Cavaliers Host Richmond

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM Billy Baber and the Cavaliers host Richmond Saturday.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Billy Baber and the Cavaliers host Richmond Saturday.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Sept. 4, 2000

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Virginia vs. Richmond
Sept. 9, 2000
3:30 p.m. (no TV)
Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium
Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia looks for its first win of the season this Saturday (Sept. 9) against in-state school Richmond. Both teams opened their seasons last Saturday, but with different results. The Cavaliers lost in overtime to Brigham Young 38-35, while Richmond downed Bucknell 10-7. Saturday's game will not be televised.

This is Virginia's last non-conference game until embarking on its ACC schedule when they play all eight conference foes in succession.

The Cavaliers dropped their season opener for the fourth time in the last seven years, but they have proven to be remarkably resilient when losing their first game. In both 1994 and 1995 the Cavaliers lost their first game, but still managed to win nine games and a bowl game each year.

Virginia has a 22-2-2 all-time record against Richmond and has allowed just one touchdown to the Spiders since 1946. The Cavaliers have won the last four meetings vs. Richmond (1947, '52, '79, '97).

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WWWV in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Frank Quayle, the 1968 ACC Football Player of the Year, provides the color commentary, while Quayle's former teammate and quarterback Gene Arnette provides sideline analysis.

The Series vs. the Spiders
Virginia leads the all-time series 22-2-2 in a rivalry that began with a 34-4 win by the Cavaliers in 1893. Included in the overall series record is Virginia's 20-1-1 record at home.

This is the second time in the last four seasons the two teams have met, but it's only the third match-up since Virginia joined the ACC in December 1953. The other meeting occurred in 1979.

The Cavaliers downed the Spiders 26-7 at home in 1997 in similar instances as this year's game (second game of season, second home game of season following a season opening loss). That is the most recent meeting between the two schools.

Virginia has shut out Richmond in 19 of 26 meetings all-time. Only VMI (23 times) has been shut out more by Virginia. (The Cavaliers have also blanked Virginia Tech 19 times.)

The Spiders have never scored more than 19 points against Virginia and have reached double figures only twice (16 in 1943, 19 in 1946).

The Spiders have scored just one touchdown in the last half century against UVa. A Mat Shannon touchdown in the 1997 contest stands at the Spiders' only touchdown against Virginia since 1946.

In Virginia's 31-0 win in 1979, the Cavalier defense allowed the Spiders to gain just six first downs. That is the second-lowest total allowed by UVa since 1970.

The Spiders have scored first in three of the six games in which they've scored against Virginia (1922, '43, '46), and won two of those games (1943, '46).

Virginia has scored in the first quarter nine times since the 1925 meeting, winning eight.. Virginia scored in the first quarter and won in 1925-41-44-45-47-52-79-97. (UVa scored in the first quarter in 1943 and lost.)

The last three meetings ('79, '97, '00) have occurred in September, the only games in the series played in that month.

Spiders Have Trouble Scoring in Charlottesville
Richmond has scored 39 points in 22 games (1.8 points per game average) in Charlottesville, including just 23 points in seven games at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III field at Scott Stadium.

Sixteen of Richmond's 23 points at Scott Stadium came in the Spiders' 16-7 win in 1943, their only win in Charlottesville.

By contrast, Virginia has scored 716 points (31.1 ppg) in Charlottesville, including 236 at Scott Stadium.

First of Four "Capital" Opponents
The Richmond Spiders are the first of four Virginia opponents this season from state capitals. The Cavaliers face Florida State (Tallahassee), Georgia Tech (Atlanta) and N.C. State (Raleigh) later this season.

Virginia vs. Division I-AA Opponents
Richmond is Virginia's only Division I-AA opponent this season. The Cavaliers are 16-3 against Division I-AA opponents since the advent of I-AA in 1978. The win over Richmond in 1979 was Virginia's first win against a I-AA opponent. UVa has won nine straight games over I-AA opponents dating back to a loss to William & Mary in 1986.

Virginia's last win over a I-AA opponent was a 26-7 win over Richmond in 1997.

Rebounding After a Season-Opening Loss
Virginia lost its season opener to Brigham Young 38-35 last Saturday, setting up a scenario for this week's game against Richmond that is almost identical to the last time the teams met in 1997.

The Cavaliers opened the '97 campaign with a 28-17 loss at home to Auburn and faced Richmond the following week at home in the season's second game. UVa got in the win column with a 26-7 win over the Spiders.

