in some of the sub-packages?
COACH GROH: Yeah, he's been such an effective player on the dime team, really inside, helped that be a more effective unit. We had some concerns about it coming in, and he's helped it to be a much more effective unit. I'd expect at least the early part of the season he's going to be really productive. We thought it would take a little bit of time for development because all of them except for Collins are really new in their roles, but it has come on pretty nicely. He's been a good part of it. He did a very nice job the other day throughout the second half.
QUESTION: Are you using the dime more than the nickel?
COACH GROH: Well, we're all dime this year, again, because of the personnel on hand, different guys to do different jobs.
QUESTION: Two of your last three games have been real defensive struggles. When you play a team like Georgia Tech what is your strategy?
COACH GROH: Sure, that's part of the MO. You have to be pretty efficient with the ball, and that's happened to a lot of those types of teams. The team might be having a fairly decent day with their offense, they just don't have it long enough to outscore them, whatever that means, whether you need 17 or 47. You just don't have it enough to outscore them. So you have to be very efficient with your offense, and this is every game. Try to get a pulse of the game, and it's a matter of matching the other team's efficiency with the efficiency matching the other team's explosive plays with your explosive plays. But it is a matching of those things that frame the game.
QUESTION: How long does it take you to get a pulse for the game?
COACH GROH: Everyone is different. Each one is different. Yeah, obviously you try to latch on as quickly as you can and make all the input. It's certainly not a singular function. Take all the input from everybody who is watching, which is all the coaches on the sideline and up in the press box. Frequently we get some good information from the guys who are actually out there playing.
But sometimes when we're talking to the players in between series, we're getting input from them as well as giving them some instruction, or if we're not doing that, we're always getting some degree of input from the other coaches, not just standing there watching. We're always getting input, and that's why it's a three and a half hour thinking session Saturday.
QUESTION: It doesn't seem as if Nate Collins has any adjustment moving from nose tackle to defensive end. How much is it similarity to both positions?
COACH GROH: There certainly is a similarity. A lot of techniques. There wasn't significant similarity. We would have to have a nose tackle coach and a defensive end coach. For example, you see that with some 4 3 teams. They have a defensive tackle coach, those guys who play over at guard and center, defensive end coach. Those players who play at tight end frequently play out in space. Big difference between playing out in space on the split end side and playing at guard and center, techniques, assignments and whatnot.
For us, block protection is the same, blocking schemes that the player gets have enough overlap that are unique to each position. But there's a good carryover there. There are often players who play and do a good job at nose but not that many players, because of the uniqueness of the nose tackle position. But Nate is one of those. But he's always had that type of overall athletic skill, because we have discussed that had the personnel situation been otherwise when he came here, he might have started at end.
QUESTION: As a receiver, Vic seems to view each pass as a responsibility?
COACH GROH: No, that's a very good way to profile because when he playd corner, and he saw every pass as his responsibility to get his guy covered, not just to run the coverage. He did that on a couple of occasions the other night where when he played, he made a couple real good plays for us at safety or made a couple good match ups that kept the ball from going in the first place. Vic is not when he's playing safety on the dime, he's not over there as his other job and dictates his responsibility that that's the most important job that he could have when he goes over and plays and does that.
Vic has held on extra points and field goals, he thinks that's the most important job that he's got. You described him very well. That's why he's so respected.
QUESTION: Nate said at Southern Miss the physicality was something they had not seen yet this year and they knew it was something they had to match.
COACH GROH: Well, if he said it, I'm sure it's accurate. Played in some pretty physical games over the years. But sometimes players and teams have to get reminded of that year after year. There's just nothing that approximates it until you play against the first one and some teams are more physical than others. Until you play against the first one of those each year certainly I remember that we always used to talk to players about there's a difference between playing in the preseason and regular season. Preseason was different than training camp. Regular season was different than preseason. Playoffs were different than regular season. It does get ratcheted up, and it's important for coaches, players and teams to understand that don't get left behind.
QUESTION: Verica had a great game against Georgia Tech last year, does that give you comfort should you need to call upon him on Saturday?
