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Virginia seniors make an impact
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Nov 23, 2002
Virginia has 10 seniors, only seven of whom are likely to play in their final home game tonight against No. 18 Maryland. Just five are expected to start. But what the small exiting class has lacked in quantity, it has made up for in quality - quality of play, and quality of leadership.

While the team's freshmen have received plenty of attention and accolades - and rightly so - the seniors have played major roles in UVa's surprisingly successful season. Picked eighth in the conference in a preseason media poll, the Cavaliers (7-4, 5-2 ACC) can finish second by beating the Terrapins (9-2, 5-1) at Scott Stadium and assure themselves of a trip to the Gator or Peach Bowl.

"From the very first day, for all the talk about the young players, the seniors have been the foundation of this particular squad," said UVa coach Al Groh.

Groh said the older players set the tone during a team meeting two days after last season ended. The rising seniors "sat there with that look on their face, like, 'Hey, coach, we're going to have a good team.' They were just determined they were going to have a good team."

The seniors have made sure of that by turning in strong seasons. Billy McMullen leads the team in catches. Angelo Crowell, Merrill Robertson and Jerton Evans are the top three tacklers. Alex Seals has been a special-teams standout. Mike Mullins has provided stability at right tackle. Shernard Newby has a team-high three interceptions, while fellow safety Chris Williams had two in four games before suffering a season-ending injury.

"We've gotten the job done," Robertson said.

Just as importantly, the seniors have contributed to good team chemistry, a question mark before the season. It would have been easy for a rift to develop between the seniors and freshmen, a heralded group who may have expected to overshadow their elders.

But following the initial full-squad meeting of the preseason, when the coaches left the room, several seniors spoke to the freshmen, telling them in no uncertain terms what would take place: The seniors would lead, the freshmen would follow.

Evans said the point was to humble the freshmen and make sure they knew who was in charge. Apparently, it worked. The seniors have been superb mentors, while the freshmen, to their credit, have been willing protégés.

"When you have players like that to look up to, it's a great thing for the team," said freshman safety Willie Davis, who has taken Newby's starting spot. "They've shown us the way."

The young offensive linemen have been able to look to Mullins, a fifth-year senior, for guidance. Darryl Blackstock, whose nine sacks are an ACC freshman record, says fellow linebackers Crowell and Robertson have been ideal role models.

"Those guys keep me poised and focused out there," Blackstock said. "They're so serious. I like picking on them during practice. I'll run into them on purpose or mess with them. They're too slow to catch me. But it's great playing with them. They've really helped me learn this defense and show me what I need to do."

Mullins, Newby and Williams are among the few survivors of the ill-fated 1998 recruiting class, which had just one player (defensive tackle George Stanley) complete his eligibility in four years. Seals, Heath Boucek and Brad Durbin, who joined the team as walk-ons, are still around. But most of the 15 players who arrived on scholarship didn't last, a list that includes Arlen Harris, Boo Battle, David Blount, Darnell Hollier, James Johnson, Tavon Mason and Rashad Roberson.

"It's pretty amazing," Mullins said. "Seeing all those guys from my class leave, it's great for the seniors' morale to make a bowl this year."

The fourth-year seniors - McMullen, Crowell, Robertson and Evans - also miss many of their classmates. Remember Shomari Chism, R.C. Cosby, Beau Dickerson, Jay Green, Colin McWeeny, Terrell Ricks, Larry Simmons, Sharif Rosales-Webb and Bryson Spinner? All are gone.

Seven players from that 22-member class (and four former walk-ons) are currently redshirt juniors, including quarterback Matt Schaub and center Kevin Bailey. They also will be recognized today in a pregame ceremony.

For all the seniors, it's already been a special season. Having gone 7-5, 6-6 and 5-7 the past three years, an eighth victory today would mark a high point in their careers.

"I feel a lot of teams we've had here have had more talent, but we're the best team," Robertson said. "We're a real team, with guys playing for each other. It's not all about talent. It's about being a team, and like Coach Groh always says, the best team always wins."

Note. Virginia's final regular-season game at Virginia Tech on Nov. 30 will start at 3:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN.



Crowell a defensive gladiator
/ Daily Progress sports editor
Nov 23, 2002
When things aren't going so good for Virginia's defense and they need a potent dose of courage, some stirring inspiration, all they have to do is glance toward senior linebacker Angelo Crowell.

Teammate Chris Canty calls Crowell the ultimate warrior, the guy you can count on when all the chips are down.

Stories about Crowell's deeds bring to mind the haunting voice of the late John Facenda of NFL Films fame, describing the old linebackers, muddy, bloody, battling the elements, shedding hulkish blockers only to make gut-rattling collisions with opposing running backs.

Virginia coach Al Groh, who has been around a few good linebackers in his time, glows when asked about Crowell. One of the ultimate compliments a player can get from Groh is the comment, "He's the same guy every day."

Well, that's Crowell. Even when he's anguishing in pain, you wouldn't know. He wouldn't let you know.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., product who followed brother Germane to Jefferson's doorstep, has fought off pain from two MCL knee injuries to help lift the Cavaliers to unexpected success. Groh said it's rare for anyone to play with one MCL, let alone two.

No wonder Crowell has earned the nickname Maximus, Russell Crowe's gritty character in "Gladiator," one of the senior's favorite movies that he watched frequently before the season and often quoted lines from during grueling two-a-day practices in

training camp.

"Some guys picked up on that and started calling me Maximus, then Coach Groh heard it, so he started calling me that," said Crowell. "Maximus went through a little bit of everything. Now, he was the true warrior."

While Crowell's arena isn't quite as treacherous as that of the gladiator, there are triumphs and defeats, pain, anguish and even danger.

Crowell's first MCL injury came against Wake Forest, the second against Clemson, a game he couldn't finish because of the pain.

Only a few days before the next game, a home contest against North Carolina, Groh didn't think there was any way Crowell could play against the Tar Heels.

"I didn't know if I could make it out there myself," said Crowell. "I went out in practice and tested it and I couldn't do anything. Coach [Al] Golden [UVa's defensive coordinator] told me that coming back from a knee injury after only three or four days was asking a lot from myself."

But once Crowell went through warmups and got his blood circulating through the injured area, it was bearable.

