Sept. 11, 2000
Virginia (1-1) at Duke (0-2)Sept. 16, 2000
6:00 p.m. (no TV)
Wallace Wade Stadium - Durham, N.C.
After opening the season with back-to-back home games, Virginia hits the road this Saturday (Sept. 16) against Duke in the ACC opener for both teams. Following a heartbreaking season-opening loss to Brigham Young, the Cavaliers got back on track last weekend with a 34-6 win over Richmond to even their record at 1-1. The Blue Devils are winless in two starts this season following losses to East Carolina and Northwestern.
Virginia looks to avenge last season's 24-17 overtime loss to the Blue Devils in Charlottesville. Duke used a botched trick play to score the tying touchdown and force overtime with six seconds remaining in regulation. Following missed field goals by both teams in the first overtime period, quarterback Spence Romine threw a seven-yard scoring strike to Benjamin Watson for the game-winning score. Virginia's chance to tie the score ended when Lamar Grant intercepted a Dan Ellis pass.
Virginia has won nine of the last 11 meetings between the two teams, but still trails the all-time series 27-24. Last year's loss to the Blue Devils extends a bit of curious history surrounding the recent history of the series. The last few years have seen Virginia experience better success in Durham than Charlottesville. The last three games played in Charlottesville have been hard-fought contests that went right down to the wire. Conversely, Virginia has won the last two games in Durham in rather convincing fashion - 27-3 in 1996 and 24-0 two years ago.
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 Blue Devils
The Cavaliers have won nine of the last 11 meetings against the Blue Devils, including a 24-0 shutout two years ago in Durham in its most recent visit to Wallace Wade Stadium, but still trail the series by a slim 27-24 margin.
The Blue Devils stunned Virginia 24-17 in the first overtime game in Cavalier history last season in Charlottesville. Duke hasn't won consecutive games in the series since 1981-82. Last year's loss to the Blue Devils extends a bit of curious history surrounding the recent history of the series. The last few years have seen Virginia experience better success in Durham than Charlottesville. The last three games played in Charlottesville have been hard-fought contests that went right down to the wire. Even the 1995 contest - a 44-30 UVa win - was tight throughout the second half once the Cavaliers rallied from an early 18-point deficit.
Conversely, Virginia has won the last two games in Durham in rather convincing fashion - 27-3 in 1996 and 24-0 two years ago.
Duke has scored just three points vs. UVa in the last two games in Durham, including being shutout two years ago. The Blue Devils' scoreless streak in Durham has reached 61:07. In what might be some good omens for the Cavaliers this season is the fact that Duke hasn't scored 10+ points in back-to-back games vs. UVa since 1994-95. The scoring pattern since 1995 shows Duke reaching double digits in odd numbered years, but scoring fewer than 10 points in even-numbered years (like this year).
The Cavaliers have had some impressive scoring outputs against the Blue Devils throughout the years, outscoring Duke 333-126 in the last 10 games overall. The Cavaliers have scored at least 34 points in 11 of the last 17 meetings and have topped 40 points five times. The UVa defense posted three shutouts of the Blue Devils in the 1990s and held the Blue Devils to just a field goal on two other occasions.
Despite a scoreless first half last season, the Cavaliers have also demonstrated an ability to score early against Duke. Virginia scored on its first drive of the game against Duke four times in the 1990s (1990, 92, 93, 94). Defensively, Virginia also shutout Duke three times during that period. The Cavaliers also held the Blue Devils to a field goal on two other occasions. Virginia head coach George Welsh got the 150th win of his collegiate coaching career in the 1995 Duke game, while UVa's 13-10 triumph in 1997 was his 67th ACC coaching victory, giving him the most conference wins in league history.
First Road Game, ACC Opener
The Cavaliers kick off the road and conference portions of their schedule this Saturday at Duke. Through the years, the Cavaliers have not had much success in their first road game of the season, compiling a 38-66-4 (.370) record.
Virginia is 15-31 (.326) all-time in ACC opening games, and 17-29 (.370) in its first ACC road game.
Piling Up the Offense vs. Duke
The Cavaliers have put on some impressive offensive performances against Duke in the recent past, scoring 34 or more points in 11 of the last 17 meetings against the Blue Devils.
A look at the last 17 games shows the Cavaliers are averaging 34.4 points and 436.9 yards of total offense per game. Virginia has ground out an average of 214.1 yards rushing and passed for an average of 222.8 yards per game over the last 17 games with Duke.
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.
Away From the Eye of Television
With the proliferation of games on television, it is unusual that Saturday's game against Duke is not being televised. Even more unusual is that this is the second week in a row Virginia's game hasn't been televised marking the first time in five years that the Cavaliers have not been on TV in consecutive games.