Interestingly, the Cavaliers lost their season opener in both 1994 and 1995 and turned in two of the best seasons in school history- winning nine games and a bowl game both years.

Since 1983, Virginia's first winning season under George Welsh, the Cavaliers have dropped the opener seven times. They have rebounded in those seasons to go a combined 59-16-3 the rest of the way. Virginia has also gone to a bowl game following six of those seasons, winning four times.

First-Time Starters Dot Opening Line-Up
Virginia's starting line-up in the season opener against Brigham Young last Saturday featured five first-time starters as well as a periodic starter who switched sides of the ball.

The offense featured four players making their first career start- tailback Arlen Harris, left tackle Jermese Jones, center Dustin Keith and wide receiver Billy McMullen.

Defensive tackle George Stanley was the only player making his first start for the defense. However, Ahmad Hawkins started his first game at cornerback after switching from wide receiver where he is a three-time letterman and periodic starter.

Several other players in the starting line-up have started fewer than 10 games in their career, including linebacker Angelo Crowell, safety Shernard Newby, fullback Patrick Washington, and guard Jared Woodson.

Linebacker Byron Thweatt is by far the team leader in starts. He has started all 36 games in his career and is bidding to become one of the few four-year starters at linebacker in school history.

Four true freshmen also saw action against Brigham Young- linebacker Rich Bedesem (played on special teams), defensive tackle Andrew Hoffman, defensive end Raymond Mann and cornerback Art Thomas (played primarily on special teams).

Of the 53 Cavaliers who played against BYU, 11 appeared in their first college game.

At Home vs. Non-Conference Opponents
This is the Cavaliers' final non-conference home game of the season. Since 1987, Auburn, Brigham Young, Penn State and Virginia Tech are the only non-conference schools to win in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers have won 23 of their last 29 non-conference games at home going back to 1987. The only losses since then are to Penn State in 1988, Virginia Tech in 1993, 1995 and 1999, Auburn in 1997 and Brigham Young last week. In George Welsh's 19 years at Virginia, his teams are 31-11 (.738) against non-conference teams at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium.

During Welsh's career at UVa, his teams are 30-6 at home against unranked non-conference teams.

Virginia hasn't lost two consecutive home games to non-conference teams since 1985 (Navy, Virginia Tech).

UVa in Elite Company
Virginia is one of only four Division I-A programs in the country which has posted at least 13 consecutive seasons of seven or more wins.

UVa joins Florida State as the only other Atlantic Coast Conference team to accomplish that feat. The other two schools are Nebraska from the Big 12 and Big Ten power Michigan.

Womack Joins 1,000-Yard Club
Junior tailback Antwoine Womack didn't seem to be affected by a year away from the game based on his performance in last Saturday's opener against Brigham Young.

In his first game since 1998, Womack erupted for a career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries. He scored twice, including a 67-yard jaunt early in the fourth quarter.

The game was the fifth 100-yard game of his career as he topped the 1000-yard mark for his career.

Womack is the 33rd player in school history to rush for at least 1000 yards.

It is interesting to note that Womack's collegiate debut came against Richmond in 1997. He rushed 10 times for 38 yards in that game against the Spiders.

Thweatt is Rare Four-Year Starter
All-America candidate linebacker Byron Thweatt looks to bounce back from an injury plagued fall in 2000. Hampered with an injured shoulder in 1999 that limited his effectiveness, Thweatt's value to the team became evident when he wasn't able to take a break.

Currently tied for 14th in school history with 275 tackles, he has a good shot at completing his career in the top five now that he's back in good health.

It is also interesting to note that he is likely to become just the fifth linebacker in school history to be a four-year starter since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972. The short list currently includes Bryan Hollomon, Charles McDaniel, Jamie Sharper and Russ Swan.

The list of players who have been four-year starters at Virginia for George Welsh include WRs Demetrius "Pete" Allen and Tyrone Davis, Ps Will Brice and Jeff Walker, OG Roy Brown, DT Ron Carey, OT Jim Dombrowski, DEs Mike Frederick and Chris Slade, Ss Tyrone Lewis and Keith McMeans, LBs McDaniel, Sharper and Swan, and C Tim Morris.

Ellis Moves Up Passing Charts
Senior quarterback Dan Ellis used a torrid late-season run last season to finish eighth in the country in passing efficiency last season.

