From The 50 With Mac McDonald

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Nov. 28, 2001

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

VIRGINIA HOSTS PENN STATE IN SEASON FINALE

University of Virginia head football coach Al Groh told the media on Monday his players and staff were well rested and approaching the Penn State week-end with all the vim and vigor of a season opening bowl game.

"I asked several of the guys how they felt and they all said good," Groh commented Monday. "I am really looking forward to this game but I know on Sunday I will be extremely disappointed the season is over."

The Cavs are on a mission, and have been since the 6:15am practice the Monday following the Virginia Tech debacle. Groh passed it off as the only time he could get the whole team together for a workout due to class and lab schedules. The players knew why the wake up call on the 19th was 5:30am.

"We were just awful," senior Jared Woodson told me, referring to the 31-17 loss to the Hokies. "We had a good practice though,"

UVA has already felt the heat of the national spotlight this week as the most successful coach in college football history brings his team and the season turnaround to Charlottesville. Joe Paterno and Penn State began 2001 with four consecutive losses...something that had never happened in the history of the program. The Nittany Lions scored only 31 points in those first four losses...averaged a nation worst 40 yards per game rushing and only 229 yards of total offense. Since October 20th the Lions are 5-1...have averaged 33 points a game, 165 yards on the ground and have passed for over 1500 yards. Last week the Lions roared back from a 17 point deficit and scratched Michigan State 42-37. PSU gave up 31 points to the Spartans in the first half...the most since 1988.

How and why the turnaround? Maybe the chase for Bear Bryant's record played into it...maybe it was the comeback against Northwestern on the 20th, or the emergence of redshirt frosh Zach Mills at quarterback...or that the offensive line was staying intact and starting every game. Whatever the reason Penn State has returned to form and they believe there's a bowl game out there that would put extra rolls on the buffet table to have "Joe Pa" and his "all whites" perform for a couple hours.

This is Virginia's bowl game... an opportunity to erase a season of mistakes and frustration. Coach Groh likes where the program is headed. A recruiting expert has already given the Cavs a glowing report for the class of 2006. A win could work wonders for the `Hoos.

There is no doubt Antwoine Womack, the center of a recruiting controversy between State and Virginia, has been pointing towards this game for a long time. It might have been the reason he worked so hard to get back in November. Womack will earn the start Saturday and for good reason. He has provided a lot of leadership to his teammates and overcome his own mistakes in order to pave his future with a little sunlight.

Sixteen other Cavaliers will be playing in their final home game...guys like Pope and Duckett, Abrams and Green, Lawson and Routzahn...Sims and Stamenich...players who have made major contributions to the team and University. I get the feeling they want this one...badly.

Cav Copy: This is only the sixth meeting between Penn State and Virginia, however the series dates back to 1893. It is the third two game series between the schools. Virginia has never scored more than 14 points against the Lions...they scored 14 in '88 and '89. Womack needs 118 yards rushing to move into Virginia's career top ten...at #10. He is one of fourteen players to rush for more than 2000 yards in his career. A win would tie Al Groh with George Blackburn for the most wins in school history for a first year coach...5. "Blackie" went 5-5 in 1965.