Perhaps not having the game televised is a good thing for Duke since the Blue Devils defeated UVa in a non-televised game last season and ended UVa's winning streak in non-televised games at 14.
Since 1989 the Cavaliers have played 44 non-televised games and have won 42.
Containing the Duke Rushing Attack
Virginia did an outstanding job of stopping Duke's rushing attack throughout the 1990s. The Blue Devils rushed for more than 110 yards just once in the '90s (190 yards in 1998) as Virginia won eight games in the decade. In fact, in the last 15 games Duke has rushed for 100+ yards only six times.
Duke hasn't rushed for more than 200 yards against Virginia since 1983 when the Blue Devils gained 238 yards rushing in a 38-30 loss to UVa.
The Blue Devils have also had a rough time through the air recently, although last year's effort changed that trend some. Duke has passed for 642 yards in the last four games combined, but 255 of those yards came last year. The Duke passing game has thrown seven interceptions vs. just two touchdowns in that span as well. Last year's two touchdown passes (one on a botched end around pass and the other in overtime to win), were the first by Duke since 1995.
Lighting Up the Scoreboard vs. Duke
Virginia has outscored Duke 333-126 the last 10 meetings. The Cavaliers have been most prolific in the second quarter scoring 126 points and outscoring the Blue Devils by 85 points.
Virginia scored at least 28 consecutive points in each of five games between 1989-93. The number of consecutive points scored by UVa is: 1989 (42), 1990 (59), 1991 (34), 1992 (28), 1993 (35). Virginia also outscored the Blue Devils at one point 28-3 to rally from an 18-point deficit and take a 31-24 lead en route to a 44-30 victory in 1995.
Rebounding After a Season-Opening Loss
Virginia lost its season opener to Brigham Young 38-35 on Sept. 2, but rebounded with a 34-6 win over Richmond last weekend.
The beginning to this season is similar to the one the Cavaliers had in 1997 when they fell at home to Auburn in the opener, but came back to beat Richmond the next week and finished with three wins in their last four games to go 7-4 that season.
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 60-16-3 the rest of the way. Virginia has also gone to a bowl game following six of those seasons, winning four times.
Limiting the Mistakes on Offense
Virginia has done a good job offensively of limiting its mistakes this season. So far the Cavaliers have had just one pass intercepted and not lost any fumbles. Additionally, quarterback Dan Ellis has only been sacked twice (once each game).
Virginia is one of 20 teams in the nation that have committed one or no turnovers so far this young season.
Coaches talk about how important it is to not have any turnovers and in Virginia's case the lack of turnovers is key.
Since George Welsh took over the head coaching duties at UVa in 1982, his teams have not committed a turnover in 32 games and have a record of 26-5-1.
The last time UVa had no turnovers in two straight games occurred in wins over Wake Forest and Clemson in 1997.
First Night Game of Season
The Duke game is Virginia's first night game of the season. Night games on enemy turf have been good for George Welsh's Cavaliers throughout the years. Since 1982 Virginia is 10-5 when playing in night road games and has won eight straight. The last time UVa lost a night road game was a Thursday night loss at Georgia Tech in 1991.
For our purposes, this note does not take into consideration games played on neutral sites (i.e. bowl games).
First-Time Starters Dot Opening Line-Up
Virginia's starting line-up in the season opener against Brigham Young 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.
Injuries to several starters against BYU forced some changes to the starting line-up for last week's Richmond game. Tailback Antwoine Womack made his first career start in place of the injured Arlen Harris (knee), while cornerback Rashad Roberson made his first start in place of Tim Spruill (toe).
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 37 games in his career and is bidding to become one of the few four-year starters at linebacker in school history. Seven true freshmen have seen action this season - linebacker Rich Bedesem (saw first action from scrimmage vs. Richmond), defensive tackle Andrew Hoffman, defensive end Raymond Mann and cornerback Art Thomas. Cornerback Almondo Curry, wide receiver Michael McGrew and safety Jamaine Winborne saw their first action vs. Richmond.
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 the season 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. Richmond stacked the line with eight or nine men last week and held Womack to just 25 yards rushing.
It is interesting to note that Womack had a successful appearance the last time he played in Durham. As a sophomore two years ago he gained 119 yards on just 10 carries and scored his first collegiate touchdown on a nifty 48-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter. In that quarter alone he rushed six times for 105 yards.
Womack is currently 33rd in school history in rushing.
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 14th in school history with 289 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 has completed 62.7 percent of his tosses (32 of 51) for 516 yards and two touchdowns.