This year he's off to a fine start. He showed a deft passing touch by completing 13 of 23 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown in leading the Cavaliers to 35 points in the opener vs. Brigham Young last Saturday.

His touchdown pass, a 28-yard strike to Kevin Coffey late in the third quarter, was the 22nd scoring toss of his career and moved him past the great Bill Dudley into a tie for seventh place in school history.

The 217-yard performance was the sixth 200-yard game of his career, a total topped by only seven other quarterbacks in school history.

Ellis has also passed for 2549 yards in his career, 12th in school history.

Tailback Trio Replaces Jones
Thomas Jones finished his career last season as UVa's all-time leading rusher. Not surprisingly, his loss figured to leave a rather large void in the Virginia offense this season.

However, after one game it looks as if a committee of three- Arlen Harris, Antwoine Womack, Tyree Foreman- will serve as his replacement.

If their performance in the season opener against Brigham Young is an indicator, this trio looks ready to pick up where Jones left off. Against the Cougars they combined for 37 carries, 263 yards (7.1 avg.) and four touchdowns. Just as important to know is that these three only had one carry for a loss (of just one yard).

Harris gained the starting nod for the opener and rushed for a career-high 79 yards on 18 carries. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a 28-yard bolt up the middle for UVa's first score. He also caught a 17-yard pass from Dan Ellis late in the game.

Womack was the game's leading rusher with a career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries. He led the ACC in yards per carry two years ago (6.3) and has a 10.7 yard average so far this season. Womack scored two touchdowns, including one on a 67-yard gallop, against BYU for the first multi-touchdown performance of his career.

Foreman rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown on just four carries to complete the triumvirate's performance.

Welsh Seventh Among Active Wins Leaders
Head coach George Welsh, tabbed by The Sporting News as the nation's best coach two years ago, is seventh in wins among active Division I-A coaches.

In his 28th season as a collegiate head coach, Welsh has won 183 games at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), 27th in NCAA Division I-A history. He is the winningest coach in the history of both schools. Arizona's Dick Toomey (Arizona, Hawaii) is the only other coach to be the winningest coach at two different schools.

Welsh's overall career record is 183-127-4 (.589).

The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 128-81-3 record in 19 seasons at Virginia. His 80 wins in ACC games is also a record.

Abrams Drills 70-Yarder in Opener
Mike Abrams assumed the punting duties this season, replacing the graduated Donnie Scott. The junior from Aiken, S.C., lettered last season as a reserve tight end and special teams player, but had never punted in a game before this season.

His lack of experience was cause for some concern, but he wasted little time in assuaging head coach George Welsh's fears.

In his first punting assignment last weekend against Brigham Young, Abrams averaged an excellent 46.2 yards on four punts and buried one inside the BYU 20-yard line.

His best effort of the afternoon was a 70-yard boomer that, unfortunately had a little too much energy and bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

The 70-yarder, on the third punt of his career, was the 10th 70+-yard punt in school history. It also marked the longest UVa punt since Will Brice also had a 70-yarder in 1994.

His second-best punt of the day was a 45-yard boot on the first punt of his career.

Virginia's Secondary is Very Young
Of prime concern to defensive coordinator Rick Lantz this season is the shape of the secondary. With just one returning starter- sophomore safety Jerton Evans- things look dicey at first glance for Virginia's last line of defense.

In last weekend's opener vs. Brigham Young, the corners were manned by seniors Ahmad Hawkins and Tim Spruill.

No stranger to defensive backs, Hawkins switched from wide receiver to cornerback in the spring. His knowledge of playing wide receiver certainly gives him some insight into the mind of receivers.

Spruill was a starter two years ago and started six games last season in what proved to be an up-and-down campaign. Still he's the team's most experienced defensive back and his leadership will be needed to bring stability to the secondary.

Evans, a freshman All-American last fall, started the final 10 games of the season and led the team with four interceptions. Despite being just a second-year player, he is the most experienced safety on the roster.

Sophomore Shernard Newby started at the other safety spot vs. BYU. He played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman and started twice.

The back-ups are a talented, but very inexperienced, group. Among the top reserves only sophomore Rashad Roberson had seen action from scrimmage in the last year, and his duty was very limited.

Junior Devon Simmons was a key reserve at safety two years ago, but he did not play last season for personal reasons. A relative "old-timer" among the safeties, he is expected be a key performer this season.

Red-shirt freshman Ryan Sawyer and true freshman Jamaine Winborne should also see duty at safety early on in an effort to build some depth.