"When I got out there, [fellow linebacker] Merrill [Robertson] was saying, 'Hey, dog, you don't look like you're hurting out here.' But I was hurting. I wouldn't admit it."

Crowell described the pain as throbbing, like needles in his legs. Every time he moved, he wanted to scream. It was excruciating.

Still, he played and played well and has ever since, even though he is only operating about about 80 to 85 percent in his estimation, heading into his last game ever at Scott Stadium this evening.

How did he play on two bum knees when he could barely function, when he woke up every morning with two stiff knees that caused him to limp and hardly walk?

"Intensity level, I guess," said Crowell. "In practice I can't take it, but in games, I just get in a zone where I don't feel anything. You know your body's hurting out there because you're taking a lot of hits. But you don't notice it until after the game."

Sitting out part of the Clemson game and a couple of practices leading up to the Carolina game caused more misery for Crowell than the injury itself.

"I never realized how much I really loved the game until I had to stand there and watch other people play," said Crowell. "Dang, man, I wanted to be out there so bad. I did whatever I had to do just to be able to run and be able to protect myself and help the team win."

Crowell has led the Cavaliers in tackles in two of the last three games and has combined to make 42 stops in those three outings. He racked up 15 tackles against Georgia Tech, then a season-high 16 at Penn State.

UVa's leading tackler on the season despite the injuries, Crowell needs 16 tackles the last two regular season games to become only the third player in Cavalier history to record 400 tackles for their career. His 384 tackles rank him fourth on Virginia's all-time list, behind only Byron Thweatt (387), Charles McDaniel (432) and Jamie Sharper (435).

"It's been a frustrating year for me because of the injuries, mainly because I had never been injured before," said Crowell.

His aim was to break his own record for most tackles in a season (144 last year), but the knee problems have helped hold him to 119.

"I feel like I have played OK but I had hoped my season would be a lot better than it is right now," said Crowell. "But I don't care about records, I don't care about bowl games. All I want to do is to walk out of Scott Stadium with a win on Saturday. A win is all I want."

Maybe he and Maximus aren't that different after all.



Cavaliers hold on to beat LIU
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Nov 23, 2002
The addition of Rutgers transfer Todd Billet was supposed to aid Virginia's shooting.

On Friday night in their season opener against Long Island, the Cavaliers were very fortunate to have Billet's defensive abilities as well.

With Virginia holding a tenuous 89-86 lead with 15 seconds remaining, Billet blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Long Island's Antawn Dobie to give Virginia a 90-86 victory.

"At that point of the game, they were down three points and you have to guard the line. You can let them get off a 3-pointer," said Billet, who also finished with 20 points, including a key runner with 1:31 left. "I just wanted to contest it and I got a block."

The 6-foot Billet, playing in his first game since transferring from Rutgers in the spring of 2001, had just six career blocks in his two seasons at Rutgers and admitted it's not his forte.

"Not really," Billet responded when asked if he remembered any of his other blocks. "That was just a play I had to make at that time."

Travis Watson finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers (1-0). With those 13 caroms, Watson moved past Steve Castellan into fourth place on Virginia's all-time list in that category. He now has 807 career rebounds.

Sophomore Jason Clark added 12 points as he sparked a sluggish Virginia offense in the second half as the Blackbirds, who were 5-22 a year ago and picked to finish 10th in the Northeast Conference, gave UVa all it could handle throughout the night.

Paced by lighting-quick guards Dobie and Maurice Yearwood and swingman JaJa Bey, the Blackbirds only once trailed by 10 or more points and briefly held the lead early in the second half.

Bey led Long Island with 21 points while Yearwood, who averaged just 6.1 points a game last season, had 17 as he connected on five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc. Dobie finished with 15 points and seven assists.

"We were very fortunate to win. … It's a guard's game. Antawn Dobie is one of the best guards we've played in my five years here at Virginia. He dominated the game. We couldn't guard him," Gillen said. "We played hard but they played harder. We wanted to win, they were desperate to win."

First-year LIU coach Jim Ferry said his team may have caught Virginia off guard as their play Friday night certainly belied its 5-22 record of last season.

"We're trying to overhaul this program right now and we're starting with basic fundamentals and trying to play hard. I told them before the game that if you play hard you can compete with anyone," Ferry said. "We approached this game like a street fight and I think we came out and surprised them a little."

The pesky Blackbirds, despite having no player over 6-foot-7, outrebounded the bigger Cavaliers, 41-30, and also connected on 10 of their 29 3-point attempts as they shot 48.5 percent from the floor

Defense had been a main point of emphasis for Virginia in the offseason but its effort Friday was not what the Cavaliers had been hoping for.

"We needed to make stops. If we had made them, it wouldn't have been that close," Watson said.

Instead, the game was extremely close.

Virginia led 44-40 at the half and frequently opened a five-to-six point lead in the second half but was not able to pull away.

The game was tied at 56 with 12:44 left before a personal eight-point run by Clark gave Virginia a 64-56 advantage with 10:42 left.

That lead would grow to 78-68 when Billet, who connected on five of his 10 attempts from behind the arc, hit a trey from right wing with 4:40 left.

Again, however, the Blackbirds managed to cut the lead back to 84-81 with 1:29 left before Billet made his runner, showing a side of his game just as unpredictable as the block.

"I don't like that quite frankly. He's a little guy and he can get mugged in there and the referees won't see it," Gillen said.

Virginia's next game is Monday in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Cavaliers face Division II Chaminade in what will mark the 20th anniversary of that school's monumental upset of then-No. 1 Virginia in 1982.

Two signees. UVa officially announced the signing of recruits Gary Forbes and J.R. Reynolds on Friday.

Forbes, a 6-6 swingman from Brooklyn's Benjamin Banneker Academy, averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists a game as a junior last season. He committed to Virginia in October after also considering Georgia Tech.

Reynolds, a combination guard, started for four seasons at Roanoke Catholic High School before transferring to Oak Hill Academy for his senior year. He scored 2,237 points, made 217 three-point field goals and had 570 assists during his career at Roanoke Catholic. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the Virginia Independent Schools Division II three times. Reynolds verbally committed to the Cavaliers last November.

"We are thrilled to officially have these two young men join our Virginia basketball family," Gillen said. "They are both very talented guards who can play a couple of positions. I sincerely feel they will be impact players on our team next season."