COACH GROH: Sure, no, we would be very comfortable with Marc, we are very comfortable with him in any circumstance.
QUESTION: At this point in the season where the injuries are setting in do you change the way you practice and what is the value of depth?
COACH GROH: Well, one, whether we change it or not, we assess just what are our circumstances, because the week that precedes the game, the word practice is certainly accurate, but it's not just practice like going and practicing the piano. It's preparation for what's coming on Saturday. So we're trying to do whatever has us best prepared on Saturday. That might mean scrimmage every day. That might mean go bowling. I'm not trying to be smart, but whatever. But sometimes it might mean more contact, take 15 minutes off, add another period in and blitz protection, whatever the case may be. So we definitely do. We have a little bit of that circumstance on our hands right now.
And while every game has to be addressed, it needs to be addressed to try to keep in mind that you want to be playing well at the end of the season, and there's some things that have to be factored into the weekly routine to give a players a chance to be there at the end of the year.
Depth is very important. It's one of the reasons why in order to try to replenish your depth, that's why we continue to actively coach, do things at practice with lots of players who we don't anticipate to play that week, because as the season goes on, if their development can keep up with the events, then they might very well be your new depth. We'll see that with some players, some of those young players who are seeing some substantial time early, they're moving into the stage of being a little bit more veteran players.
This deal of being young players, young team, first of all, in college football, 50 percent of your team is freshmen and sophomores. So everybody is a relatively young team. But that can only last so long. After a while guys got to grow up and move up. When do you become a sophomore? On the first day of classes your second year, or should you be playing at a higher level than true freshmen, or when do you become a senior veteran, the first game of your senior year, or should you be evolving into that during the course of the preseason? Certainly the team progresses because players get better and they move out of that classification that they have.
So those guys who play, they ought to be moving into more established circumstance. Those guys who haven't, hopefully they'll move into a circumstance where they can go in the game and then be more on a college level. So we're moving into that stage, and we've addressed that with some players, hey, we're looking for more out of you, than what you've done.
QUESTION: Could you talk about the origin of the Next Man Up philosophy?
COACH GROH: We have pretty much. I think the players that really kind of links on to what Zach and I were talking about there. It's a reality of the season. It's going to need to be the case. Like so many things that we think that we do that are positive for the team, very few of them are internally created. We've learned all these things from somebody else who has exposed them to us or have been willing to share them.
I guess the first time I was really deeply involved in this type of team attitude, I don't remember the next man up or the words that we used, but it was certainly the attitude. Coach Parcells with the Giants and progressively through the other stops that we made, and we understood that everybody on the team was expected to perform and be ready to do so.
We had some good examples of that the other night.
QUESTION: You don't take the whole team to road games. Do you do anything with them on Fridays or Saturday or is that not allowed?
COACH GROH: No, we're allowed to as long as it fits within the NCAA allowable practice hours, which because we're doing some things with the guys that we travel with that morning or that afternoon and whatnot, it could possibly do so. But our major event is a little weekly Friday program that we call Freshman Fridays. That's more of a not completely so, but more of an off season type strength development program than what we're able to do on one of those days during the course of the week. So those players who need more physical development for next year, we're trying to get a head start on the off season program.
QUESTION: The last three weeks you have shut down some dangerous receivers and kick returners. Could you talk about how you have done that?
COACH GROH: Well, this defensive secondary is coming together nicely, so they certainly deserve a great deal of credit. Their skills and how they go about preparing for those type of players then gives us the latitude and the confidence to try some things, scheme up, do that, realizing that most levels, that's where your home run hitters are.
I didn't have time to pay attention to it, but I learned from watching how very successful managers or coaches handle their teams and deal with situations, and obviously Joe Torre has had a remarkable level of success. So however he goes about things, I try when I can to learn a little something and notice how I didn't have a chance to watch any games, I just try to keep up.
The series with the Cardinals, it didn't matter what the trade off was, Albert Pujols wasn't going to take the series over the Cardinals. A lot of people say he's the best hitter in baseball, so you have to always determine who and what could cause a game to go the wrong way. You have to address those things specifically. Clearly the Dodgers did that. They addressed it specifically, and as I understand it Pujols wasn't a factor in the series, so the Dodgers are still playing.