True freshmen Almondo Curry and Art Thomas are listed among the top back-ups at cornerback along with Roberson.

ACC Media See Cavaliers Third
Virginia was selected to finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season by media representatives attending the annual ACC Football Kickoff at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., on July 24-25.

This marks the third year in a row the Cavaliers have been picked to finish third by the Kickoff attendees. The prognosticators have done a good job with their choices for UVa recently. Last season the Cavaliers tied Georgia Tech for second place, while in 1998 UVa finished third.

Five Cavaliers Return as Graduate Students
Five members of Virginia's 2000 football team are expected to participate this fall as graduate students. The group includes: offensive tackle Brad Barnes, wide receiver Kevin Coffey, center Dustin Keith, linebacker Byron Thweatt and fullback Patrick Washington.

Barnes and Keith received their undergraduate degrees in sociology, while Coffey and Thweatt earned their degrees in history and Washington in economics.

The UVa program has had approximately 70 players participate as graduate students over the past 11 seasons.

Football Hall of Fame Debuts
Representing the most comprehensive collection of Cavalier gridiron memorabilia ever assembled, the History of Virginia Football Exhibit- featuring the Hall of Fame- will open this fall at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium.

Located on the second level of Bryant Hall at the Carl Smith Center, the exhibit starts in the main lobby and flows into three other rooms: the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Champions and the Football Alumni rooms.

Statues honoring UVa's Pro and College Football Hall of Famers will be prominently displayed in the lobby area. There will be additional displays recognizing Virginia's first-team All-Americans, Academic All-Americans and retired numbers, and a wall honoring the football stadium's major benefactors.

Open to the public, the Hall of Fame will showcase the program's rise to national prominence toward the end of the 20th century. The room will also contain two interactive video kiosks, featuring footage of UVa greats Bill Dudley, Anthony Poindexter and Thomas Jones, and highlights from UVa's 1989 ACC championship season, Virginia's historic victory over Florida State in 1995, and the Cavaliers' comeback win over Virginia Tech in 1998. Other video features will be added on a regular basis. A third video kiosk will be located in the lobby area.

The Hall of Champions and the Football Alumni room will be reserved for special Athletic Department and University-related functions. Both rooms will contain photographs and other memorabilia chronicling the history of Virginia football since its first official season in 1888.

The master plan for the History of Virginia Football Exhibit was developed by Design/Joe Sonderman, Inc. Based in Charlotte, N.C., the company specializes in product, graphic, museum and environmental design. It developed a similar football exhibit for the University of North Carolina in 1997.

Many of the photographs and others items featured in the exhibits were donated by former UVa players and by various other friends and fans of the Cavalier football program.

ACC's Longest Scoring Streak
Virginia has scored in an ACC and school-record 189 consecutive games. The last time Virginia was held scoreless was a 55-0 loss to Clemson to open the 1984 season. During the streak, UVa has scored in 95 consecutive home games, 82 consecutive road games and 12 straight neutral site contests.

Virginia's streak is also the longest current streak by an ACC school (including Florida State) and tied for the fourth longest in the nation.

Youngest Team in a While
This season's squad is perhaps the youngest Cavalier team in some time. The roster features only four players (Billy Baber, Ahmad Hawkins, Byron Thweatt, Patrick Washington) who have lettered three times, while the current depth chart lists only eight other seniors.

Conversely, there are six true freshmen listed on the defensive depth chart and one on the offensive. In addition, the depth chart shows a total of seven red-shirt freshmen and 12 sophomores giving the Cavaliers a total of 26 freshmen or sophomores who could be big contributors this season.

Offensive Line Replaces Two All-Americans
Last season consensus All-American tailback Thomas Jones had the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in school history. But this season, Arlen Harris, Antwoine Womack, Tyree Foreman and Dan Ellis will not have the benefit of All-Americans Noel LaMontagne and John St. Clair, who graduated and moved on to the NFL.

Nonetheless, the line should be a strength for this year's offense once again. Right tackle Brad Barnes headlines the returnees. Named the team's most improved player last season, he is considered among the top tackles in the ACC.

Jermese Jones, the team's biggest player, missed last season due to injury, but he has unlimited potential. He made the first start of his career last Saturday against Brigham Young and if he can stay healthy, his presence will be a boost for the line.