He made Richmond pay for concentrating on stopping the run last week by completing 19 of 28 attempts for 299 yards and a score. His 299 yards represent the second-hightest total of his career.
The effort was the seventh 200-yard game of his career, a total topped by only five other quarterbacks in school history.
Ellis is very quickly moving up several of Virginia's all-time passing charts. He has thrown a touchdown in his last four regular season games and now has 23 for his career, tied for sixth in school history. He has also thrown for 2848 yards, 11th 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 offense this season.
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. 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.
Harris injured his knee vs. BYU and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 8 that is expected to keep him out of action for 3-4 weeks, thus reducing the backfield's depth.
The ground game was held in check last week by Richmond. The Spiders frequently put eight or nine men in the box to stop the run and dared UVa to pass. They stopped UVa's running game (107 yards), but Dan Ellis threw for 299 yards to foil Richmond's strategy.
In fact, Ellis led the team in rushing with 37 yards. Foreman added 31 yards and Womack 25 and two touchdowns.
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.
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 184 games at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), and is tied with former Texas coach Darrell Royal for 26th 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 184-127-4 (.590).
The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 129-81-3 record in 19 seasons at Virginia. His 80 wins in ACC games is also a record.
Abrams Eighth Nationally in Punting
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 against Brigham Young in the season opener, Abrams averaged an excellent 46.2 yards on four punts and buried one inside the BYU 20-yard line. In fact, his average is the best in school history for a punter starting his first game.
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.
He punted four times and averaged 44.2 yards per kick against Richmond last weekend.
So far this young season Abrams is eighth nationally in punting with an average of 45.2 yards per punt.
He has allowed just one punt to be returned (for nine yards) and is averaging 44.1 net yards, which is eighth in the country.
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.
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 should be a key performer this season.
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.
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 is 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 against Brigham Young and if he can stay healthy, his presence will be a boost for the line.
Fifth-year player Dustin Keith has moved 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 has started at left guard in both games this season, but could also see some time at center during the season.
Despite being hampered by back problems, 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
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.
McMullen latched onto six catches for 73 yards against Richmond, while Coffey hauled in three passes to extend his streak to 25 consecutive games with a reception.
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 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. He electrified the crowd last weekend by out-leaping a Richmond defender to snatch a pass and scoot 50 yards for the first touchdown of his career. He also returned a punt more than 50 yards, but the return was nullified by a penalty.
Mason, one of the team's fastest players, caught 12 passes last fall as a primary back-up. He caught one pass vs. Richmond and had an end around for a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
The tight end position is also 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 38 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 Leading Defensive Effort
All-America candidate Byron Thweatt seems to have put last season's disappointments behind him. Plagued last year by a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness and caused him to play basically with one arm, Thweatt has returned with a vengeance.
He has led the team in tackles in each game this season and with 27 tackles in just two games, he looks like he could be in for a career year.
Thweatt began the year by tying his career high with 13 tackles against Brigham Young. It was his first 10-tackle effort since late in the 1998 season.
Last week Thweatt topped the BYU performance by recording a career-high 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
His 27 tackles in the last two games are the most by a Cavalier since Wali Rainer had 32 tackles combined in the last two games of the 1998 regular season.
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 289 tackles in his career, second among active ACC players and 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 have played key roles in the season's first two games.
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 in the opener against Brigham Young.
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 in the same game.
Wide receiver James Johnson sat out last season due to injury but returned to catch two passes for 16 yards vs. BYU. He caught two more passes for 67 yards last week against Richmond and scored the first touchdown of his career on a 50-yard pass play from Dan Ellis.
Duckett moved to fullback after playing linebacker in his first two years. He played as a reserve to starter Patrick Washington, while also being a solid contributor on special teams.
Green, a two-year starter at linebacker but now a reserve, was in on a career-high 12 tackles vs. Richmond, while Simmons has made four tackles from his safety spot.
Opening Drive Success
Virginia has scored on its opening drive in both games this season.
The Cavaliers have received the opening kickoff in both games after losing the coin toss in each.
Against Brigham Young, the Cavaliers marched 80 yards in eight plays in 3:52 to take an early lead. Virginia rushed for 41 yards and passed for 34 more yards (five yards by penalty) in the drive.
Last week quarterback Dan Ellis led Virginia on a 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped by a five-yard scoring run by Antwoine Womack to start the scoring. The drive consisted of 27 rushing yards and 47 passing yards (four yards on penalties).
Interestingly, the Cavaliers have scored on their opening drive of the last four regular season games, including the Buffalo (TD) and Maryland (FG) games to end last season.
Also last year Virginia scored on its opening drive vs. North Carolina (FG) and Brigham Young (TD).
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