I can't tell you exactly what he did, but I asked somebody who's been following it and he kind of told me what was going on. But I guess there was one circumstance where they were willing walk him and to load the bases just so he couldn't empty the bases. So that type of mentality.
And again, I learned that just from some of the people that I got all this idea about next man up and depth and developing players, and we got some ideas from the same people.
QUESTION: You talked a little about Robert Randolph and getting the ball up quicker. Is that something you can see progression on?
COACH GROH: It's pretty easy, either the ball is down here or the ball is up there. You can see the arc of the ball.
QUESTION: But how do you teach someone to do that?
COACH GROH: Get it up higher. It's like a guy with his golf shot. You're either going to hit line drives or you hit the ball with a little bit of an arc on it. It's to your benefit to get a little bit of a trajectory on it, then unless a golfer is stubborn or a kicker is stubborn, they're going to change to what's effective.
QUESTION: But golf you have multiple clubs to use.
COACH GROH: In that case if they give you one club to go around with then you've got to hit it differently for what's required. Mike knows about all that stuff, right, Mike?
It's a kick by kick thing with all kickers. But so far the results say yes.
QUESTION: Rashawn Jackson seems to be a guy who embraces the Next Man Up philosophy. Could you talk about your confidence in him?
COACH GROH: Well, Rashawn, we've been able to we talked about this last night. We had a little break in the action when he got hurt. But his role going into the season was probably as clearly defined as it has been. A lot of that is as a result of Rashawn defining that role for us with his performance. Through the course of the game the other night and then as we went through those final five or six minutes, it was very apparent that he had that "give me the ball attitude." So they factored into the thinking there. It wasn't so much about the plays first or run this play; it was, hey, this guy wants the ball, and he wants the game, so give it to the guy who wants it.
QUESTION: Does his size factor in as far as his ability?
COACH GROH: Well, it does make him unique, to have that kind of size. When you try to combine the two, ability and size, that's why there are less big people who are really athletic. He's got a real nice combination. I still remember standing in the gym at St. Peter's prep, and as I walked in, all the gym, they've got one of those tracks around it, and he was downstairs and I was in there for one of our recruiting visits, and he was waiting for us and he was playing some baseball and didn't really know we were there, and he did a little 360 and went up and dunked it, and that's pretty good for a player that size; it's not as if he's 6'4". That gives you a good idea that he's got really good overall athletic skill. He's really grown into his position and grown into his role.
QUESTION: It seems the moves you made prior to the Southern Miss game have benefited him.
COACH GROH: It is. I wanted to get him in the game. I wanted to get him in the game. As I said, starting training camp and we were thrown off a bit when I think before he even went to the full pad stage, somebody fall on the side and he missed quite a bit of time at training camp, so all that time that was really there to get Rashawn in had to be set aside, and that was a big factor. So getting him back, we're real anxious to get going with things, and he's really come on very nicely, had two real productive days, and now we need six more from him.
QUESTION: It looks like the guys are hitting harder. How much of that is Anthony Poindexter's influence?
COACH GROH: Well, I think the players, certainly Anthony's attitude back there is beneficial to have. But a player has got to be a hitter on his own. Probably have a few back there that given the opportunity wouldn't hit as hard as some of the ones that are.
But that is an area clearly different than any other place on defense. They get a chance to run the furthest. They can generate the most speed. They get the most open shots. So they have that opportunity.
I wouldn't say that there's anybody back there that's any tougher than Nick Jenkins or Matt Conrath, but the positions they play, they don't get the opportunity for too many of those. These are players who play in that fashion. They enjoy the contact level. They can generate some speed, but we spend a lot of time working on the proper way to tackle. That's all well and good. But when you're tackling in the open field, the job is to get them to be a good open field tackler. We don't ever say be a hammer; be a good open field tackler because the misses there is when things are going to be very traumatic. They understand the importance of it, had a couple of guys who had some issues with that, and they've worked hard to improve those things. And as a result now here of late our tackling has improved.