U.Va.’s young offensive line has grown up in a hurry
By ED MILLER, The Virginian-Pilot
© November 23, 2002

Just a few weeks ago, the starting guards were backup tackles. The center began the season as the long snapper.
The tackles? Thank goodness for the tackles. They’ve been fixtures all season.

Meet the Virginia offensive line, version 5.0.

This is the latest manifestation of the Cavaliers’ ever-morphing quintet. It’s the one that powered Virginia’s upset of No. 22 N.C. State last Saturday, the one that will take the field against 19th-ranked Maryland today.

A more unlikely line, you’re not likely to find in the ACC. At many schools, the linemen are the players with the receding hairlines. With all the blocking schemes players are asked to learn and all the beef they are asked to move, the O-line is generally no place for the young of heft, or head.

The Cavaliers, by necessity more than design, have shattered that mold. This time last year, two of Virginia’s starters were in high school. Another was a redshirt and a fourth played only on special teams.

From tackle to tackle, the Cavaliers start a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, a sophomore, a true freshman and a senior. Toss in the tight end and four of the six starters are freshmen.

And did we say the line “powered” the upset of N.C. State? Poor choice of words. This line, which averages just 277 pounds, doesn’t “power” anyone.

“We have more speed guys than heavy-set guys,” guard Brian Barthelmes said. “More athleticism than those big ogres.”

Line Lite did something right against N.C. State. The Cavaliers rushed for 197 yards, their second highest total of the season, against the ACC’s top-rated defense. All but 51 yards came in the second half.

“I think it might be stretching the point a little bit to say that in 30 minutes we improved dramatically,” coach Al Groh said. “But, we got the yardage out of it that we needed.”

At this point, you would think Groh might settle for mere competence, given all the injuries and shuffling that have taken place.

It began back in August, when center Kevin Bailey, considered the team’s best linemen, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Florida State.

Zac Yarbrough, a sophomore who had played primarily as the long snapper, replaced Bailey. Then guard Mark Farrington went down. He was replaced by Ben Carber, a junior who had never appeared in a game.

Farrington returned, only to be beaten out by Barthelmes, a redshirt freshman who began the season as a tackle.

Two weeks later, guard Elton Brown, considered the team’s best lineman after Bailey, left the Georgia Tech game with a stress fracture in his right foot. Brown has missed two games, and just returned to practice Monday.

Carber replaced Brown, but was beaten out by true freshman Brad Butler.

Only the tackles – true freshmen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and senior Mike Mullins – have been constants.

“Guys come in and out of the lineup; that’s the way it goes,” Groh said. “We don’t talk about it. We don’t say, ‘So and so’s not playing; you have to step up.’ ”

The most important constant has been the man doing the patching all season, coach Ron Prince. Players say Prince’s teaching ability, and blocking schemes, are the keys to overcoming a lack of bulk and experience.

“I think we’re pretty much the only line in the ACC that runs the way we do,” Yarbrough said. “A lot of it is help, getting double teams on the guys we need to, and basically taking care of the matchups.”

Players say Virginia’s pass-blocking schemes emphasize help over one-on-one matchups.

“You can trust your center, your guard, your tackle. They’re going to help you,” Barthelmes said. “If you’re getting beat on the edge, you know where your help is coming from.”

Knowing more than one position helps, too. Players say Prince requires them to learn all three line positions.

At 290 pounds, Barthelmes is one of the heavyweights on the line. Mullins also goes about 290. Yarbrough and Butler are closer to 275, and Ferguson an almost-slender 265. All three freshmen expect to add bulk in the coming years, and seem to have the frames to do it. Butler is 6-foot-8, Barthelmes 6-7 and Ferguson 6-5.



Cleanup on aisle 10
Lost deer goes Krogering/Buck in Search of Lost Hokies' Defense?


   BLACKSBURG - A confused deer, lost in the Gables Shopping Center, headed through two sets of automatic doors and proceeded to run amok in Kroger on Friday morning.

    "It was a buck, probably a six-pointer," said customer Valerie Belcher, who said she hugged a cashier as the panicked animal came toward her. "We watched it just jump right over us."

    After a frantic run through the store, the deer ran back out of the building and onto North Main Street, where it was hit by a van before disappearing, said Blacksburg Police Officer M.G. Mickey.

    Like many Virginia localities, Blacksburg has such a quickly growing deer population that the animals have gone from cute to public safety hazard. The problems are usually confined to gardens and roads, though, not shopping centers.

    "Not often that you see a deer go Krogering," said Mickey.

    No one in Kroger was injured, but employees had some minor messes to clean up and the store was buzzing with excitement.

    "I felt like that Elvis song - 'All Shook Up,'" said Margaret Cates, who hid behind her cart, then sought refuge in the First Citizens Bank branch located in the store.

    "He was all over the store," said Kerrie Cook, a teller at the bank. "He was just so frazzled he didn't know what to do."

    She said the deer, which was already injured, entered through the automatic doors near her counter. Sometimes slipping on the linoleum, it went through the U-Scan checkout area and down aisle 10.

    Sushi chef Wayne Fleming said the deer jumped through his area, and he had trampled sushi containers to prove it. He called it a "natural disaster."

    Linda Jilk was shopping with her daughter, Eliza, at the time.

    The 2 -year-old already had Santa Claus on her mind, and when she saw the deer, she made the natural connection.

    "Somebody yells, 'There's a deer in the store,'" said Jilk, "and Eliza's like, 'Santa's reindeer?'"

    Jilk, whose planned purchase of butter was stepped on by the deer, said it was a surreal scene.

    "People were jumping up on things - screaming and yelling," she said. "Everybody was so worried for the deer. He was just running so quickly and he was large."

    She said she then tried to keep people away from the doors, so the deer wouldn't be scared to exit.

    When he finally ran out the door, everyone cheered, she said.



Improving Cavs look to end Terps' title bid

With a win, UVa would clinch a second-place tie in the ACC and likely go to the Gator or Peach bowls.


   When Virginia was picked to finish eighth in the ACC before the football season, the Cavaliers drew inspiration from a Maryland team that won the 2001 ACC championship after being picked seventh.

    In many respects, UVa has resembled the 2001 Maryland team. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers today, so have the Terrapins.

    Maryland will be looking for its ninth straight victory when the Terps (9-2, 5-1 ACC) visit Virginia (7-4, 5-2) today for a game that will be televised by ESPN2 starting at 5:30 p.m.