Fifth-year player Dustin Keith moves into the center spot vacated by St. Clair. He spent the last two years at tackle, but was moved to center in the spring (after spending a brief amount of time at defensive tackle).

Evan Routzahn returns to the right guard spot next to Barnes. An underrated performer, Routzahn is a powerful blocker who rarely comes out of the game. Junior Jared Woodson, a local product from Western Albemarle High School, has experience at both guard (four starts last season) and center. He started at left guard vs. BYU, but could also see some time at center during the season.

Lawson serves as a back-up to Jones at tackle and Woodson at guard, but he has been a starter at left tackle the two previous years..

The remaining reserves are a very inexperienced group. Only sophomore Mike Mullins (seven games) had ever appeared in a game prior to this season. The rest of the back-ups are red-shirt freshmen- T Kevin Bailey, G Ben Carber, C Jay Green and T Micah Kimball.

Receiving Corps is Deep and Experienced
The strongest unit on the offense this season is likely to be the receiving corps led by senior Kevin Coffey and sophomore Billy McMullen and tight end Billy Baber.

Coffey and McMullen tied for the team lead with 28 receptions last year, while McMullen's 483 yards paced the team. In fact, McMullen set a school record for most receptions by a freshman. Coffey hauled in seven scoring tosses, while McMullen had six.

Joining them are senior Demetrius Dotson, sophomores James Johnson and Tavon Mason and true freshman Michael McGrew.

Dotson was putting together a fine season last year until he injured his knee in the season's sixth game and missed the rest of the season. While healthy he caught 11 passes and averaged nearly 20 yards per catch.

Dotson had a fine performance in UVa's final preseason scrimmage with 125 receiving yards and began the regular season with a bang last Saturday against Brigham Young. In what might be the best performance of his career, the Staten Island, N.Y., native gained a career-high 99 yards on four receptions. Two of his receptions were magnificent diving grabs, including a 42-yarder and a 35-yarder.

Johnson showed promise as a true freshman two years ago, playing in 10 regular season games, but he missed last season and was red-shirted. He caught two passes in his return vs. BYU.

Mason, one of the team's fastest players, caught 12 passes last fall as a primary back-up.

The tight end position should also be strong with Baber, a senior, and junior Chris Luzar returning.

Baber has been a spot starter throughout his career behind the oft-injured Casey Crawford. He caught 17 passes, including four for touchdowns, the most by a UVa tight end since 1994 and has 37 career receptions.

Luzar has been hampered by an injury throughout much of the preseason practice period. A very tall target (6-7) who caught eight passes in 1999, he teams with Baber to give the Cavaliers a talented duo of tight ends.

Thweatt Named to Butkus Award List
Linebacker Byron Thweatt is among 70 players named to the initial list of candidates for the 2000 Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's outstanding linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando (Fla.).

This marks the third year in a row Thweatt has been named to the list.

The list will be trimmed to 10 semifinalists on Oct. 19 and the three finalists will be announced on Nov. 9. The winner of the Butkus Award will be announced on Dec. 8.

He has been listed as one of the top outside linebackers in the country this season and his play this season will go a long way in determining the Cavaliers' success. He is rated as the #5 outside linebacker in the nation by Lindy's , #10 by Rivals.com and #14 by The Sporting News.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Rivals.com listed him as the 27th-best defensive player in the nation regardless of position.

Thweatt has been in on 275 tackles in his career, second among active ACC players and tied for 14th in school history. He will become only the fifth linebacker in school history to be a four-year starter.

Returnees Play Major Roles
The Virginia program welcomed six players back this season who did not play last year for a variety of reasons.

Their return has bolstered the roster already as all six played key roles in the season opener against Brigham Young.

Jermese Jones, who missed last season due to an injury, made the first start of his career at left tackle as the Virginia rushing attack ground out 270 rushing yards and allowed just one quarterback sack.

Tailback Antwoine Womack returned from last year's leave of absence and was one of the beneficiaries of a solid offensive line. He rushed for a career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Wide receiver James Johnson sat out last season due to injury but returned to catch two passes for 16 yards vs. BYU.

John Duckett, Donny Green and Devon Simmons did not play last season due to personal reasons, but all three saw significant action vs. BYU.

Duckett moved to fullback after playing linebacker in his first two years. He played as a reserve to starter Patrick Washington, while being a solid contributor on special teams.

Green, a two-year starter at linebacker but now a reserve, was in on seven tackles in his return to action, while Simmons made one tackle from his safety spot.