QUESTION: A couple players were talking about team attitude and were fed up after the Southern Miss game. How have you seen them change and really unite as a team?
COACH GROH: Ultimately on every team players have to take ownership ultimately. Some teams do it earlier than others. There was a circumstance that characterized what was the '07 team, but they made that step in March. That's very early. That's very early.
But they made that step and took ownership of that team in March.
I think back to '02, I think players took ownership there about the second or third week. It doesn't mean everything got perfect, but they just said, okay, this is the way it's going to be. We've had enough instruction, direction. We can see where the coaches want us to go, but ultimately the players have to take ownership. It's a collaborative thing out there, give them direction and take your form and articulate with the model is supposed to be, and eventually they have to buy in.
We've been very appreciative of the fact that we talked about Zach and Nick, just reflective of their teammates and their predecessors and being unselfish and giving. Teams along the way, teams have been willing to embrace what was asked of them and buy into it and eventually take ownership of it. It comes at different stages with each team, but in any respect it's vitally important.
QUESTION: Is that something coaches can't prompt, where somebody just has to stand up and do it?
COACH GROH: You can promote it. Sometimes nobody stands up. Sometimes nobody stands up, it just happens. Yeah, you propose all those things, you promote all those things, reinforce all those things, teach them. That's the coach's job. But in circumstances where you have that collaborative attitude, or as it's sometimes referred to as team chemistry or unity or whatever, there's always a leadership followership circumstance. Those roles go back and forth for people to be to have success in the leadership capacity. It's not all about the leader. It's a lot about the followers, too, that they have equally good at grasping what's being put forth there and buying into it and doing it because they're the ones that actually they're the doers. You look at military leaders or industrial leaders or for that matter parents, and certainly football coaches, people who try and lead, they've got to believe, they've got to believe in leader, they've got to buy in, they've got to see the value to them. That's why if you go down to Barnes & Noble, you can probably spend the next three or four weeks just walking up and down the section of the stores that have books on leadership and management. Many people recognize that the best secret to increased performance, that's what we're interested in, performance. So it's about a lot more than just the schemes that you put out there.
QUESTION: On Saturday night, several of Virginia Tech's players said Georgia Tech switched a lot of their blocking assignments. In your early studies, have you seen anything that is particularly deceptive?
COACH GROH: No, they were giving you a pretty good clinic on what happens with this. There's a lot of plays where the backfield action so if you're trying to watch it initially, if you're just watching a video or you're watching from the press box or the stands, you say, oh, well, they ran that play six times already today. So the backfield action looked very similar. What gets switched up is the tracks and the patterns that the blockers run, and that's the really tricky thing for defensive players.
Over a long period of time, Coach Johnson and his staff have run this offense. There's only so many things that defensively you can propose to them, and so it's almost as if, get the manual out. Oh, yeah, we saw that in 1998, and this is the scheme that we ran against it, so let's just dial that one, just go to the formula and pull that one, whichever one is there, because they've had such experience with it on a multiple game basis per year, those things keep recurring, whereas it's always a one time a year experience for the team that's playing against them. So that's the really tricky thing is their ability to stay one jump ahead.
And then the defensive team is always trying to counter. They ran this play with this scheme for a quarter and a half, then they changed the scheme. Okay, how are we going to counter that? No sooner do you counter it and they're countering again. Those players told you very accurately, and that has a lot to do with it.
QUESTION: Obviously they are based in the run, but could you talk about Thomas and his big-play ability on the outside?
COACH GROH: Yeah, he's really almost tight end size. He's in the 230 plus range, has good jumping ability so he plays high, and with the size of his body and his natural height of 6'3", the ability to jump high, there's been a lot of plays where he's boxed that defender out. Clearly a lot of teams are playing with corners that certainly aren't 6'3", so he just they can be pretty close, but not close enough to make a play. They have a high number every game. Every game they've had a real long pass play for a touchdown. Or if not for a touchdown, to take them way down there on a much more frequent game-to-game basis than teams that throw the ball a lot. He really gets lost. He's caught almost 75, probably 70 percent of all their passes this year. He caught over 50 percent of their completions last year. So that's an issue unto itself.