    "I think it's a very big game for both programs," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

    Technically, the Terrapins can still tie Florida State for the ACC championship and could get a Bowl Championship Series berth if they finish six spots ahead of the Seminoles in the BCS standings.

    Virginia, an eight-point underdog, would clinch a second-place tie in the ACC by beating the Terrapins and in all likelihood would play in the Gator Bowl or Peach Bowl.

    UVa had dominated the series, beating Maryland nine straight times before losing 41-21 at College Park, Md., last year in Friedgen's first season.

    The Terps haven't won at Scott Stadium since 1990, when they overcame a 21-7 deficit in a 30-23 victory over a UVa team that had been ranked No.1 in the country for three weeks previously.

    Little was expected from the Terrapins this year when they were blanked by Notre Dame 22-0 in the season-opening Kickoff Classic and an injury to 2001 ACC Offensive Player of the Year Bruce Perry cast doubt on the offense.

    Maryland already was without second-team All-ACC quarterback Shaun Hill, who is with the Minnesota Vikings, but the Terrapins have become an offensive juggernaut thanks to unheralded quarterback Scott McBrien and tailback Chris Downs.

    McBrien, from nearby DeMatha High School, spent two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to Maryland in the summer of 2001 without the guarantee of a scholarship. Downs, a senior, had four carries in his career before this season.

    McBrien, sluggish early, threw three touchdown passes last Saturday in a 30-12 victory at Clemson and has passed for 1,906 yards, with 12 touchdown passes for the season.

    Friedgen took notice of McBrien's play on the scout team last year and offered him a scholarship, although McBrien, a left-hander, had an unorthodox delivery and little background with the option that Maryland likes to run.

    "I thought he had a very strong arm and a very quick release," Friedgen said. "Because he's so accurate, I thought he had a chance."

    Perry, finally rounding into form, has seen playing time in recent games but the Terrapins will continue to look to Downs, who has five 100-yard rushing games and stands at 995 for the season.

    "Chris always worked hard," Friedgen said. "He's had some problems fumbling and catching the ball but always had quick feet and was a tough guy. But, with the number of guys we had back, I really didn't see him figuring in this year.

    "When he came back for fall practice, he wasn't mishandling the ball, he was catching the ball, he wasn't making mistakes. It probably took me too long to realize this kid was our best back."

    Virginia's other concerns include Maryland linebacker E.J. Henderson, the 2001 ACC Player of the Year, and a Maryland special-teams unit that includes 5-9, 187-pound sophomore Steve Suter, who has returned four punts for touchdowns.

    UVa has some threats of its own, including junior quarterback Matt Schaub, who has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a school-record 11 consecutive games and needs 9 passing yards to surpass the total of 2,510 by current receivers coach Mike Groh, the single-season record holder.

    "That's already come out of the trophy case," Groh's father, Al, said.



Billet big in clutch for Cavs

Todd Billet scores 20 points in his Virginia debut and comes up with a key block to help avoid the upset.


   CHARLOTTESVILLE - In the 18-month period since Todd Billet announced his intentions to transfer to Virginia, not once did anybody mention his shot-blocking ability.

    The record indicates that Billet gets fewer than one blocked shot a month, but he had a memorable one Friday night to help preserve a 90-86 Cavaliers' victory over unheralded Long Island University.

    "We came within an eyelash of making the national news," UVa coach Pete Gillen said. "We wanted the win. They were desperate for a win. I don't think they play anybody in the Big East. They don't play anybody in the SEC or Big Ten. This was their glamour game."

    Senior center Travis Watson had 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers, who also got 20 points from Billet, making his UVa debut after spending his first two years at Rutgers.

    Billet made five 3-point field goals, but his biggest basket of the night came on a 10-foot runner that gave the Cavaliers an 86-81 lead with 1:29 left.

    There were 10 seconds remaining on the 35-second clock when time was called with 1:31. First-year LIU coach Jim Ferry advised his players not to let Billet take an open 3-pointer.

    "I'm pretty good friends with his brother from the Jersey shore," said Ferry, "so I know Todd's game pretty well. I kept telling our guys, 'Make him cross the line. Make him cross the line.'"

    Billet drove from the right wing, stopped and lurched forward for his only two-point field goal of the night.

    "I don't like him doing that," Gillen said. "It's not my favorite shot. He's not very tall and there are just too many big bodies and long arms in there."

    LIU got the margin back to three, 89-86, when Billet, came up big again. His block of an Antwan Dobie 3-point attempt with 11 seconds left was the seventh block of his 59-game college career.

    "He jumps like I do, maybe a little better," Gillen said.

    Dobie, the leading scorer in the Northeast Conference last year, got the best of the Cavaliers for most of the night and finished with 15 points and seven assists. His backcourt mate and fifth-year senior, Maurice Yearwood, hit five 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 17 points.

    "Antwan Dobie's one of the best guards we've played against in my five years here," Gillen said.

    UVa point guard Keith Jenifer had seven assists, contrasted with one turnover, but missed all seven of his shots from the floor. On top of that, Virginia was outrebounded 41-30 by shorter LIU, which shot 48.5 percent against a Cavaliers defense that supposedly had improved.

    The Blackbirds, who finished 5-22 after losing 16 consecutive games to start the 2001-2002 season, briefly held the lead at 47-46 early in the second half and were tied 56-56 with under 12 1/2 minutes left.

    That's when sophomore forward Jason Clark came off the bench and scored eight straight points for the Cavaliers and a total of 10 points in fewer than 2 1/2 minutes. He finished with a career-high 12 points in 17 minutes.

    "While I was on the bench, [teammate] Majestic Mapp told me, 'Jason, you're going to be our sparkplug,'" Clark said. "Part of me believed it, part of me didn't. Majestic was sitting over there, just talking, but next thing you know, it came true."



Which Tech team will show up next week?

Prunty says Brooks 'solid'

Exclusive to by 5 p.m. Fridays
Chalk it up to my home-field bias, but I think Virginia has a better chance of beating Maryland today in Charlottesville than it does Virginia Tech next weekend in Blacksburg.

That doesn’t mean I think Tech is better than Maryland. At a neutral site, I’d pick the Terrapins, but I still think Lane Stadium is a tough place to play.