QUESTION: You are perfect in red zone scoring this year, can you talk about that value to the team?
COACH GROH: Well, the way red zone statistics are compiled, there's a little bit of an inaccuracy because field goals are included in that. That's not to say that that's a bad thing; that's a good thing because you got points and that says that your kicker is giving you a good year.
But the telling statistic in there is red zone touchdowns. It's a little bit more telling if you take that number and say possessions between the 20 and 30. You're not quite in scoring territory yet, so maybe your kicker has gotten you three more points than what you otherwise might have gotten. But when you're down there on the 12 yard line and that field goal adds to your red zone thing, that's a little smaller victory than you would like to have.
To answer your question directly, the fact that Robert is doing a nice job for us is certainly part of it. But we would like to add to our touchdown scoring percentage down there, I think, as every team would.
QUESTION: Where is Torrey Mack fitting into the run game?
COACH GROH: Just the fact that he's eligibility wise a freshman, been in six games. One of our really favorite players and one of the best players we've had, Alvin Pearman, was an All ACC choice his senior year. He wasn't that same runner early in his career. He shared time with other runners, and by the time we got to his senior year there, he was the feature guy. Probably part of the same process, back to the conversation about Rashawn earlier. If Rashawn had been running like this three years ago, then Rashawn probably would have about 450 career carries at this point. So it's a developmental thing for carries. It comes sooner for some than other others.
QUESTION: Is the team's development where you want it to be at the midway point of the season?
COACH GROH: I wouldn't put it up against the scales yet and say we're there, but I'm pleased with that's what teams are supposed to do. Teams are supposed to get better. Players are supposed to get better. That's what we go out there every day for. Practice and preparation is part of every week, but also obviously practice, development of skills. That's what players are supposed to do, that's what coaches are supposed to do for their players.
I was thinking about -- there was a topic of question last night, which seems to be the current question, to what do I attribute the team playing well here the last three weeks and during this time span last year and during the time span the year before. I've got to say, well, it's very simple. The team is doing what it's supposed to do; it's getting better. So we're a lot better each one of those years than when we started. Maybe we're exactly where we should have started. So the players deserve a lot of credit for practicing and training and going forward and getting better. If we can continue to do that, then maybe we can then I think the players understand that the results that we've gotten are a direct result of what we've done. What we've done Sunday through Friday put us in a position on Saturday. If we continue to do that, then hopefully we'll continue to develop and show progress. That's what teams are supposed to do, and the players have done a real nice job with it.
QUESTION: At the halfway part of the season, where do you go from here?
COACH GROH: Well, I think we look forward I think the team this year and the teams preceding them, and the reason I cite them is because a lot of things that go on with a team, you don't do it this year. It's a result of the overall culture and environment that's created around the team. And then players grow into that as they become part of your organization. And you're older players help send that message down. That's what you get through continuity in a program.
Teams here and the players that have made up the teams I think are pretty strong believers that this is about one week at a time. And if you do the right things during the course of the week to really prepare yourself for a peak performance, you've got your best chance to get the result you want. So in that respect there's a lot of continuity. It's a lot the same. There's a new challenge every week. There's a different mission that we have to be on.
As we have said, the reason why God put eyes in the front of our head and not in the back. So you can make progress by looking forward.
QUESTION: Do you look at the standings? Georgia Tech has played five ACC games already.
COACH GROH: I didn't know that. No, I don't. Again, I learned that from I learned the value of that from some people who used to be pretty successful. I didn't even know they played that many games.
I know that we haven't lost any games, but I don't know if there's I don't think anybody else has, but then again, they've passed a lot more tests than we have.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Resurgent Cavaliers aim to slow Jackets
October 20, 2009 12:35 am
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
It took a nearly three-hour bus ride for the Virginia football team to return home following its 20-9 win at Maryland Saturday.
The Cavaliers' bus is equipped with televisions, and they watched the fourth quarter of a game involving their next opponent against their biggest rival.
Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech 28-23 in that contest and the fashion in which the Yellow Jackets did so caught the Cavs' eyes.
Georgia Tech rushed for 309 yards on 63 carries and held the ball for more than 38 minutes against what is traditionally one of the nation's toughest defenses.
"It's really attention-getting," Virginia senior linebacker Denzel Burrell said of the way Georgia Tech won. "We know Virginia Tech is a tremendous defense and at the same time, Georgia Tech's offense is tremendous."
The 11th-ranked Yellow Jackets (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Scott Stadium on Saturday at noon in a Coastal Division showdown.
Their flex-bone offense is the challenge awaiting the Cavaliers (3-3, 2-0) as they try to extend their three-game winning streak and remain the only ACC team without a conference loss.
Virginia holds that distinction after an 0-3 start that had many fans calling for head coach Al Groh's ouster. Burrell said the Cavaliers have remained humble during the current hot streak because they haven't forgotten where they came from.
"We have to stay at a medium. We've experienced some of the lowest of the lows early in the season and I guess what people could say some of the highest of the highs as of now," Burrell said yesterday. "So we have to stay within ourselves. We're 3-3. That's nothing to boast about."
The Yellow Jackets' season certainly is. They own the No. 2 rushing offense (281.6 yards per game) in the country.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt, running back Jonathan Dwyer and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas make up perhaps the top offensive trio in the conference.
Groh said defending the Yellow Jackets' misdirection-heavy offense can be complicated.
"If you're just watching a video or you're watching from the press box or the stands, you say, 'Oh well, they ran that play six times already today,'" Groh said. "So the backfield action looked very similar. What gets switched up is the tracks and the patterns that the blockers run, and that's the really tricky thing for defensive players."
It was that way last year, too, but the Cavaliers adjusted in their 24-17 comeback victory in Atlanta.
Virginia trailed 14-3, but didn't allow a touchdown after the first quarter.
"Coach Groh told us from the start of the game that things probably weren't going to go the way we wanted them to right off the bat because it's an offense they're used to and it's something we're not used to seeing at all," Virginia senior defensive end Nate Collins said. "He was absolutely right. But once we got the hang of it we ended up stopping them the rest of the game."
While the Yellow Jackets' offense has proven tough to deal with, the Cavaliers' defense hasn't been too shabby either. Virginia's first-team defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since a 37-34 loss to Southern Mississippi on Sept. 19.
The defense has risen to No. 21 in the nation. Burrell said that's because it's now "Eleven hats to the football."
"I think togetherness has been one of the biggest things," Burrell said of the defense's surge. "And a sense of pride and a sense of passion not only for the team this year, but for previous Virginia defenses. We wanted to mold ourselves after the things they did in the past."
The status of senior quarterback Jameel Sewell (sprained ankle) and sophomore defensive end Matt Conrath (ankle) for the Georgia Tech game won't be known until the team releases its injury report on Thursday, Groh said. Junior Marc Verica will start if Sewell can't play. Zane Parr will start for Conrath.
Collins was named the ACC defensive lineman of the week yesterday. Collins scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 32-yard interception return in the win over Maryland. He also registered nine tackles (two for loss) and a sack.
White: Fall Ball Ends on Positive Note for Men's Lacrosse
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 10/20/2009
By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- A productive fall for UVa men's lacrosse ended Sunday with scrimmages against Navy and the U.S. national team in Annapolis, Md.
In more than a quarter-century as a Division I head coach, Dom Starsia has seen players dazzle in some scrimmages and struggle in others. How a team plays in the fall, he's learned, is not a great indication of how it will fare in the spring.
"No matter what had happened yesterday," Starsia said Monday, "I was very pleased with the quality of our practices throughout the fall. We went a week longer this year, so we actually practiced a little bit more, and I don't think we had two bad days throughout the fall."
That said, Starsia headed to Annapolis knowing that his team's performance there would stick with him into the winter, for better or worse.
"It really doesn't matter what happens, it's just another day in the fall," he said, "but you're either going to be sort of chafed until you come back to it in January, or you're going to feel that at least we can catch our breath here a bit. So it was a good end to the fall, with two very competitive scrimmages."