Feel free to question that assessment based on Tech's last two home games, losses to Pittsburgh (28-21) and West Virginia (21-16). If you're a Hokies fan, you might want to blame it on me because Tech has lost its last four games with me in attendance, including last year’s regular-season finale against Miami and the Gator Bowl against Florida State.

I'll be at Lane Stadium next week, when I think a major factor will be team speed. If the Hokies can take advantage of their quickness, they’ll win. If the Cavaliers can neutralize Tech's speed, they could spring the upset.

UVa is getting faster, but, in that department, it isn't where Tech is just yet.

That's what impressed me about Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Particularly on defense, I thought both teams had a match for Tech's quickness. For those who think 2003 is the year when youthful Tech will blossom, look out for Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh and West Virginia in Morgantown.

(UVa in Charlottesville won't be easy.)

One conclusion that I've drawn from Tech's three-game slide is that the Big East is better than a lot of people think. Either that, or the three ranked teams that Tech beat early in the season -- LSU, Marshall and Texas A&M -- were overrated.

Actually, they were overrated. LSU has been one of college football's major disappointments; Marshall doesn't have much besides quarterback Byron Leftwich, now injured, and Texas A&M had a nonexistent offense until freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal was unharnessed.

UVa fans like to criticize Tech's schedules -- and the Hokies have had some ridiculous schedules in the past -- but you can't criticize the Hokies for a schedule that looked ambitious on paper but failed to provide the expected tests.

Really, the Tech-UVa game boils down to which Tech team shows up. The Cavaliers have been able to run on the Hokies, but everybody's been able to run on the Hokies lately, and maybe that's the biggest surprise of all.

One of the phone calls I received in response to a Friday column on Bryan Randall ("Randall shouldn't take all the blame") was from a Tech fan who said I needed to start pointing a finger at the coaches. Fair enough. If you don't blame Randall, you have to blame somebody.

One letter-writer pointed out that, with the money the coaches receive, occasional criticism comes with the territory. This is a Tech staff that has been amply compensated, which is one of the reasons it has stayed together.

You can't blame the Tech fans for thinking that the Hokies should have scored on three cracks from the 1-yard line Wednesday night but, if you give the ball to anybody but 1,000-yard rusher Lee Suggs and don't make it, then you really should be ripped.

As for Randall's quarterback sneak on second down, I can't understand why more coaches don't use quarterback sneaks in short-yardage situations. UVa coach Al Groh said you run the risk of getting your quarterback hurt in that situation, but Groh hasn't hesitated lately to run his QB, Matt Schaub, on quarterback draws and even options.

Groh remembers a time when his own son, Mike, came out of a game loopy after running a quarterback sneak. If I remember Mike Groh, if the Cavaliers gained a first down, he never complained for a minute.

DID VIRGINIA TECH fans get their hopes up when Hargrave Military Academy was in Blacksburg last week for a junior-varsity game and Virginia signee Ahmad Brooks spent time with former Hylton High School teammate D.J. Walton?

"He's solid," said Robert Prunty, head of the postgraduate program at Hargrave. "I done talked to his dad [Perry Brooks] on the phone. He's solid. I talk to the dad regularly. He's definitely going back to UVa. Ahmad has told me over and over that he's definitely going back there."

Brooks has made multiple trips to Virginia and has said he hopes to enroll in January, although he still has not met NCAA eligibility guidelines in place when he graduated from high school. The NCAA recently passed new guidelines that reduce the importance of the SAT, but it is unclear how they impact Brooks.

Prunty said the Cavaliers are recruiting several other Hargrave players, including Pat Bedics, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound fulback-linebacker from Bethlehem, Pa., who is likely to sign with Boston College. UVa is also writing to 6-2, 235-pound Ma'tron Church, a linebacker from St. Petersburg, Fla., and Chris McDuffie, a 6-4, 310-pound lineman from George Washington-Danville.

Virginia Tech has offered a scholarship to speedy defensive back Michael Hinton (Virginia is also in the picture) and Prunty said Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers are among the 131 college coaches he expects at a combine Dec. 9.

Prunty says 40 or more Hargrave players may go Division I-A, including 11 who have made commitments: Brooks, defensive back Chris Carter (Clemson), wide receiver Chris Baker (Arkansas), defensive back Fred Bennett (South Carolina), defensive lineman Chris Bradwell (Florida State); defensive end Jyles Tucker (Wake Forest), defensive end Melik Brown (North Carolina), lineman Haines Holloway (Rutgers), tight end Leonard Pope (Georgia), defensive end Brandon Jenkins (Mississippi) and defensive lineman Chris Anderson (Florida State).

Baker, who scored two touchdowns in Hargrave's 12-6 victory over the Tech JVs, may be the most spectacular of all.



Cavs thwart LIU upset bid
U.Va. hangs on to win opener, 90-86
By Dave Johnson
Daily Press

Published November 23, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Virginia coach Pete Gillen soaked through yet another suit, and the sold-out crowd in University Hall made noise until the end. Of course, the end against a team like Long Island University should have come by halftime, but that's another matter.

Todd Billet scored 20 points and blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining as the Cavaliers held on for a 90-86 season-opening victory over the Blackbirds on Friday. Virginia never trailed from the moment the game was 61/2 minutes old, but it could never put away a team that finished 5-22 last year and was rated 304th out of 327 Division I teams in The Sporting News' preseason issue.

"We came within an eyelash of making national news," Gillen said. "But hey, we beat a very good team that played great. So we'll take it and run."

The Cavaliers led 80-71 with 4:18 remaining, but an 8-0 run by LIU turned it into a one-point game 60 seconds later. The Blackbirds had a chance to tie, but Billet stuffed Antawn Dobie as he attempted a 3-pointer from the left wing. Billet saved the ball to teammate Keith Jenifer, and the Cavs survived.

It was the seventh career block for Billet, a 6-foot transfer who played two years for Rutgers. He couldn't remember any of the previous six, but it's safe to say this was the biggest.

"At that point of the game, when you're down three points, you have to guard the line," said Billet, who was 5-of-10 from the arc himself. "You don't want to get beat with a 3-point shot, and the way they were shooting, you want to contest it."