Final scores from these games aren't announced, as anyone who's attended a UVa scrimmage at the U-Hall Turf Field knows. But the Wahoos, after a slow start attributable in part, perhaps, to sluggishness from their morning bus ride to Annapolis, played the Midshipmen about even.
"Navy might have been slightly ahead, 11-10 or something like that," Starsia said. "But there were enough sparks there to feel OK about how we were playing. Navy clearly carried the play to us to start out, but I thought we got up to speed as that scrimmage wore on."
The trend continued against the U.S. team, which the Wahoos defeated. "I thought we played well in that scrimmage," Starsia said.
The Cavaliers did so despite missing several key players, including defenseman Ryan Nizolek, defensive midfielders Chris Clements and Mike Thompson and All-America middie Shamel Bratton.
Nizolek, Clements and Thompson are recovering from injuries. Bratton's issue?
"Little bit of a sore hamstring, little bit of a sore subject," said Starsia, who didn't elaborate. "Just held him out to get his attention on some things."
When the 'Hoos opened fall practice last month, Starsia said he expected the battles for playing time on the attack to carry over into 2010. His position hasn't changed.
"If you have a competition in the goal, you try and say, 'OK, who's going to be the starter in the first game?'" Starsia said. "I don't think that matters on the attack right now. I think there's no question that we're going to rotate four or five guys there.
"They bring different things to the table, and I think right now they're so young that to expect any three of those guys to play 60 minutes in every game would be frightening. I think the depth we have there right now is healthy for us."
Virginia's top four attackmen are freshmen Matt White and Connor English and sophomores Chris Bocklet and Steele Stanwick, the lone returning starter. Other possibilities are freshmen Matt Cockerton and Nick O'Reilly and senior Tim Fuchs.
In Annapolis, Starsia said, "we rotated all those guys pretty freely throughout the day, with the one constant kind of being Steele."
UVa's midfield lines are more settled. Five middies separated themselves during the fall: returning starters Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll, plus John Haldy, Rhamel Bratton and Chris LaPierre. Carroll is a senior, and the Bratton twins and Haldy are juniors. LaPierre is a 6-2, 215-pound freshman.
Other midfielders likely to play in 2010 include sophomores Colin Briggs and Matt Kugler and senior George Huguely.
With Nizolek out, UVa's starting defensemen in the scrimmages were freshman Harry Prevas, sophomore Matt Lovejoy and senior Ken Clausen, a returning All-American. Junior Bray Malphrus started at long-stick middie, and junior Adam Ghitelman was in the cage.
"Adam had a good day," Starsia said.
Ghitelman's backup had a mixed day. Sophomore Rob Fortunato struggled against Navy, so much so that the coaching staff debated whether to play him against the U.S. team.
"I told Robert at the end of the Navy scrimmage, 'You played better in almost any practice this fall than you did out there,'" Starsia said. "But we put him in the fourth quarter [vs. the U.S.], and he actually played very well. I was very glad for that, because he's had a good fall."
It's been years since UVa has had a dominant faceoff specialist, and it's too early to say if 2010 will be any different. A season ago, the 'Hoos won 54.5 percent of their draws, with Chad Gaudet taking most of them with a long stick.
With Gaudet gone, Starsia's options are juniors Brian McDermott and Garett Ince, sophomore Ryan Benincasa and LaPierre, whose strength and athleticism are his biggest assets.
"In the U.S. scrimmage, I didn't know if we would win a faceoff," Starsia said, "and I would say that we probably split that one 50-50. Sometimes I have no idea with these statistics, but that's how it felt to me. So I was fairly pleased with that throughout the day, the faceoff part of it."
McDermott, who's been slowed by injuries during his college career, emerged during the fall as Virginia's top faceoff specialist.
"He took most of the key faceoffs [Sunday], and I thought he had a very good day overall," Starsia said. "He took most of the faceoffs against [former Delaware great] Alex Smith in the USA scrimmage, and I would say that he more than held his own there.
"Benincasa might have the best technique. Brian has got good technique, and he's a better athlete, so he's more capable of picking the ball up himself and making a play."
All the players who missed time in the fall because of injuries, Starsia said, should be ready for the start of practice in January.