The Cavaliers didn't contest much. The Blackbirds went 10-of-29 from the 3-point arc and shot 48.5 percent from the floor. Not the kind of stuff newly hired assistant Rod Jensen, essentially Virginia's defensive coordinator, hoped to see. LIU also outrebounded the Cavs 41-30.

This, keep in mind, from a team that was picked 10th in the 12-member Northeast Conference. "In all honesty," LIU coach Jim Ferry said, "I thought we should have been picked 11th or 12th."

After avoiding what came dangerously close to being perhaps the second-biggest upset in school history - behind only the Chaminade shocker in 1982 - the Cavs were to leave for the Maui Invitational today. Virginia opens Monday afternoon against ... Chaminade.



ACC games hold fistful of drama
League championship, bowl positions at stake during weekend action

Raleigh Bureau

As this unusual ACC football season careens to an end, three games this weekend highlight the league's good, bad and ugly.

In order:

GOOD: At Charlottesville, Va., the league's two most pleasant surprises play for bowl placement when No. 18 Maryland (9-2, 5-1) visits Virginia (7-4, 5-2). The Terps could clinch a spot in the Gator Bowl and keep alive their hopes of a Bowl Championship Series bid, while the Cavs could clinch a spot in the Peach Bowl.

The Terps can win a share of the league title, but they need N.C. State to break its three-game losing streak Saturday against Florida State. Having lost 37-10 to the Seminoles and beaten N.C. State 24-21, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen doesn't seem to like the chances of that happening.

"We just have to hope for the best between N.C. State and Florida State," he said.

A Florida State victory would hurt Maryland's bowl situation, but help Virginia's. Even if it loses next week to Virginia Tech to end up 8-5, Virginia would be assured a spot in the Peach Bowl if it defeats Maryland.

The Peach must take the third-place team in the league if it finishes two full games ahead of the No. 4 team, which Virginia would do at 6-2.

"The objective is to win the (ACC) championship," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "But since that's not something we can aim for at this exact moment, we're going to aim as high as we can."

BAD: At Raleigh, the ACC status quo will be upheld if Florida State (8-3, 7-0) defeats the Pack (9-3, 4-3) to win its 10th title in 11 years, and its eighth without a loss. To some pundits, another 8-0 league title for FSU, especially in a season in which it has lost three times and could lose twice more, would damage the ACC's national reputation.

A fourth consecutive loss for N.C. State could make for some hand-wringing about its bowl destination. The Wolfpack covets a spot in the Peach Bowl, but at 4-4 in league play, and with four consecutive losses to close the season, it could be bypassed by teams with lesser win-loss records but similar marks in conference play and stronger finishes.

Virginia and Georgia Tech would fit into that category if either wins its regular-season finale next week against Virginia Tech and Georgia, respectively.

Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato scoffs at talk the league is catching up to Florida State.

"I said this summer you guys are nuts if you think Florida State is on a downer," he said. "... Has anybody (in the ACC) beaten them this year?"

UGLY: At Durham, North Carolina (2-9, 0-7) and Duke (2-9, 0-7) will get their seasons over with. A loss would give UNC its third-worst record since 1944, while a loss would give Duke athletics director Joe Alleva another reason to fire coach Carl Franks (career record: 5-39).

UNC coach John Bunting is so eager to turn the page on this season, he will declare to his team the start of the 2003 season Sunday, win or lose.

Franks suggested the Tar Heels have underachieved.

"There's some really good players on that football team," he said. "There's no reason they ever shouldn't have a very good football team."



Cavs can finish 2nd by beating Terps
Virginia's home finale is a big one

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Eight football teams in the ACC would not have minded one bit if E.J. Henderson had passed up his final year of college eligibility to enter the NFL. Maryland's All-America linebacker chose - for a variety of reasons, including an aching back that needed surgery - to remain in College Park.

"I'm happy with my decision," Henderson said. "The season's going well for the team, and I think the best is yet to come."

The 6-2, 243-pound graduate student - Henderson received a bachelor's in sociology in May - leads the Terrapins in tackles for the third straight season. His presence is a huge reason 18th-ranked Maryland, for the second straight season, ranks among the ACC's premier teams.

"He's really been, I think, one of the players - both in production and men-tality towards winning - that has helped move that program along," said Al Groh, Virginia's second-year coach. "Having dealt with that position as a position coach [in college and the NFL] for a long time, I enjoy watching him play."

Groh would enjoy a U.Va. victory tonight more. In their home finale, the Cavaliers (5-2, 7-4) can assure themselves a second-place finish in the ACC by knocking off the Terps (5-1, 9-2) on ESPN2.

"It's fun to be involved in a game like this," said Groh, whose team finished tied for seventh in the conference last year.

Maryland has lost five straight at Scott Stadium. A win tonight, coupled with a Florida State loss at N.C. State, would put the Terps in position to clinch a share of a second straight ACC title - and keep alive their dream of returning to the Bowl Championship Series.

"It's a very big game for both programs," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said, referring to Groh's and his.

The Terrapins' season has reflected that of Henderson, the reigning ACC player of the year. Maryland, which opened with a loss to Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic, has won eight straight since falling 37-10 to FSU on Sept. 14. Henderson, who had surgery in April to remove bone spurs from his back, started in the opener but wasn't ready to dominate.

"Personally, I think I've had my ups and downs," said Henderson, who's from Aberdeen, Md. "There have been some games I thought I stunk up the joint. . . . Overall, I'd give myself a B, B-plus."

Others aren't as critical. Maryland leads the ACC in scoring defense (14.8 ppg), and Henderson is a finalist for three national awards: the Butkus, the Lombardi and the Nagurski. He's averaging 11.4 tackles, fifth-most in the ACC, and has recorded 5½ sacks.

"I think he started off a little slow, but he's playing very well right now," Friedgen said.

Henderson was the ACC's defensive player of the year in 2001, and teammate Bruce Perry received the award for offense. Perry, a junior tailback, has been slowed by injuries this season but has finally started to regain his 2001 form. For all the challenges Henderson and Perry pose, however, Groh worries as much about three other Terps: kicker Nick Novak, punter Brooks Barnard and returner extraordinaire Steve Suter.

"You've got the premier placekicker, the premier punter and the premier return man in the conference all on the same team," Groh said. "There's been a lot of individual plays that have dramatically impacted the outcome of the game by any one of those three players. And then besides those individual plays there's been a tremendous field-position advantage to Maryland's side in almost every game."

Virginia's seniors have played on teams that won seven, six and five games, respectively.

"I want to go out with a nice taste in my mouth," linebacker Merrill Robertson said. "This would be the first team that I've been on here that won eight games."

Added classmate Billy McMullen, the Cavaliers' leading receiver: "If you got trouble getting up for this game, something's wrong for you. You shouldn't be here. It's a big game for us: for the seniors and for the whole team."


Jensen hopes to get the stops needed to make Virginia go
New Cavaliers assistant focuses on defensive side

CHARLOTTESVILLE Al Groh has a defensive coordinator. So too, for the first time, does another head coach at the University of Virginia.

Meet Rod Jensen, the newest member of men's basketball coach Pete Gillen's staff. Jensen is the guy on the Cavaliers' bench who's especially animated when opponents have the ball. Defense lies at the heart of his coaching philosophy.

"Good or bad, that is my reputation," said Jensen, 49, who compiled a 109-93 record in seven seasons as Boise State's coach. "My upbringing has been very strong-willed at the defensive end."

Roger Mason Jr., U.Va.'s leading scorer last season, now plays for the Chicago Bulls. But he's heard from his former teammates about the Cavaliers' new assistant.

"They say the only language he knows is defense," Mason said. "It's kind of funny: That could have helped us last year."

In each of U.Va.'s final seven games, its opponent shot at least 50 percent from the floor. During that stretch, Maryland shot 61.5 percent, N.C. State 60.4 and Wake Forest 57.9.

The Cavaliers, who were ranked No. 4 in December, collapsed during the season's final six weeks. They failed to reach the NCAA tournament and finished 17-12 after losing in the NIT's first round.

Numerous factors contributed to the Wahoos' downfall, but the biggest might have been their porous defense. That's a big reason why, after Gillen's top assistant, Tommy Herrion, left in the spring to become coach at the College of Charleston, Jensen emerged as such an attractive candidate.

"Rod is a tremendous defensive coach," Gillen said. "He worked for Dick Harter, who's probably the top defensive coach alive, dead or yet to be born."

After 12 seasons as an assistant at Boise State, Jensen ascended to the head coach's chair in 1995. In'98-89, the Broncos went 21-8 and were Big West Conference tournament runners-up. In 2001-02, though, Boise State joined the tougher Western Athletic Conference and fell to 13-17.

In March, Boise State dismissed Jensen. In April, Herrion left for Charleston, S.C. Gillen considered filling the vacancy from within his circle of hoops acquaintances, but several people he respects, including Gene Corrigan and former U.Va. coach Terry Holland, encouraged him to look at another option.

At N.C. State, Herb Sendek's assistants include former Ohio coach Larry Hunter, a key player in the Wolfpack's turnaround last season. At Connecticut, Jim Calhoun's staff includes ex-Holy Cross coach George Blaney. Holland himself had hired Dave Odom as an assistant at U.Va. after Odom's stint as East Carolina's coach.

"People I respect in our administration and people I respect in basketball said, 'Pete, get a veteran guy who's not from your [coaching] family,' " Gillen said.

Jensen had ties to U.Va. His daughter Kate graduated from the university in May, and Jon Oliver, Virginia's senior associate AD, played at Boise State when Jensen was an assistant there.

When he heard Gillen discuss his team's defensive woes, Oliver said, "In my mind, I kind of knew who the person was who could help him with that."

So Oliver mentioned Jensen to Gillen and U.Va. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, a former head coach at Penn and Rutgers. In July, Gillen hired Jensen to build a respectable defense.

Jensen's teams at Boise State didn't press fullcourt, a trademark of Gillen's clubs. "He think press is something you do with your pants," Gillen said.

Nor have Jensen's teams run the way Gillen's typically do. Even so, Jensen said, "I'm not opposed to pushing the ball and being aggressive offensively. I just think you have to be aggressive at both ends of the floor."

Jensen won't go out on the road recruiting. Gillen, who has yet to win a postseason game with the Cavaliers, wants him to focus on teaching and coaching.

"As a head coach, you need as much help as you can get," Gillen said. "The big thing is, he has experience. Rod can do a lot of things to help take pressure off me."

Jensen, a Utah native, grew up in Michigan and California. He graduated from the University of Redlands in 1975 and later began his college coaching career there. He spent the'82-83 season at Penn State, under Harter, before moving back to the West.

"In my heart of hearts, I think we'll be a better team with Rod Jensen," Gillen said. "We lost a terrific coach in Tommy Herrion. I think we got a terrific coach in Rod Jensen."


Virginia Q&A
Will new faces carry the Cavaliers to new places?


Q: What's new in Pete Gillen's program?

A: Gillen enters his fifth season in Charlottesville with a new assistant - former Boise State coach Rod Jensen - and four talented players who were elsewhere or not eligible last season: freshman Derrick Byars, sophomore Devin Smith and juniors Nick Vander Laan and Todd Billet. At least three of them are likely to be starters: the 6-10, 255-pound Vander Laan at center, the 6-5 Smith at small forward and the 6-0 Billet at one of the guard spots. Vander Laan and Billet sat out last season after transferring from California and Rutgers, respectively. Smith, a terrific outside shooter, was a first-team junior-college All-American in 2001-02. The 6-7 Byars, a fourth-team Parade All-American last season, may eventually start at shooting guard. Gillen also hopes to be able to use Majestic Mapp at point guard at some point this season. Mapp has missed the past two seasons with knee problems.

Q: Who's gone?

A: The Cavaliers must replace three of their top four scorers from 2001-02, including four-year starters Chris Williams (14 ppg) and Adam Hall (9.7 ppg). Guard Roger Mason Jr., Virginia's leading scorer the past two seasons, gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA. Mason led the Wahoos in five categories last season, including scoring (18.6 ppg), assists (4.1 per game) and free-throw percentage (88.1). J.C. Mathis, a 6-8 post player whose role diminished dramatically late in the season, transferred to Michigan. Finally, Tommy Herrion, Gillen's top assistant, left to become head coach at the College of Charleston.

Q: How does the non-conference schedule look?