The 'Hoos are coming off a season in which they finished 15-3 after losing to Cornell in the NCAA semifinals at Foxborough, Mass.
Highlights of UVa's 2010 schedule will include games against defending NCAA champion Syracuse and Johns Hopkins at Klöckner Stadium.
Women’s Lacrosse Releases 2010 Schedule
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 10/20/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia women’s lacrosse coach Julie Myers announced her team’s schedule for the 2010 season Tuesday. The schedule features six games against teams that saw postseason action in last year’s NCAA Tournament, including both Division I finalists.
Virginia will begin its nine-game home schedule with three-straight contests at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers open against Loyola on Feb. 20, before hosting in-state rival Richmond on Feb. 24 and Big East power Syracuse on Feb. 27.
The Cavaliers’ first road swing will be a weekend trip to Maryland (March 5) and Penn State (March 7), before returning to Charlottesville for their Atlantic Coast Conference home opener against NCAA runner-up North Carolina on March 13.
On March 17, the Cavaliers will travel to William & Mary to take on the Tribe and will remain on the road for a game at Princeton on March 20. A contest on March 24 at Klöckner Stadium against James Madison will break up the Cavaliers’ away games, before they head to Duke on March 28.
Virginia returns to Klöckner Stadium to host three-straight contests, Old Dominion (March 31), ACC-foe Boston College (April 3) and Harvard (April 4), before closing out its conference schedule at Virginia Tech on April 7. The regular-season home finale is scheduled for April 13 against George Mason.
The 2010 ACC Tournament will be held at the University of Maryland on April 22-25.
Following the conference championships, Virginia will head to five-time NCAA Champion Northwestern for a game on April 30 in preparation for this season’s NCAA Championships. First round tournament games are scheduled for May 16 and May 22, with the finals being hosted by Towson on May 28-30.
Virginia’s season and individual game tickets will go on sale January 4.
Baseball's 2009 Recruiting Class Ranked Ninth Nationally by
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 10/20/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia's 2009 baseball recruiting class has been ranked ninth nationally by Baseball America, as announced by the magazine on Tuesday. This marks the second Top-10 ranking this class has accrued - Collegiate Baseball ranked the class 10th in September.
"I am very excited about this new group of players," Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor said. "It is a very talented class with some players who will make an immediate impact in our program. This is a group of athletic position players and pitchers who possess the ability to compete right away. Above all, this class of young men is a great fit for The University of Virginia. Our assistant coaches, Kevin McMullan and Karl Kuhn, have once again brought another stellar Top-10 recruiting class to Charlottesville. Kevin and Karl deserve all the credit in bringing these young men into our program."
UVa's class consists of 10 freshmen and two junior-college transfers. Five of the 12 players were selected in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft - freshmen Stephen Bruno (Audubon, N.J.), Reed Gragnani (Richmond, Va.), Branden Kline (Frederick, Md.) and Rob Amaro (Bensalem, Pa.) as well as Young Harris Junior College transfer Kenny Swab (Kernersville, N.C.).
The rest of the class is highly-regarded as well and consists of freshmen Chris Taylor (Virginia Beach, Va.), Colin Harrington (Johnstown, Pa.), Ryan Briggs (Omaha, Neb.), Ryan Levine (Hackensack, N.J.), Aaron Stull (Newport, N.C.) and Whit Mayberry (Alexandria, Va.) as well as transfer Cody Winiarski (Franksville, Wis./Madison Area Tech).
UVa's class is ranked second best among ACC programs, behind only No. 7 North Carolina. Florida brought in the nation's top incoming class according to Baseball America.
In addition to the 12 newcomers, UVa returns 23 letterwinners, including its entire starting lineup, from the 2009 team, which reached the College World Series for the first time in program history and posted a school-record 49 wins.
Virginia concludes its fall schedule at 6 p.m. tonight with Game 7 of the Orange and Blue World Series. The Cavaliers begin the 2010 regular season Feb. 19 at East Carolina.
Collegiate Baseball 2009 Recruiting Rankings
3. Arizona State
4. Texas Christian
5. Cal State Fullerton
7. North Carolina
8. Mississippi State