A. More than respectable. After an opening-night tuneup against lowly Long Island, Virginia joins an elite field in Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. If it beats Division II Chaminade, U.Va. would probably face Kentucky in the semifinals. Potential championship-game opponents: Massachusetts, NCAA runner-up Indiana, Utah and Gonzaga. The Cavaliers' slate also includes road trips to Michigan State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and Ohio, and a home game with Georgetown.

Q: In March 1998, Gillen took over a down-and-out program and quickly turned it around. The Cavaliers advanced to the NIT in Gillen's second season and to the NCAA in his third. So why the grumbling about the state of his program?

A: Much of the discontent can be traced to the Cavaliers' collapse last season and their continued inability to win in postseason. That they were a seriously flawed team became apparent as the 2001-02 season wore on, but no one expected the Hoos to fall as fast or as hard as they did. When the NCAA tournament field was announced in March, Virginia, which had been unbeaten and ranked No. 4 nationally in December, was on the outside looking in. Gillen's club, plagued by shoddy defense, poor chemistry and shaky perimeter shooting, finished 17-12 after losing 10 of its final 13 games. Persistent rumors of off-the-court antics involving U.Va. players didn't bolster confidence in the current regime, and neither did the arrest this month of sophomore guard Jermaine Harper, who was charged with driving under the influence and suspended indefinitely from the team.

Q: When will Harper rejoin the team?

Gillen said Tuesday that he hadn't determined when Harper's suspension would end. Harper hasn't been practicing with the team and won't accompany it to Hawaii next week.

Q: Will this team fare better than its immediate predecessor?

A: It should, and not only because the ACC lost so many marquee players - among them Jason Williams, Juan Dixon, Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Grundy, Chris Wilcox and Darius Songaila. Led by Travis Watson, Virginia has perhaps the ACC's top frontcourt, and the addition of Billet, Byars and Smith should result in significantly better perimeter shooting. Mason was the only Cavalier to hit more than 28 3-pointers last season. At Rutgers, Billet made 82 treys in 2000-01, and Smith sank 108 of 236 attempts (45.8 percent) from beyond the arc at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College last season. Virginia isn't as quick as in recent years, so it may not press as much, but it should play better halfcourt defense. Finally, with Billet eligible, Gillen no longer lacks a veteran point guard.

Q: Come March, will U.Va. be singing yet another chorus of the postseason blues?

A: It's too early to tell, of course, but it's safe to say that Gillen's critics will multiply if the Cavaliers stumble again. Since beating Kansas in the third round of the 1995 NCAA tournament, U.Va. has dropped 12 straight postseason games. Not all of those losses came on Gillen's watch, but Virginia fans' frustration is growing. The Cavs haven't won a game in the ACC tourney since'95, when they beat Georgia Tech in the first round. Virginia was ousted in the NIT's first round in both 2000 and 2002, each time at University Hall.


Terps gear up to shift into 1st
Friedgen seeks to lift UM from 2nd in ACC by beating Virginia today; Part of equation: Fla. State losing; Cavaliers on own climb after defeat by Seminoles
Sun Staff
Originally published November 23, 2002

As long as there's a chance that Florida State will lose to North Carolina State this afternoon, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is still thinking big going into his team's football game at 5:30 p.m. today at Virginia.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference race, third-place Virginia (7-4 overall, 5-2 ACC) breathes down the necks of the second-place and 18th-ranked Terrapins (9-2, 5-1). That gives Maryland something to defend, but Friedgen's motivation is to catch No. 14 Florida State (8-3, 7-0), which has its final chance to fall in league play.

"I don't want to be in second place," said Friedgen, whose team is looking for its first win in Charlottesville since 1990. "I want to be in first place - that's why I want to win the game."

Two Maryland wins, combined with a Florida State loss today in its 3:30 p.m. game, would allow the school a share of its second straight ACC title, and could be enough for a Bowl Championship Series berth.

The Terps lost to Florida State, 37-10, but league rules state that the loser in a head-to-head matchup can win a tiebreaker over the victor for the league's BCS bid if it is ranked at least five spots ahead in an average of the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls.

This position is rewarding enough for the Terps, who lost two of their first three games before rattling off eight straight wins. The nine wins came against opponents that appear weaker than Florida State and Notre Dame, the teams Maryland lost to, but the Terps remain proud of the streak even if they don't get a BCS bowl.

"I wouldn't be disappointed," quarterback Scott McBrien said when asked about being co-champions. The Terps won sole possession last year. "You get the ring, you get the trophy. That's something that you always want. It would be great, considering the start we had."

But unless the Seminoles lose in Raleigh, N.C., Maryland and Virginia are playing for second place. Like Maryland, Virginia suffered a blowout loss to Florida State early on, and has since turned its season around.

The Cavaliers, 5-7 last year in Al Groh's first year as coach, were picked to finish toward the bottom of the ACC. After starting 0-2, they have won seven of nine.

With 23 touchdown passes, against only six interceptions, quarterback Matt Schaub has given Virginia a presence he never provided last season. Schaub has thrown for 2,502 yards and attempts 31 passes a game because the run game averages only 116 yards.

"It's a great challenge for us to go into - they plan to throw the ball a lot," Maryland cornerback Curome Cox said, though he doesn't expect his defense to change. "We like to shut down the run and play the pass, so we can make things one-dimensional."

In a 14-9 win last week that kicked then-No. 22 N.C. State out of the polls, Virginia did find a way to run, getting 129 yards from Marquis Weeks and nearly 200 overall. The Cavaliers, ranked near the bottom of the ACC in most defensive categories, shut down a Wolfpack team that is averaging 35 points.

Maryland could become the third ranked victim of Virginia this year, after N.C. State last week and then-No. 22 South Carolina on Sept. 7. Though the Cavaliers are out of title contention - doomed by a 23-15 loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 26 - beating the Terps would be another sign of progress.

"The objective is to win the championship," Groh said. "As you aim for that, I think you get higher and higher, and since that's not something we can aim for at this exact moment, we're going to aim for as high as we can get."

With a win, the Terps would clinch at least a bid for the Gator Bowl, played on Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.. Even if they lose, the Terps might be preferable to Virginia in the Gator in a tiebreaker situation if they beat Wake Forest next weekend.

Friedgen said he has no desire to peek at the score of the earlier Florida State-N.C. State game. He just wants his team to take care of its business.

"Worst-case scenario, we go to the Gator Bowl," Friedgen said of the possibility with a win. "We lose, and we could go anywhere."